“Last Dance” in Green Bay Confirmed: Rodgers Near Deal to Return to Packers, But Only for This Season

So it looks like we read the signs correctly from Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams’ matching Instagram stories: they’re going to be back with the Packers for the 2021 season, but then probably gone after that.

Adam Schefter reports Rodgers and Green Bay are close to a deal that would void the 2023 year in his contract and basically make this the last season for him in Green Bay:

Notice that last part: “Concessions do not include more money.” Rodgers doesn’t want the money, he just wants to get out of there.

So just to be clear, because this is a bit confusing: Rodgers will still technically be under contract with Green Bay for 2022, but the understanding is that the Packers will just trade him after this season to basically wherever he wants to, probably the Denver Broncos.

Green Bay doesn’t want him to be a free agent because then they lose him for nothing, but with him still under contract they can get some value for him via trade.

But the bottom line here is that this is going to be Aaron Rodgers’ last season in Green Bay. That’s what he wanted, and the Packers were willing to accept that.

I’m going to assume this is what made him soften his stance: the Packers’ willingness to let him leave. They played hardball with him by refusing to trade him, and it looks like they kinda, sorta won because they get the MVP for another season.

But now we go into a very weird situation, where the arguable best QB in the NFL is playing what everyone knows is his last season in Green Bay, and what makes it even stranger is that we all pretty much know what team he will be playing for next season: Denver.

With Brady in New England in 2019, there were a lot of rumors that he was going to be out of there after the season ended, but a lot of people doubted it. With Brady having been in New England for 20 seasons, it just seemed unfathomable to imagine him leaving. It still kinda feels weird seeing him play for another team. And, on top of that, even if you did believe the rumors that Brady was done in New England, nobody really knew where he would end up as a free agent. A lot of people thought San Fran, a lot of people thought the Chargers, and a few people were saying Tampa, but it was a big mystery.

With Rodgers now, everyone knows it’s his last season in Green Bay, and everyone also knows he’s probably going to the Denver Broncos at the end. It creates a weird situation for both the Packers and the Broncos.

I don’t even know what the Broncos are thinking about this upcoming season, honestly. They’re a good roster, and we all believe they could be true Super Bowl contenders if they managed to trade for Aaron Rodgers, but now we know that’s not happening this year, and so this year is kind of a lost season already. They know they’re not going to win a Super Bowl with either Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater, but they’re still going to play hard because, well, NFL players always play hard because they want to make money, and it’s a week-to-week league for a lot of these guys. Plus, head coach Vic Fangio is somewhat on the hot seat and needs to save his job, so he just knows they have to do reasonably well, and then he can keep his job for another season, get Aaron Rodgers, and then boom, they’re in the Super Bowl conversation.

If Denver goes 9-8 or even maybe 8-9 and lose some close games, play hard, they’ll probably bring Vic Fangio back and let him coach Rodgers. In fact, I think Denver should keep Fangio regardless, because he’s an excellent defensive coach, and with a guy like Aaron Rodgers, Fangio doesn’t even have to worry about the offense at all. Rodgers is like an offensive coordinator on the field. Rodgers is so smart and experienced, and if they do in fact get him, then Vic Fangio can just focus on the defense and on general head coaching duties, like motivation, accountability, culture, delegating, etc.

So basically Denver fans just want to get this season over with and get to March 2022, when they will presumably be trading for Aaron Rodgers. It’s a really weird situation, and the only thing I can compare it to is when a team sucks but knows they’re getting the #1 pick in the draft and there’s a generational quarterback talent available. Like Trevor Lawrence this year, or Andrew Luck in 2012.

But even in those cases, even though the QB prospect is really hyped up and everyone’s excited for him, you don’t truly know if he’s going to be the real deal. It’s not a guarantee.

For the Broncos, they’re about to get Aaron Fucking Rodgers. There is no uncertainty there. He is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time–some would argue that based on talent alone, he’s the best to ever do it. Once they get him, everything changes for them. They instantly become Super Bowl contenders, arguably even Super Bowl favorites. All they have to do is get through this season without completely imploding, because that would make him reconsider going there.

For the Packers, it’s a weird situation as well, knowing your superstar QB, who has been with the team since 2005 and who has been the starter since 2008, has one foot out the door and it’s the last hurrah with him.

The Packers know they’re Super Bowl contenders as long as they have Aaron Rodgers, but will he be 100% focused for the season after all that has gone down over the past 4-5 months? Will he be fully committed to the Packers after basically telling him he’s had enough of them and wants nothing more to do with them?

It’s impossible for Rodgers not to be at least somewhat looking ahead to 2022. When you land a new job but you still have to finish out your tenure at your current job, it’s hard to focus, right? It’s hard to be 100% committed to your current job when you know you’re moving on. It’s only human.

I’m sure Rodgers will want to deliver one more Super Bowl to the Packers fans, but you have to wonder if he will be in the optimal mindset to do so, knowing he’s gone after the season.

As for Packers fans, the stakes are enormous for this season. They are about to be facing uncertainty at the quarterback position for the first time in a very long time–14 years by the time 2022 rolls around.

The Packers have been one of the most blessed franchises in the NFL, having Brett Favre from 1992-2007, and Rodgers from 2008-2021. No Packers fan under the age of like 45 knows what it’s like to not have a top-3 QB in the NFL. They’re just used to it at this point. And I’d imagine a lot of them take it for granted. How could you not, when it’s been the norm for you for 30 years?

Packer fans have no idea what it’s like to not have an elite quarterback. They’re either going to hit the jackpot for a third time in a row with Jordan Love, or they’re about about to find out what it’s like to be a Bears fan, or a Browns fan, or a Jets fan, or a fan of the many NFL franchises that have been continually searching and searching and searching for a franchise QB for years, potentially even decades.

If you’re a Packer fan you know, deep down, that while you obviously hope for the best with Jordan Love, you know it’s unlikely that he’ll be anywhere near as good as Aaron Fucking Rodgers, or Brett Favre.

It was even a miracle that Aaron Rodgers turned out to be as great as he has been–that the Packers could just move on from Brett Favre and his successor was not only just as good, but probably even better.

The odds of the Packers getting not one, not two, but three 10-15 year Super Bowl-caliber quarterbacks in a row are extremely low. It’s way more likely they’re about to go into a prolonged Dark Age where they’re searching for a franchise quarterback for years to come.

So they know this season is do-or-die. They know they probably won’t be this good again for a long time.

And in that regard, there are a lot of parallels to the “Last Dance” with the Chicago Bulls. Back before the 1998 season started, it was pretty much finalized within the building that this was the final season for Jordan, Pippen and Phil Jackson. They knew that season was going to be their last chance to win a Championship for while, potentially a very, very long time.

And as we all know, outside of those few years where Derrick Rose was an MVP-caliber player–which were tragically cut short by his knee injuries–the Bulls haven’t been anywhere close to a Championship since that 1998 season ended. The closest they got was 2011, when they made the Eastern Conference Finals and won Game 1 against the Miami Heat, but then lost the next four in a row. Then, 2012, Derrick Rose blows out his ACL in the first round of the playoffs, and that was basically that.

So the Green Bay Packers are basically staring into the abyss after this season concludes. Packer fans are going to be watching every game on pins and needles; they’re going to pack Lambeau to its max capacity for every single home game. There’s going to be an urgency and a sense of desperation to savor every last moment of every snap.

Because this is it. This is the last hurrah. If they don’t win a Super Bowl this season, it will probably be a very, very long time until they win another one.

Fascinating dynamic at play for both the Packers and Broncos.

Austin Frank

Sports blogger

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