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Cheese Curds, 3/10: Aaron Rodgers & Za’Darius Smith face questions about legacies

That word seems to mean a lot to one player and not much to the other, but both have big days ahead of them.

Green Bay Packers v Minnesota Vikings John Autey / MediaNews Group / St. Paul Pioneer Press via Getty Images

For three years, Aaron Rodgers and Za’Darius Smith were teammates for the Green Bay Packers. Those three seasons saw the team have exceptional success along with impressive individual performances from both players. The team won 13 games in each of the three years, Rodgers won a pair of NFL MVPs, and Smith made two Pro Bowls plus earned second-team All-Pro honors for 2020.

A year apart, their Packers careers fizzled, doing so very differently. Smith played just two games in the 2021 season amid a mysterious back injury, a difficult contract situation, and cryptic comments suggesting he was unhappy about not being voted as a team captain. He found himself released last offseason, then backed out of a deal with the Baltimore Ravens to play in Minnesota. Rodgers won another MVP that year, but saw his play tail off significantly in 2022 as the team’s record dropped to 8-9, and he now faces questions about retirement or accepting a trade.

The idea of a legacy seems to have a very different meaning to each of these two men. Rodgers has made repeated comments over the years about hoping to end his career with the Packers rather than move on to another team like so many other quarterbacks have. Meanwhile, Smith is trying to force his way out of Minnesota after just one season, making it back-to-back years of off-field animosity with a pair of different teams.

On the other hand, the Packers seem all too ready to move on from Rodgers, while the Vikings have no intention of letting Smith walk. It’s an odd juxtaposition between the former teammates, and one that both teams will have to sort out in the last few days before the start of free agency.

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A current Packer and one of the team's Pro Football Hall of Famers made their public case for Rodgers to stay in Green Bay this week in separate appearances on NFL Network.

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Legacy means something very different to Smith, who is apparently now unhappy with his team for the second straight season. The schadenfreude is real for Packers fans after his 2021 debacle with the Packers.

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Could this trade be about adding a piece that the Packers need to throw in as part of a Rodgers trade? Clark is a big, smart, physical safety who could fill the Adrian Amos role.

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There's no confirmation yet if the Packers will be in attendance, but given how much interest there appeared to be from the organization last year, it would be a surprise if they didn't send someone to see how Beckham is moving around.

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That shape is decidedly not a bunny, though maybe it's appropriate that it was marketed as such since bunnies are known for their impressive reproductive abilities.