You may or may not agree with the selection of Jordan Love in the 2020 NFL Draft, but there was a decent logic behind it. Aaron Rodgers was aging and hadn’t played at his highest level for the previous three years. The advantage of having a QB under his rookie contract is vital for roster-building in the current NFL. And they saw a path to repeat what they did with Rodgers. It was an opportunity to develop a young, high-ceiling quarterback for a couple of years while a Hall of Famer was playing the final chapters of his career.
But everything went wrong. Or at least it played out differently than the Packers expected.
First, Rodgers has been the best quarterback in the NFL since Love’s selection. Second, Love hasn’t done anything to prove he can be a successful player. There wasn’t a preseason in 2020, but it wasn’t clear that Love had developed in 2021, either. He wasn’t better against the Detroit Lions in Week 18 than against the Houston Texans in the first game of the preseason.
The timing of it all also complicates things. That’s the part where the plan never made sense. Rodgers had four years left in his old contract when the Packers drafted Love. Rookie contracts are four years long, and that’s where the team gets the most value.
Rodgers signed an extension this year and is under contract through 2026. Therefore, the Packers need to make a decision regarding Love’s fifth-year option next offseason. Barring a Rodgers injury, the Packers won’t take Love’s option because it’s now fully guaranteed under the new CBA. Therefore, Love is expected to be a free agent in 2024.
Considering all factors, Love will be the Packers’ starting quarterback only if Rodgers suffers a serious injury or if he decides to retire after the 2022 season — which doesn’t seem very likely after the new extension. Green Bay knows Love isn’t their future unless something new changes their plans again. That’s why, for the first time, general manager Brian Gutekunst showed a willingness to move him.
“I think we’re excited about Jordan’s development,” Gutekunst said to Mike Clemens of the Wisconsin Radio Network.
“He’s going into his third year. He showed really good signs last year. I think his future is bright. As far as what his future is with us, we’ll kind of see how that goes. Obviously, with what we’ve done with Aaron and how long Aaron wants to play, that will factor in down the road. But we’re not making any of those decisions right now.”
The Packers are aware that Love probably won’t be more than a backup or situational starter for them. So, it’s fair to analyze trade scenarios. The problem is that nobody will be willing to pay decent draft capital for a QB who hasn’t played well since 2018 and who hasn’t shown anything in the NFL so far.
If a team wants to get a young quarterback, drafting one is a much better process. The new team will develop the prospect from the start, and, more importantly, he will be under contract for four seasons – not two. That’s why, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Packers were willing to trade Love before or during the draft for a second-round pick but didn’t find any suitors.
The Packers are stuck with Love in a situation that’s not good for anybody. Green Bay used a first-round pick who’ll spend most of his rookie contract on the bench, and the team can’t even get something significant in return if it decides to move on. In turn, Love will be 24 in November and hasn’t had even the opportunity to compete to be a starter. That probably wouldn’t be true if any other team had drafted him.
The Packers took Love early in the draft because of his high ceiling, but it’s getting harder for him to deliver on it. The Packers don’t see him as a starter, and it’s harder for another team to invest that much in his development if he’s acquired for less capital.
At the end of the process, Jordan Love’s situation might be similar to Jimmy Garoppolo’s. The New England Patriots drafted Garoppolo in 2014 with the possibility of being Tom Brady’s successor. But Brady’s career extended further than the Pats expected, so they ended up trading Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers in the middle of his fourth year — the last of his rookie contract. The difference is that the Patriots were able to recoup the initial investment, a second-round pick, something the Packers probably won’t get.
For now, the Packers are right to keep Love if there is no valuable offer on the table. He offers high potential as a backup and has two years under Matt LaFleur to learn the system. If the situation doesn’t change in the next season and a half, then it’ll be time to make a decision. Will the Packers trade him for what’s available? Or will they let the contract run out trying to get a compensatory pick down the road?
It’s certainly not what the Packers hoped for on April 23, 2020.