Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst talked about Aaron Rodgers and Jordan Love in a press conference this week. Eventually, the Packers will have to make a decision on the future of their franchise, but it doesn’t look like Gutekunst is in a rush. And, reading between the lines, keeping both quarterbacks once again for the 2023 season is a real (and maybe even likely) possibility.
The Packers not only decided to keep Rodgers for 2022 but also gave him an expensive three-year, $150 million extension last offseason. The team has been underwhelming this season, and there are several considerations to make. Will Rodgers play out the year? Will he want to come back in 2023? And does the team want him?
But during his presser, Gutekunst was clear that he wants Rodgers playing every game as long as he is healthy, and both the general manager and head coach Matt LaFleur highlighted they want the veteran back next season.
“I think it’s a culture thing,” Gutekunst mentioned. “I think winning is a culture thing. I don’t think we ever roll out there on a Sunday, Monday, or Thursday without the intention of winning. I think whoever gives us the best chance to win needs to be out there. That’s only fair to this locker room. That’s the way I feel about it.”
It’s a difficult situation because the Packers will have to pick up Love‘s fifth-year option or not next offseason. Love has played basically only one entire game and some parts of games throughout the last two years after not having a single snap in his rookie season. However, Gutekunst said he already has enough information to make his decision.
“We’ve obviously seen him for three years in practice, and there was a stretch while Aaron was banged up, where he’s had a lot of reps with the ones,” said Gutekunst. “I think that was great for him, it was great for us to see, but it was also just really good experience for him game planning each week. Again, I think quarterbacks have to get into this league and play a bunch of games before they learn how to win, but I do think we feel very confident that Love can move the ball, score points, and do the things that we ask of our quarterbacks.”
At least publicly, Gutekunst shows he still likes Love and won’t trade him unless a great market opportunity presents itself. Love will still be under contract for 2023, and a fifth-year option would extend his deal through 2024. After that, the Packers would have to extend him or apply a franchise tag. Under league rules, a team can apply the franchise tag on a player three times, but the third year is a hefty financial consideration — 140% of the previous salary. The limit for an extension probably is 2027, so there is still plenty of time to figure the situation out if the Packers want to play it year to year.
Nevertheless, keeping both players beyond this season is a huge cap commitment for the Packers, and it might hamstring the team’s ability to build around whichever quarterback they choose.
Rodgers’ current projected cap hit is $31.6 million for 2023. However, this is considering the Packers will exercise the $58.3 million roster bonus option and spread it out through the last four years of the deal. That’s good for the short term, but the money will hit the cap later. If Rodgers retires or is traded after the 2023 season, the dead money will be $22.7 million in 2024 and $45.5 million in 2025.
Jordan Love’s fifth-year option will be around $20 million. That means the Packers would have $47.7 million allocated to the quarterback position in 2024, between Rodgers and Love, with the 2020 first-rounder going to the season as a first-year starter and with Rodgers retired or playing for another team. Things get even more complicated in 2025. The Packers would owe Rodgers $45.5 million, plus whatever a potential Love extension will be.
When the Packers hired Brian Gutekunst as their general manager, he highlighted that his job is to build a perennial contender. With this premise in mind, it might make sense to keep both players. Rodgers gives the team more chances to win right now, and Love presumably is the long-term answer.
However, paying two quarterbacks beyond their rookie deals is extremely difficult. Moreover, keeping both players on the roster doesn’t allow the team to trade one of them to acquire extra draft capital, which reduces the ability of the team to reinforce the current starter’s supporting cast.
It’s a difficult decision to make. But that’s Gutekunst’s job, and he should have known this time would come when he decided to draft a first-round quarterback with Rodgers under contract.