On Tuesday, Aaron Rodgers made his weekly appearance on the Pat McAfee Show and clarified some comments that he made in the post-game press conference following the Green Bay Packers’ 13-10 loss in the divisional round to the San Francisco 49ers. Over an hour, Rodgers touched plenty of topics, both on and off the field, but here’s what you need to know about where his mindset is going into 2022 from a football perspective.
First, he fielded questions about if he does or doesn’t want to come back to the Packers next season. He responded, “Some of the factors are the direction of the team and the organization and how I feel like I fit in the future.” This echoes a statement he made in the post-game presser when he said he doesn’t want to be a part of a rebuild. With Green Bay roughly $40 million over the salary cap at the moment, not including rookie picks and the potential to re-sign players on expiring contracts, it would take a collaborative effort from Rodgers, other players on the roster (notably Davante Adams) and the front office to come back in 2022 with anything close to the firepower that they had in 2022.
Rodgers also said he wouldn’t return to football if he were to retire. The quarterback noted, “One thing I would 100 percent not do is retire and then come back a year later.” It sounds like there won’t be the dragged out will-he, won’t-he of 2021 or #FavreWatch and he won’t pull a Rob Gronkowski on the team. When asked how he will make a decision, he said, “A lot of intuition and a lot of feel. You have to imagine yourself in those situations.”
As far as the timeline of his decision goes, he stated in the post-game presser that he would make his decision well before free agency out of respect to the team and how they’re going to have to operate while they’re teetering on the edge of running the roster back or tearing the team down in a rebuild. Today, he gave us a few more details, saying, “I understand that my decision does impact a number of other people’s decisions and I want to be very sensitive to that. I’ll definitely make a decision sooner rather than later...One decision that will be upcoming will be obviously Davante [Adams] and his future with the team. There still is this thing called the franchise tag, which I don’t think 17 wants the franchise tag. No player ever wants the franchise tag, but that decision on that I believe is in late February. I think that should be enough time to make a decision by then.”
The window to franchise tag players will start on February 22nd and extend through March 8th, so Rodgers is correct in that the team will want to know the long-term plans of Rodgers and Adams by that time. Adams has mentioned in pressers throughout the year that he both wants to be the highest-paid receiver in the league and that playing with Rodgers would be a factor in him returning to Green Bay.
The problem with the franchise tag, from Green Bay’s perspective, is that the cap hit is immediately much larger than the first year of even a mega-deal. That means if the Packers want to “run it back” with 12 and 17, their best method to building a competitive team under the current salary cap structure would be to rework Rodgers’ contract with an extension while also signing Adams to a long-term contract before free agency. From there, it’s just a matter of how much the team will be able to retain elsewhere. The 46 million-dollar question to solve over the next month is: Is that enough to recruit Rodgers back to Green Bay?