Many around the NFL believe an Aaron Rodgers return is out of the cards for the Green Bay Packers and a blockbuster trade inevitable. But with the franchise still making efforts to convince the reigning NFL MVP to say, there might be a path to Rodgers suiting up for the Packers in 2021.
Rodgers’ distrust in the front office and general manager Brian Gutekunst became an issue in 2020. Fresh off making it to the NFC Championship Game, in a season where Rodgers didn’t play at an elite level, the Packers traded up and drafted Jordan Love with the No. 26 pick
The selection drew strong criticism from the NFL world, scouts and general managers. While the pick itself seemed to irk Rodgers, with the franchise seemingly betting against him, Gutekunst’s decision not to communicate with the face of the franchise caused an even greater divide between the two.
Rodgers responded with one of the best seasons in his career, posting a league-high 48 passing touchdowns, 121.5 passer rating and an 84.4 QBR. He won his third NFL MVP award and while the Packers suffered a heartbreaking loss in the NFCCG, there seemed to be renewed hope for the team’s Super Bowl window. But the issues between Rodgers and the front office worsened from the start of the offseason.
The 37-year-old cast doubt on his future with the team shortly after the season-ending loss, but things might have been more certain behind the scenes. Rodgers asked for a contract extension, Green Bay countered with a restructured deal. With the franchise unwilling to make a long-term commitment and the All-Pro not wanting to be a “lame duck” quarterback, talks broke off and Rodgers wanted out.
With the All-Pro quarterback having a reputation for being stuck in his ways, it’s widely expected that he doesn’t play for Green Bay in 2021. But some close to the future Hall of Famer have suggested there’s a path to a return.
Now, an NFL insider is providing insight on what steps the Packers could take for their legend to stay.
Aaron Rodgers contract key to a potential return
There are a variety of issues at the root of this rift between Rodgers and the Packers’ front office. The process of drafting Love, a lack of aggressiveness in free agency and an unwillingness to commit to Rodgers. But it’s possible things could be resolved.
Rodgers asked for a contract extension this offseason, seeking a long-term deal that would allow him to finish his career in Green Bay and to play into his 40s. It’s something Green Bay has been opposed to in the past. But they did recently make a long-term offer to him.
An extension would almost certainly keep Love on the bench for the majority of his rookie contract. If that happens, it might lead the franchise to explore trading him in the future to recoup draft picks and it could then find an heir to Rodgers down the line. But there’s also more work to be done, with Rodgers wanting the Packers to take the win-now approach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have with Tom Brady.
“Go to Aaron Rodgers and say, ‘Listen, we want you back here, we think we have a championship team right now. We have a lot of guys on the roster who are in the heart of their prime. We feel the need to win right now. The ship has sort of sailed on this offseason, there’s nothing we can do right now. Let’s give it a go with the team that we have and we promise you, if you want to keep playing into your 40s like Brady did, we’ll start to do some of the things the Buccaneers have done for Brady.’ If they can do that, open the lines of communication, I think there is a path there.”Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer on potential approach to Aaron Rodgers
Tampa Bay’s aggressive approach won them a Super Bowl and is why they are the first defending champions to bring back all 22 starters. There will be a heavy price to pay cap wise down the line, after Brady retires, but the organization is more than willing to do that for a shot to win a second ring.
“It’s not just the contract. The contract is a part of it, of course. I think giving him the assurance he’ll be the quarterback for the foreseeable future is a part of it. But I think also, giving a little bit on the way you build a team would also go a long way with him.”Monday Morning Quarterback’s Albert Breer
There’s a path for Green Bay to do this. Signing Rodgers and Davante Adams to extensions would help create more existing cap space and the new deals could have void years tacked on, paying the players money years down the line. It might hurt the franchise five-plus years down the road, but the NFL salary cap will climb and it might be worth the price to retain Rodgers in the pursuit of another Lombardi Trophy.