It’s been a tough year off the field for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. At the 2021 NFL Draft, it became known that Rodgers may not want to return to the Packers and that he wasn’t happy with his relationship with the front office.
Trade speculation and rumors followed throughout the offseason with Rodgers largely remaining quiet and the media trying to read into every quote from anybody who knew the future Hall of Famer and to dive into whatever Rodgers said on those rare occasions when he did make a public comment.
In the end, Rodgers returned to Green Bay for what he described as “The Last Dance”, one final opportunity to win a championship with the Packers in 2021 after which he would again reassess his future with the team.
Unfortunately, the Packers fell short of winning a title this year. For the second straight season, they locked up the top seed in the NFC but lost a home playoff game, this time to the 49ers by a 13-10 margin in the divisional round.
So, it’s time to figure out what the future holds for Rodgers and the Packers. Again, we have hints but no concrete information. Here’s what we know as the Packers head into the offseason:
- Rodgers Said He Will Decide About His Future “Soon”
In late December, Rodgers was asked about his future with the Packers and in the NFL. He told reporters, “It won’t be something where I’ll drag it out for months and months. I’m not going to hold the team back from anything. And once I commit — and if it’s committing to move forward here — it will be a quick decision.”
Rodgers said he would speak with those close to him and then with GM Brian Gutekunst, head coach Matt Lafleur and the Packers cap specialist, Russ Ball, before making a final decision.
After the playoff loss to the 49ers, Rodgers seemed a little less committed to a quick decision. “I’m going to take some time and have conversations with folks around here, and then take some time away and make a decision, obviously before free agency or before anything gets going on that front,” he told reporters.
According to these quotes, we can expect a decision sometime in February or early March. That will give the Packers organization a chance to prepare for the future without Rodgers and to work out a trade or to negotiate a contract extension with him.
- His Relationship with Brian Gutekunst Appears to Have Improved
In his post-game press conference, Rodgers admitted that his relationship with Gutekunst has gotten better since he decided to rejoin the team in July.
Rodgers had asked for input into decisions and the Packers appeared to give him that. They traded for wide receiver Randall Cobb from Houston at Rodgers’ recommendation and the team was clearly “all in” to try to win a championship this year.
“From the day I got back, I feel like there was earnest decisions on both sides to meet in the middle and communicate,” Rodgers said. “I’m very thankful to be a part of the conversations I was a part of. I feel like my opinion mattered. To feel the even deeper and more meaningful support from him and him and [director of football operations] Russ [Ball] and [CEO] Mark [Murphy]. So that was definitely a special part of the season, to see that relationship grow. I think [he] put together a really nice team. A team that could have won the Super Bowl. And he deserves a lot of credit for some of the moves that he made. Disappointed we couldn’t put it together for him and the organization tonight.”
That statement gives Packers fans who want to see Rodgers return in 2022 some hope.
- He Does Not Want to Stick Around for Rebuild
Rodgers also said that he doesn’t want to stick around if the Packers were to go into rebuilding mode. This makes sense for a quarterback who will turn 39 late in the 2022 season.
If the Packers lose key players to free agency this offseason, that could decrease Rodgers’ desire to remain in Green Bay. Players who may not be back in Green Bay next year because of free agency or contracts that need to be reworked to fit under the cap include Davante Adams, Robert Tonyan, Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and De’Vondre Campbell.
While Rodgers says he doesn’t want to be part of a rebuilding organization, will he take a lower salary to help fit more players under the cap because…
- The Packers Have a Cap Crunch
According to spotrac.com, the Packers are approximately $38.4 million over the projected 2022 salary cap. If they hope to re-sign Adams to a long-term deal or to give him the franchise tag, they may need Rodgers to take less money up front to make that possible.
If Rodgers is truly dedicated to another Super Bowl run, he won’t have too many better situations than what he’s had in Green Bay especially if the Packers can manage to bring back Adams and several of their defensive stars.
There are usually ways to manipulate contracts to get under the salary cap if both the front office and the players are willing. We still don’t know how willing Rodgers will be to make this happen.
We also can’t discount the possibility that Rodgers decides to retire or asks for a trade which Gutekunst indicated he would give to him if he still wasn’t happy in Green Bay after this season.
- Lack of Playoff Success and Jordan Love
From the Packers standpoint, they have issues to think about as well. Is it worth it for them to sign Rodgers to a new contract that will keep him in Green Bay another few years or should they expect diminishing returns along with increasing drama off the field from their star quarterback?
The Packers also must decide if Jordan Love is ready to start next season if Rodgers wants out.
Love showed flashes of ability but is also unquestionably a work in progress. He started one game and saw extensive action in one more. The former first round pick ended the season with a disappointing 58.1 percent completion percentage, two touchdowns and three interceptions. His quarterback rating was 68.7.
If the Packers feel Love is not ready to take over, they can ask for a starting caliber quarterback in any trade involving Rodgers or try to sign a starter via free agency. But this would likely diminish any cap savings they would have if Rodgers decides he doesn’t want to return.
This will be a very eventful offseason for the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers. A-Rod and the Packers are on the clock.
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