Today’s news in the soap opera that is The Aaron Rodgers Saga was encouraging for Green Bay Packers fans in the short term. But it felt like it reached the point of inevitability because it was the only feasible option all offseason long.
According to multiple reports, including from heavy hitters like Ian Rapoport and Adam Schefter, Rodgers is expected to arrive at training camp in preparation for the 2021 NFL season. The most important details from the report are that Rodgers would indeed play for the Packers next year and that the 2023 season of his contract would be voided with no tags allowed in the future. This re-worked deal will allow Rodgers to have much more of a say in what his playing future looks like after this season.
After months of tweet threads, speculations, Last Dance allusions, and more, it seems that No. 12 will be under center when Green Bay opens their regular season against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, Sept. 12. As someone who tried not to buy into the sensationalism or hyperbole that surrounded the offseason drama, the word that keeps coming to mind is simply “inevitable.”
The way that team president Mark Murphy, general manager Brian Gutekunst, and the Green Bay Packers’ front office handled the situation with their MVP quarterback meant that Aaron Rodgers only had two options: play for the Packers, the team he was under contract with, or retire. Even the most ardent Jeopardy! fans would agree that the torch wasn’t going to be simply handed from Alex Trebek to Aaron Rodgers, and despite falling in love and getting engaged to a Hollywood actress, it always felt like Rodgers’ time on the field wasn’t done yet.
Given the unique combination of his immense talent and advancing age, it would have been impossible to find the perfect return if the Packers’ front office were to have caved and traded Rodgers. Opposing teams would be getting a soon-to-be-38-year-old quarterback who clearly has had issues with a front office, yet might be the most physically gifted quarterback of all time coming off an MVP season. Good luck finding the combination of players and draft picks that would be a proper return on that trade investment.
So if he wasn’t going to retire and wasn’t realistically going to play elsewhere, what option was left? The only choice was for both sides to push all the chips into the middle of the table for 2021, trot out what might be the most top-to-bottom talented roster in the whole league, and see what happens.
As the Aaron Rodgers Career Arc has proven, it’s tough to win in the NFL. All-world talent at quarterback isn’t enough on its own to win Super Bowls, plural, but it sure can carry a team to an NFC Championship game, which Rodgers has shown time and time again. There isn’t a feasible football situation that is better than the one that Green Bay can offer in the short term, with top-tier talent at a litany of positions, including wideout, running back, tackle, cornerback, and more. There’s no doubt that this 53-man roster is good enough to hoist the Lombardi Trophy, but it starts with Rodgers as its most important player.
I’m as excited as the next guy to see what Jordan Love is all about, but the highest level of success that the Packers could see this upcoming season undoubtedly comes with Rodgers under center. There are still an infinite amount of scenarios that could play out between now and the end of this season, but the Green Bay front office bought themselves time, at the very least, to see how things play out.
Is this definitively Aaron Rodgers’ last season with the Packers? Absolutely not. If this team can get over the hump and bring home another Super Bowl crown, it’s hard to see Rodgers leaving. Heck, even getting back to the Super Bowl might be enough to convince him to ride out his career with the green and gold. But, realistically, anything short of that — and, most heartbreakingly, should the Packers lose yet another NFC Championship game — his tenure in Wisconsin will be all but finished.
What can Murphy, Gutekunst, and Co. do in the meantime to convince him to stay? Well, make sure that Green Bay continues to remain the best football situation for Rodgers. That absolutely includes extending Davante Adams, the best wide receiver in football, who is now apparently open to a contract extension. But it could also mean dealing Jordan Love in exchange for more help now.
I will contest that when you look at the self-interest of both sides of this equation, Rodgers and the front office played it as well as they could once the Adam Schefter report sent the league into a frenzy on draft night. Rodgers stayed quiet, and the front office simply said that their quarterback was under contract and wouldn’t be moved. That meant that the only scenario that was going to play out was Aaron Rodgers playing at Lambeau Field this season. What comes next is anyone’s guess, but there’s still much to unfold in the 17 regular-season games — and hopefully a long playoff run to follow.