Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst had two opportunities to speak to the media at the combine on Tuesday. The first was with a select pool of reporters and the second was on the podium in Indianapolis.
Obviously, he was peppered with questions about quarterback Aaron Rodgers — who has gone radio silent since he went on his darkness retreat. Tuesdays are typically the day Rodgers joins The Pat McAfee Show for his weekly interviews, but he hasn’t appeared on the stream over the last two weeks.
Gutekunst said that outside of select text messages, he and his quarterback “haven’t had a chance to speak, yet.” He would later push back on the idea that he’s had trade conversations with teams, despite rumors linking Rodgers to the New York Jets and Las Vegas Raiders swirling around. Gutekunst said, “Actually talking about trades, not yet. Certainly, people would be interested in Aaron Rodgers, right? If they thought he was available.”
It appears that the general manager is leaving the door open for Rodgers to return to Green Bay in 2023, which shouldn’t be surprising considering the fact that both Gutekunst and head coach Matt LaFleur stated that they want him back at the end of the 2022 season. “Our feelings haven’t changed about Aaron. We need to have some of those conversations about our team, where it’s going, where it’s at before we go forward.”
When the prospect of free agency was brought up, Gutekunst singled out the holes at tight end and safety on the Packers’ current roster going into 2023. While the receiver position is flashy and holds the national focus in mock drafts, tight end and safety were voted by Acme Packing Company’s readers as the first- and second-biggest needs for the team this offseason.
Off the podium and in the local media scrum, Gutekunst stated, “I think you’ll see a stronger leg and a different power in [Mason Crosby’s] leg on kickoffs this coming year just because he won’t be coming off that surgery,” suggesting that Crosby could return to Green Bay in 2023. Crosby is set to be a restricted free agent next month. The Packers’ 22.5 percent touchback percentage was easily the worst in the league last year, so Crosby’s leg only can go up from here.
According to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Gutekunst said that he plans on restructuring left tackle David Bakhtiari’s contract and that the team is “working on something” with nose tackle Kenny Clark. Last week, the Packers created $16 million in cap space with salary conversions to cornerback Jaire Alexander and outside linebacker Preston Smith.
Green Bay needs about $13 million more in cap space before they can sign free agents, due to the cost of the rookie draft class. The general manager also mentioned that if Rodgers does return to the team, he expects that the quarterback will restructure his contract to drop his cap hit. Rodgers is set to be paid $59.5 million in 2023 with the vast majority of that money coming in the form of a signing bonus and an option bonus. Any sort of contract adjustment that would help the Packers’ salary cap situation would have to come from Rodgers taking fewer dollars in this upcoming season, as he’s set to make the minimum base salary for his playing experience.