The free agency season has begun … sort of. The legal tampering period is underway, and players are agreeing to terms on deals left and right with the new league year set to begin on Wednesday.
The Green Bay Packers made their splash yesterday by bringing back Aaron Jones on a reported four-year deal. With plenty of areas still to fill and a need to create more cap space, they have options. An extension with Davante Adams is expected to come, saving some money this year, as is a restructure or extension with Za’Darius Smith. An Aaron Rodgers restructure would also help loosen up some money for this offseason, but there haven’t been many rumblings about that lately.
What if they didn’t touch his contract this year? Would it set off any alarms?
General manager Brian Gutekunst and the rest of the front office are in a peculiar spot when it comes to Rodgers’ deal. The unique nature of it comes from the decision to trade up for Jordan Love in the first round last year. Whether you like it or not, when a team drafts a quarterback in the first round, they are signaling that they intend that quarterback to be the future play-caller. Love wasn’t draft-day trade bait. The Packers didn’t select him to lure him out for someone else to offer a haul to acquire him.
Green Bay won’t say it, and Gutekunst will continue to call him a young prospect or a young talent, but the fact is they took Love with the intention of him being Rodgers’ replacement at some point.
Complicating matters was that Rodgers just put together an MVP season last year and looked as good as he ever has. After a 2019 that was good but not great by his own standards, perhaps the front office thought No. 12 was starting to decline in his mid-30s. If that’s the case, well, egg on their face. They could not have been more wrong.
Rodgers’ contract currently has him playing in Green Bay through the end of the 2023 season, but there is an opt-out plan for 2022.
If they extend Rodgers or restructure his contract, it pushes more money to the back end of the deal, almost assuredly sending a message that he will be in Green Bay for a long time. And who could be mad about that? He’s the league MVP, just helped guide the Packers to the NFC Championship, and he’s one of the best ever to fling the pigskin. It would almost seem like a no-brainer to free up space now by pushing the money back to make another run for 2021.
That’s where the Love angle comes into play.
Restructuring Rodgers would cast serious doubt on Love’s chances to ever lead Green Bay. And while fans would probably be okay with that considering how damn good Rodgers is, it would would make his selection even more puzzling in a draft full of receivers. It’s hard to see Love sitting on the bench for three more years without getting a sniff of the field if the Packers opt to redo the Rodgers contract. And again, how can you blame the Packers if they want to keep No. 12 around for the rest of his career? You can’t. But it puts Love’s chances in jeopardy.
Rodgers is going to be the quarterback next year. Let’s state the obvious and get that out of the way. But what they opt to do with his contract in this 2021 offseason could give us a sign of what the front office is thinking.
- If they choose not to restructure his deal or give him an extension, does Rodgers take that as another sign that Green Bay plans on moving on from him sooner rather than later?
- Does it make things awkward for him and the Packers’ brain trust?
- Or does Green Bay work something out, assuring both sides he will be wearing the green and gold for many years to come but putting serious doubt on Love ever taking starting snaps down the road?
Assuming new deals are worked out with Adams and Za’Darius Smith, the Rodgers decision looms large for Green Bay. Whatever is decided, it could give us a glimpse into what the Packers want to do in the future.