It’s become an annual tradition. The season ends, a few days go by, and then Aaron Rodgers joins his buddies Pat McAfee and A.J. Hawk and plays games with his answers, providing hints but intentionally keeping everyone on the edge of their seats. Will he or won’t he? What is he thinking?
If you parse through the nuggets, you come up with this: He hasn’t decided if he wants to play in 2023, but it sounds like he’s leaning that way — he said he thinks he can still play at an MVP level. But he was quick to add that he doesn’t want to be part of a rebuild while quickly acknowledging that you can count with one or two fingers the number of teams that are actually in rebuild mode each year.
What he meant was, If I decide to return, I want to get the band back together. He doesn’t want to be surrounded by a bunch of 20-somethings who were more worried about their acne when Rodgers and his teammates hoisted the Lombardi Trophy.
And that’s where he needs to face reality — on several levels. His gaudy salary cap number comes with some harsh realities. The roster can no longer include a bunch of his buddies on their third contracts. He mentioned Marcedes, Cobby, Robert, David, and Allen as guys he can’t imagine not playing alongside.
Well Aaron, the reality is this team can no longer afford to keep most of those guys. While the defense has turned over and is a young, mostly ascending unit (coaching be damned), the offense needs a reboot.
It got off to a good start last year, with three rookie receivers and three rookie linemen, most of whom showed they have promising futures. But the team can no longer afford high-priced luxuries like Marcedes Lewis and Randall Cobb. Guys like Robert Tonyan and Allen Lazard could return but will likely be given free rein to explore their options and see if they can find greener pastures elsewhere.
Moving on from average to slightly above-average teammates/buddies does not imply this team is headed for a rebuild. It means it is being deliberate and thoughtful about what is best for this organization in 2023 and beyond. Lewis and Cobb have been fantastic Packers, but it’s time to get younger and cheaper. Lewis turns 39 years old in May, for God’s sake.
I get the feeling Rodgers just wants his buddies around. He doesn’t want to feel like the old man in the room, surrounded by a bunch of guys who watched him more on Madden than they did in real games. Much of the pleasure he derives these days is that sense of camaraderie of going to battle with friends and contemporaries.
If he wants to return to Green Bay in 2023, he has to understand the squeeze on the cap the team is facing. His side of the ball will have a solid offensive line in place, promising young receivers, and a strong backfield. Big decisions on Aaron Jones and David Bakhtiari will probably come after Rodgers announces whether or not he’s returning, but the team will likely try to find a way to keep both of those guys around.
I think he would really prefer to finish his career in Green Bay, but I don’t think he will get the roster assurances he’s looking for. If that’s the case, he’ll need to decide whether he’d prefer to steer his way to another team, one that feels like it’s a QB way from contending, perhaps the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, or Tennessee Titans.
He wants nothing more than a chance at one more chip. And if the Packers elect to move him and move on to Jordan Love, that would give him his favorite chip of all: the one on his shoulder.