Green Bay Packers

Does Green Bay Truly Treat Exiting Players Poorly?

Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Since Aaron Rodgers‘ grievances with the Green Bay Packers became public in 2021, one of the future Hall of Famer’s consistent refrains is disdain towards the way veteran players are treated on their way out of the door.

From his first podium appearance after things seemed back on track in the 2021 offseason to his most recent appearance on The Pat McAfee Show, Green Bay’s treatment toward soon-to-be ex-Packers remains one of Rodgers’ favorite talking points.

According to Rodgers, franchise staples like Charles Woodson, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, James Jones, Julius Peppers, Clay Matthews, Bryan Bulaga, Corey Linsley, Micah Hyde, John Kuhn, Casey Hayward, and Brett Goode weren’t given the respect they deserved on their way out. Rodgers’ recent comments show that he felt the same way when it was clear the Packers were ready to move on to Jordan Love.

While Rodgers didn’t elaborate on the way these players were treated or the way he would improve the situation, it’s clear Rodgers believes the team’s process needs to be better. And he’s not the only former Packer to believe the same thing. Does Green Bay have a problem in how it treats departing players? And do the Packers operate any different from the rest of the league?

In a previous interview, Rodgers mentioned that many of the aforementioned players were either not offered new deals in free agency or that the deals they were offered were significantly below market value.

Unfortunately, that’s a reality of the business and unlikely to change any time soon.

Professional sports are unlike many traditional businesses. With a strict salary cap (it actually does exist) and players bound to contracts, team-building is a complicated process. I likely won’t be traded to New York for my day job with zero personal input. Players know that they won’t always have the freedom to choose their work location and that the chances of staying in one spot their whole career is low.

Green Bay, in particular, is consistent in how they approach the process. Ron Wolf’s belief that it’s better to move on from a player a year too early than a year too late is still a defining mantra of the Packers’ front office. Third contracts were a rarity in the Ted Thompson era, especially with players over 30. They’ve become slightly more common under Brian Gutekunst, but they are still the exception rather than the norm.

In most cases, Green Bay’s front office was right to move on from these players. It’s sad to see them release fan favorites, especially years of meaningful play. But most of these players started regressing shortly after moving to another team. And even for those who were still great players, the salary cap meant that the Packers weren’t going to be able to afford them. That’s the way the business works.

But the business is made of people, and those interpersonal relationships are crucial. Green Bay probably made the right call in most of these cases (definitely not all!). Still, there are legitimate questions about how they handle these exists.

Allen Lazard was extremely valuable to the Packers’ offense. He’s one of the league’s best blocking receivers, willing to do the dirty work on offense, and has reliable hands. Yet the cash-strapped Packers were never going to be able to comfortably afford the four-year, $44 million contract he received from the New York Jets. That’s the business.

But Lazard’s comments going back to Green Bay’s season finale seemed to indicate a feeling of being unwanted, telling the media he felt he’d played his last game as a Packer. After being signed by the Jets, Lazard told the New York media, “They didn’t seem like they were going to miss me too much.”

Is this a case of being sore his former team wouldn’t pay up to keep him, or was there overall poor communication between Green Bay’s front office and its wide receiver? It’s hard to know how much simple ego plays into comments like this.

We know other players have had similar ill feelings. The Packers reportedly didn’t only fail to offer Micah Hyde a deal, but they didn’t even talk to his people. He’s not the only one.

Maybe this is how the business works, but it doesn’t mean that communication can’t be better. There’s no great way to tell a person that they aren’t wanted anymore, but an attempt can certainly be made. Even if it’s a simple Thanks for your hard work, but we’re going to be moving on, these players have certainly earned a quick conversation from the person determining their future.

And maybe those conversations are actually happening. The vibe we get from Rodgers is that they aren’t, but it’s hard to know from the outside, and the only ones we hear from are the ones who have felt wronged. Some of these players have taken less money than the Packers offered them in the first place, clouding things even further.

This doesn’t appear to be completely Packer-specific either. Jamaal Williams claimed the recent offer the Detroit Lions offered him was disrespectful, and he signed with the New Orleans Saints instead.

The Packers might just be under this particular spotlight thanks to Rodgers’ comments. Surely the league as a whole isn’t much different. But it certainly doesn’t help the public perception of the Packers when the President/CEO says things like, “Yeah, I mean, unless things don’t work out the way we want them,” on a potential Aaron Rodgers return.

The NFL is a billion-dollar business, and each team needs to make calculated decisions to keep their roster in shape to compete for a Super Bowl. Maybe a sense of detachment helps make that process easier. The Packers have generally been right in knowing when it’s time to move on from a player, even if it’s a face of the franchise. Without seeing things firsthand, it’s hard to say whether Green Bay is handling the interpersonal factor poorly. But even if they aren’t handling things any differently from the rest of the league, they can still probably make an effort to do better.

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