We’re a week from training camp and the Packers’ conflict with Aaron Rodgers (or, perhaps, Aaron Rodgers’ conflict with the Packers) still hasn’t been resolved. Sooner or later, both sides are going to need an answer.
What will it be? Here are our best guesses as to what’s going to happen.
Rcon14: He’s going to show up
From all indications, Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have a problem with his teammates or the coaching staff. With that said, he doesn’t actually have to deal with the people for whom he appears to have issues with: Brain Gutekunst, Mark Murphy, and maybe Russ Ball? It’s all a bit unclear who exactly Rodgers seems to have a problem with, since Rodgers has said nothing publicly, but there are no indications that the issues are with the people he’ll have to interact with on a day-to-day basis.
The Packers are still the best place for Rodgers to win a Super Bowl, and he’s not going to sit out the season and have to pay back tens of millions of dollars. I don’t know if he’ll be there day one, just to send some type of not-so-veiled message, and then just say his travel plans got messed up to hide it, but QB1 will be back and we’ll all pretend everything is hunky-dory for one last ride.
Paul Noonan: He’ll show up because it’s the smart thing to do
Aaron’s a huge weirdo but he will show up. It’s easy to say you will forego millions of dollars and alienate teammates and fans until that day actually comes, but the fact of the matter is that it’s in Aaron’s interest to play this season for numerous reasons. It will be good for his pocketbook. It will be good for his legacy. If he can win a title, it may even save some squandered goodwill.
But mostly, playing this year is his ticket out of here. Right now he’s difficult to trade for cap purposes and timing purposes. It just doesn’t make logical sense, especially if he wants a say in his destination. Once this season is over it becomes much simpler from all angles.
I’m not sure that Aaron is entirely rational in the conventional sense, and if he does something truly against the grain I won’t be that surprised. I think Jeopardy and televised golf were partially dipping his toe into other avenues for the possibility of not playing football. But there’s too much at stake here for Aaron, and the one thing we know is that Aaron cares about Aaron.
Mike Vieth: I have no idea but have an idea of what could happen if Aaron doesn’t show up.
I’m holding out hope that Aaron shows up, plays through the season and this becomes just a talking point for the season. However, after he, apparently, rejected the Packers’ latest offer to become the highest-paid player in the league, I have some doubts.
Aaron has said multiple times that his problem is with team management and not with Jordan Love or any other player or coach. Fine, I’ll believe that but if he wants to drag this out to try and show up the Brian Gutekunst and anyone else into the season, it’s a bad idea. The Packers hold all the cards in this situation and could make life hard for the last few years of Aaron’s career.
If Aaron doesn’t show, Gutekunst should do nothing...until right before the regular season starts. Then go to Denver (I chose Denver because they can offer the best trade package in my opinion) and see if they are still interested in acquiring Rodgers. The answer will be “Yes” and strike a deal. Broncos fans and news sites believe they are only a quarterback away and Rodgers will come to them on the cheap. They are not and it will not. The deal must include wide receiver Jerry Jeudy coming back to the Packers, try to get cornerback Patrick Surtain (or add whatever top defensive player you want) in there and a couple of high draft picks. With that return, Gutekunst will take the dead cap hit with little hesitation to get rid of the distraction.
Jerry Jeudy will give Jordan Love, Blake Bortles or whoever the Packers quarterback is an unreal one-two receiving option. It will spite Rodgers too because the new Packers quarterback will have more talent to throw to than Rodgers has had in some time. Also, Jeudy will be insurance in case Davante Adams chooses to leave in free agency after the season. Obviously, Jeudy isn’t at the level of Adams but he’s one of the best young receivers in the game and will build into a number one target. If Adams stays after the year, even better. The other pieces of the trade are bonuses.
Putting Rodgers in Denver will ensure the Packers don’t need to worry about him until the Super Bowl and, let’s face it, the Chiefs are going to be the team to beat in the AFC for some time. Also, trading him right before the season gives him little time to prepare with his new team and I doubt Rodgers will be able to beat the Chiefs and other top teams with subpar weapons and a mediocre offensive line. This will end the distraction and let the Packers do what they do best, stay relevant and try to give themselves a shot at a Super Bowl on a consistent basis. That is if this whole Jordan Love thing works out. Only time will tell.
Evan “Tex” Western: He’s coming back for one more go
If Aaron Rodgers still wants to be traded, he has zero leverage at this point. If he wants to win a Super Bowl in 2021, his best chance — by a country mile — is with the Packers, regardless of his personal feelings on the matter. And with him by all accounts loving his teammates and coaching staff, I find it difficult to imagine him bailing on them after never saying anything publicly about plans to retire or sit out the season.
Remember: all of those reports about that are just that at this point: reports.
Then there’s the financial piece of all this. Is Rodgers really going to retire and write the Packers a check for his roster bonus and a big chunk of his signing bonus, paying back something like $20 million instead of bringing that same amount in by playing this fall? Even for someone with as much money as he has, that’s even more difficult to imagine.
So in sum, Rodgers will be back to lead this team for one more season while the Packers and their fans finally get a chance to see Jordan Love in preseason action before likely handing him the keys to the car next year.
Jon Meerdink: Both sides will set the stage for spring 2022
Like most of the people above, I also think Rodgers is going to show up for Packers camp. When? Who knows exactly, but I think he’ll be there in time to be under center Week 1.
But we shouldn’t forget that this is all setting the stage for another showdown of sorts after the end of this season. If Rodgers really does want out of Green Bay, it’s hard to see things just blowing over, no matter what goes down this year. And given the salary cap reckoning the Packers have coming next offseason, it’s likely that there will be more mutual interest in a parting of ways.
For that to happen, though, Rodgers needs to be in Green Bay this year. If he’d really sit out for a year, all he’d really accomplish is push the timeline back. If he wants out, he knows that’s not really an option, so he’ll show, grit his teeth, and then we get to do this all again in January or February.