Could Aaron Rodgers Actually Leave the Packers?

I’m sure you’re aware that Aaron Rodgers has been guest-hosting Jeopardy! and that he’s expressed interest in becoming the full-time host of the show.

Many in the sports media have interpreted this as a veiled threat at the Green Bay Packers organization: if you don’t give me what I want, then I’ll just leave and become the host of Jeopardy!

I don’t know about this. Normally athletes just demand a trade or a release when they’re unhappy. I think the Packers would be more scared of a trade request than Rodgers becoming the new permanent host of Jeopardy! If he goes to another team, the Packers still have to worry about him potentially standing in their way in pursuit of a Super Bowl. If he’s the host of Jeopardy, he’s gone and out of the league. Spare me the “he can do both!” nonsense. It’s one or the other.

Maybe Rodgers is going about things more diplomatically than Russell Wilson or DeShaun Watson. After all, if he requests a trade publicly–or even privately and it leaks–then Packer fans would turn on him, and he doesn’t want that. From what I can tell, Aaron Rodgers loves Packer fans and they love him, and he doesn’t want to do anything to spoil that relationship. His beef is with the Packers’ front office and them alone. Because I’m sure the vast majority of Packer fans want Aaron to retire a Packer.

So maybe the Jeopardy! stuff is Rodgers saying, “I don’t want to play for any other franchise, but if you guys don’t commit to me, then I might just have to hang it up and call it a career.”

But what does this apparent rift between Rodgers and the Packers stem from? It would seem unthinkable that they can’t reach some sort of agreement on how to move forward: after all, he’s the reigning MVP of the league and has led them to back-to-back NFC Championship games. They were a few yards away from a Super Bowl berth last season and given how we saw the Super Bowl play out, they probably would’ve won it had they been able to seal the deal against Tampa.

Why on earth would there even be a discussion about the Packers and Aaron Rodgers splitting up?

It’s all about his contract. Due to the Covid-caused drop in the NFL salary cap, the Packers are really limited in terms of cap space, and restructuring Aaron Rodgers’ contract would free up $14mil for them to use on free agent signings. They’d have to simply convert his base salary into a signing bonus. It sounds cut and dry, but doing so would also tie the team to Rodgers for longer by making him harder to trade.

So it stands to reason that the reason the Packers haven’t done this is because they don’t want to commit to Aaron Rodgers beyond the 2021 season. Because clearly Rodgers wants to stay with Green Bay, and clearly it’s in his best interest to free up cap space that the team can use to sign free agents and improve the roster.

It’s not Rodgers holding things up because Bleacher Report says that the Packers can restructure his contract without his permission. The Packers apparently don’t want to do it.

Aaron spoke candidly about his contract on the Pat McAfee show last week:

Aaron Rodgers’ mind hasn’t changed about his future: he’s still uncertain if he’s part of the Green Bay Packers’ long-term plans.

“Nothing’s really changed. My future, a lot of it, is out of my control,” Rodgers said on the Pat McAfee Show. “That’s why I used a phrase like ‘a beautiful mystery’ because it is quite uncertain which direction things will go. All I can do is play my best, and I feel like last year I did do that. I may have thrown a wrench in some timelines that may have been thought about or desired.”

He’s clearly got some doubts about the Packers’ desire to commit to him and ensure he finishes out his career there. He’s 37 years old now but showing zero signs of slowing down. He had 48 TDs and just 5 INTs last year along with a 70% completion rate. His 2020 campaign was undeniably one of the great quarterback seasons in the history of the NFL.

But that’s what he was referring to when he says he “may have thrown a wrench in some timelines that may have been thought about or desired.” The Packers traded up to draft Jordan Love at #27 overall last season instead of drafting Aaron Rodgers some weapons (WRs Tee Higgins, Michael Pittman, Laviska Shenault, and Chase Claypool were all still on the board at pick #27). Many, including Rodgers himself, took that move as a sign the Packers are preparing to move on from Rodgers. But his stellar on-field play is complicating that.

I just don’t understand why the Packers would be thinking about moving on with Aaron Rodgers still playing like he’s the best quarterback in the league. It’s not like he’s a shell of his former self. He’s still Aaron Rodgers.

Now, it is true that we are really only hearing Rodgers’ side of the story. And in that version of things, the Packers are the bad guys, they want to move off him sooner rather than later, and they’re being dicks about the whole thing. But ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, the well-connected Packers beat reporter, got this quote from an anonymous agent:

It’s really hard to say without knowing what conversations have occurred. Because what I’ve also heard is Aaron is stubborn, and who knows that they’re not offering up a palatable situation that is a middle ground and he’s saying ‘F— that — I’m not budging and do it the way I want to do it or not.’

“I’m going to assume that some sort of middle ground has been attempted by the Packers, and I’m going to assume right now that Aaron is not listening to it.

But even if Rodgers is being stubborn and demanding the Packers commit to him long-term or nothing at all, what’s really so wrong about that? Would the Packers really be pissed about committing to the one guy who gives them the best possible shot at winning a Super Bowl over the next 3 years?

Maybe Rodgers is demanding the Packers trade Jordan Love, in which case I’d say Rodgers is being unreasonable to a fault. But who knows? This is all speculation.

I guess the thing I can’t get over is, how do the Packers not realize that they should be all-in on maximizing every last snap they can get out of Aaron Fucking Rodgers?

If he’s “stubborn,” then so be it. If I’m in their shoes, there is no level of stubbornness I wouldn’t tolerate when it comes to Aaron Rodgers. He’s the best quarterback in the league. He has carried that team for a decade-and-a-half. They should be bending over backward to appease him and keep him in Green Bay til the day he retires.

Do the Packers just take elite QBs for granted because they’ve had one for the better part of the past 30 years? Do they not realize just how rare talents like Aaron Rodgers are? Guys like him do not grow on trees. Their bitter rivals, the Chicago Bears, have been trying to find a franchise QB for the better part of the past 70 years. The Bears have had over 30 QBs start for them since the Packers got Brett Favre in 1992.

There is nothing Aaron Rodgers could do or say that I would not accommodate, if I were the Packers’ GM.

If the Packers don’t fully understand just how valuable he is, go ahead and send out the word that he’s on the trading block and watch 25+ teams line up with their best offers. They’ll be fighting and clawing with one another to get to the front of the line. The Packers’ phone will be ringing off the hook.

I suspect the only thing that will make the Packers understand just how valuable Rodgers is is when he’s finally on another team and going 13-4 while the Packers are 6-11 with Jordan Love starting. Only then will the Packers understand: “Maybe we shouldn’t have pushed Rodgers out the door.”

It’s like the Packers are giving up on winning another Super Bowl with Rodgers. It doesn’t feel like they’re trying to maximize his remaining years. It just feels like–from the outside looking in–that their Super Bowl window is wide open and they’re already trying to move on to the Jordan Love era and begin a rebuild.

It doesn’t make any sense. The only way it makes sense is if you look at it as the Packers wanting to move off of Rodgers after this upcoming season.

But even that doesn’t make any sense.

So it looks like Aaron Rodgers will be playing for another team in 2022. It’s crazy, it’s ridiculous, and it’s bone-headed on the Packers’ part. But that’s the way it looks right now.

Octavian

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