Rumors continue to swirl around the decision the Green Bay Packers need to make about the future of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Over the weekend, Adam Schefter reported that it was known around the NFL that the Packers “prefer” to move on from Rodgers this offseason and would like to trade the future Hall of Famer who has been their starting quarterback since 2008.
The rumors are still unconfirmed and the situation still must play itself out as Rodgers and Packers GM Brian Gutekunst need to come to a mutual decision.
The one question the Packers must answer is whether or not this team, as presently constituted, has a realistic chance of winning a Super Bowl with Rodgers as their quarterback in 2023? If the answer is yes, the Packers should try to keep Rodgers even if it means the team has to make some sacrifices and move some more salary around to free up cap space for the short term while sacrificing the future.
If the answer is no, the Packers are better off trading Rodgers now before his bonuses kick in and the team is on the hook for roughly $110 million over the next two seasons and a huge dead cap hit once Rodgers does finally depart.
Rodgers is 39 years old and coming off his worst statistical season as a starter. He had only one game with three touchdown passes all season, did not throw for 300 yards in any game and threw more interceptions (12) than he did in any season since his first as a starter in 2008.
Rodgers finished the season with a quarterback rating of 91.1 which tied him for 15th among qualified NFL quarterbacks, right in the middle of a league that features 32 starting quarterbacks.
There were many factors that went into this dramatic reduction in Rodgers’ efficiency. The offensive line was dealing with injuries early in the season with the team’s two most highly regarded starters in David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins missing games as they recovered from serious knee injuries and needing time to get back to their previous form.
The Packers also had a lot of turnover as wide receiver with the departure of Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling and the addition of three rookie receivers. The Packers led the NFL in dropped passes and rookies like Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs needed time to adjust to life in the NFL before they could become reliable and steady contributors.
The team’s veteran receivers like Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb and Sammy Watkins all missed games due to injury as did Watson and Doubs. An already questionable receiving corps was further weakened by these injuries.
Finally, Rodgers suffered a broken thumb in the Packers loss to the New York Giants in London in Week 5. That hurt his ability to grip the ball properly and compromised his accuracy throughout a good part of the season.
So, the Packers must first determine if a healthy Rodgers can return to elite form rather than the middle of the road performance he had in 2022.
If he does, Gutekunst must then determine if he can put together a good enough team to contend with Rodgers. Rodgers has indicated he wants some of “his guys” with him if he returns. That means Cobb, Mason Crosby, Marcedes Lewis and Bakhtiari among others. Can the Packers bring back enough of those players to satisfy Rodgers and still contend for a championship this season?
The good news for the Packers is that the NFC North race is wide open with no dominant team. The Vikings have salary cap issues and weren’t as good as their record indicates. The Lions are on the rise but unproven and the Bears are still in rebuild mode so the division is wide open.
The NFC is not a deep conference with dominant teams either. The Eagles and 49ers are the class of the conference this year but no other team is close to being dominant. The Packers can be good and not great and be a contender in the NFC at least as things look right now.
If Gutekunst feels he can create a team that is a realistic contender around Rodgers that he cannot create around Love, the Packers should keep Rodgers. If not, the better move is to avoid the long-term cost of kicking the cap hits down the line, get whatever assets they can get in return for a Rodgers trade and speed up the retooling or rebuilding of this team.
That is the ultimate choice that Gutekunst and the Packers front office have to make in the next few weeks. The team will then determine if it’s better to bring Rodgers back or move on. This is the biggest decision facing the Packers organization this offseason and it will determine the direction of the team both in 2023 and for years to come.
Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers
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