News regarding the future of Aaron Rodgers in a Green Bay Packers uniform most likely will be put on hold until the Super Bowl has come and gone in two weeks. Still, the coaching changes of the past week have done little to squash the rumors of Rodgers moving on from Titletown.
Denver could surely be a trade partner in any Rodgers deal and today’s musings explore one player that could be on the other end of a trade. Plus, another AFC West team could be starting to follow the Packers’ yearly path of having a nearly perfect roster, only to fall short in the postseason.
The Packers may have had the perfect Super Bowl roster, just not one of its most important pieces of that puzzle
Over the past two years, it has been difficult to find many flaws with the rosters assembled by Brian Gutekunst and company. The Green Bay front office has searched far and wide and across a number of avenues to find impact players before, after, and during the season. Sure, slot receiver may have been a missing piece on the 2020 roster and perhaps the same can be said for the inside linebacker position. But in 2021, Gutekunst found a gem in De’Vondre Campbell and traded for Randall Cobb. To add depth to the secondary, Rasul Douglas was as fine a find as any in recent memory.
So, in the end, what was the flaw of the 2021 roster?
One take is that there was not one, at least one the Packers could control. The X-factor in Green Bay’s playoff collapses the past two seasons may simply be the injury of David Bakhtiari. Many years, it could be said that the Packers did not have enough depth to offset that kind of loss at offensive tackle. However, this year was different. The Packers had navigated a season full of injuries on the line, and were still successful, no matter who played left tackle and which combination of players made up the five-man rotation. In the end, the coaching staff’s mistake in formulating a starting lineup without their franchise left tackle — Billy Turner stepping in at left tackle for the first time all season with Dennis Kelly on the right side instead of Yosh Nijman — cost the team. Even at halftime, with Kelly struggling mightily against Nick Bosa and the San Francisco pass rush, the Packers failed to adjust.
The offense has crumbled at the wrong times during the past two postseasons, with pass rush casting doubt and indecisiveness into the mind of Aaron Rodgers. The constant has been the absence of Bakhtiari and how the Packers have dealt with it. Green Bay might have actually had the perfect roster for a Super Bowl run this time around, but the loss of one of its core pieces was an unfortunate fatal flaw for the second year in a row.
If Aaron Rodgers does not return, keep an eye on this quarterback
It might be another two or three weeks until the verdict is out on Rodgers’ status with the Packers organization. Whether or not the Packers already know the outcome remains to be seen, but it would be foolish to believe the front office has not investigated opportunities to bolster the quarterback room should they no longer have their prized signal caller.
The Rodgers-to-Denver speculation has not died down in the least, especially with Nathaniel Hackett’s hire as head coach and Justin Outten becoming the Broncos’ new offensive coordinator. If the Broncos are to make a run at Rodgers, could one of Denver’s own quarterbacks find his way to Green Bay? It was not long ago that Gutekunst and the Packers brought Drew Lock in for a pre-draft visit and were rumored to be strongly considering him in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. The thought of the Packers selecting a quarterback that early in the draft seemed farfetched at the time, but the pick of Jordan Love a year later seems to make the Packers’ rumored interest much more believable.
Lock’s time in Denver has been wildly inconsistent to date and he appears expendable at this juncture. The price to acquire him, particularly if Denver truly was to acquire Rodgers or another proven quarterback, could be on the cheaper end with Lock entering the final year of his rookie contract. If the Packers do like the upside of Lock, they would have a year to gauge his long-term ability in their own position meetings and practice field. Further, Green Bay would benefit from a veteran backup quarterback with starting experience even if Love was named the starter. Lock would represent much more of a building block than a one-year stopgap player like Ryan Fitzpatrick and he has some intriguing athletic traits.
Despite Rodgers on the roster, the Packers once drafted Brian Brohm to increase their chances of finding a starting quarterback that could stick after Brett Favre. They could follow a similar route again, this time via a trade for a quarterback they liked once upon a time.
The Packers have struggled to get over the hump, but could Kansas City be following a similar route?
The window to win a Super Bowl can shut quickly. Green Bay was fortunate to have an exceptionally long window to earn a second Super Bowl with Rodgers, but another world championship has proven to be elusive for the Packers despite back-to-back 13-3 seasons and a 15-1 season back in 2011. If any fan base has learned what it feels like to come up short in the playoffs, it is that of the Green Bay Packers.
Could the Chiefs and their fans be next?
Like Green Bay, Kansas City has had a transcendent passer in Patrick Mahomes and plenty of pieces in place to make another title run. They were seemingly unstoppable at the perfect time this postseason and were matched up at home against an underdog Cincinnati squad. They had a two-score halftime lead. And they folded again. It sounds eerily similar to Packers playoff games of the past. While it is early in the Chiefs’ run at a dynasty after winning it all in 2019, time is ticking. Kansas City has won its division the past six seasons, yet fallen short five times. That includes a lost Super Bowl and two conference championship games over the past four-year span.
How long will Kansas City’s window stay open? As Mahomes’ salary climbs significantly heading into next season, payroll becomes an issue in keeping the other pieces under contract. Tyrann Mathieu, Jarran Reed, Derrick Nnadi, and Melvin Ingram are free agents this offseason. Frank Clark could be a salary cap casualty. Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman have one year left on their deals.
It is hard to win championships as the Packers very well know. But as Kansas City bowed out of the playoffs last weekend, it was hard not to notice the Chiefs’ own struggles to win the final game of the season.