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Packers GM Brian Gutekunst speaks on Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love in end of year presser

“We made a really big commitment to [Rodgers] last offseason. As we did that, it certainly wasn’t just for this year.”

NFL: MAR 01 Scouting Combline Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst met with the media for an end-of-the-year presser on Friday, marking the first time he’s spoken with the press since the Packers’ bye week and only the second time since final cuts following the preseason. In the interview session, Gutekunst described the team’s expected plans going into the 2023 seasons, including most notably how they feel about their franchise quarterback.

When the topic of quarterback Aaron Rodgers came up, Gutekunst stated, “I want all these guys back,” which seemed like he was sidestepping the question until he was hit with a follow-up. He later said, “We made a really big commitment to him last offseason. As we did that, it certainly wasn’t just for this year.” That was almost a word-for-word repeat of what he said during the bye week, when both he and head coach Matt LaFleur made it clear that they would like Rodgers to be the quarterback of the team in 2023.

It seems as though the decision will be in the hands of Rodgers, who for the third straight offseason is going to have every action of his watched like a hawk until he chooses to hang up his cleats or return to the team. After the season finale, Rodgers stated to the media that he was not going to “hold [the Packers] hostage” and that he would make a choice before free agency begins in March.

What does that mean for Jordan Love, the second-string quarterback who the team drafted in the first round three classes ago? The general manager said, “We really like where Jordan is. We think he’s ready to play,” but when the topic of Love’s fifth-year option (or a possible extension) came up, he claimed, “I wouldn’t say that’s a given. I think we’re kinda working through what’s best.”

That’s a bit of a change of tune, as Gutekunst said, “I think from our end of it, we’ve seen what we need to see,” in regards to Love and his fifth-year option during the bye week interview. The decision on picking up a 2024 year on Love’s deal will need to be made this offseason, but it will not impact the Packers’ 2023 cap space. Picking up the option, which would be fully guaranteed and not an insignificant salary, would certainly put a lot of pressure on the Rodgers or Love debate in 2023.

The quarterbacks weren’t the only players who were singled out, though. On left tackle David Bakhtiari returning to the Packers in 2023, Gutekunst stated, “I would hope so. We’re hopeful that he kinda cleared some of those injury hurdles.” Bakhtiari, who has played in 12 out of the possible 34 games over the last two seasons, commands $17.5 million in cash and a $29.1 million cap hit in 2023 as his contract sits currently.

When running back Aaron Jones — who is due $16 million in cash and a $20 million cap hit — was brought up, Gutekunst joked, “Well with the way we’ve been doing things lately, we’ll probably restructure everybody and keep trying to make some room.” The general manager would later say, “Certainly, we expect to have [Jones] back.”

From a special teams perspective, Gutekunst claims that the team will continue using roster spots for special teams specific players as they had under Year 1 of special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia’s reign. This notably impacts the safety position, where the Packers had six players on the 53-man roster at the end of the season. Three of those players are set to be free agents, so expect Green Bay to hit that position in the draft and free agency.

It’s worth mentioning here that defensive coordinator Joe Barry returning did come up in the presser and Gutekunst did not push back on it being a fact. At one point, he said that he leaves the coaching decisions to LaFleur and that he and the front office are simply there to support his choices.