The hurt was still a little “raw” for Aaron Rodgers when he addressed reporters in the postgame of Sunday’s NFC Championship loss, but it didn’t stop him from name-dropping several teammates he hopes will still be playing in a Green Bay Packers uniform next year.
Despite the stinging 37-20 loss, Rodgers remained mostly hopeful when reporters asked him the usual end-of-season questions about the future and said he believes the Packers are “really close” to being able to regularly contend with the San Francisco 49ers. Part of his confidence stems from how he feels about the current roster, including a number of impending free agents that he singled out by name in Sunday’s postgame remarks.
“I love our guys and the pieces that we’ve put together,” Rodgers said. “I think we need to continue to find those niche guys like the Tyler Ervins that we brought in. Those guys are obviously very important: Jared Veldheer, Marcedes Lewis. There’s a lot of guys I’d love to see back (like) Bryan Bulaga.”
Rodgers has vocalized his support multiple times for Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst and his staff, who together snagged a number of high-profile free agents during last year’s offseason and continued to outfit the roster with quality weapons. Ervin and Veldheer were both late-season additions that helped fortify the Packers in areas of need.
“Those guys have been really important to our success, but the one thing that is always constant in this game as you all know is change, and I know there will be some changes this offseason,” Rodgers said. “But the exciting thing is I really have a lot of faith and trust in Brian and his staff.
“The window is open for us, and that’s the exciting thing. It doesn’t make this feeling any easy, but that is very exciting for us moving forward.”
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Whatever Free Agency Holds, Packers in Good Hands
It’s a disappointing feeling now coming one win away from the Super Bowl, but the Packers had a strong year in Gutekunst’s second full season as GM, which should leave fans feeling confident about whatever will transpire in the upcoming offseason.
Some names, maybe even a few Rodgers likes, will leave in the offseason. There are 21 players on the Packers’ roster set to become free agents and affording all of them just isn’t realistic with a cap space of about $29.4 million for 2020. Bulaga is one of the big ones who could potentially spend his 11th NFL season elsewhere, while veteran kicker Mason Crosby and inside linebacker Blake Martinez are also among starters with their futures in flux.
Lewis is the perfect example of a player that, despite Rodgers’ feelings, will probably not be retained. It is true that he has been great as a blocker this season, both in the run and pass, but his age — he will be 36 by next season — and lack of production in the passing game could hurt with a few younger options on the table.
On the other hand, the Packers could retain both Ervin as their return specialist and Veldheer as a veteran tackle with relative ease. The largest question with Veldheer is whether he will be playing next season at all after it took him coming out of retirement to join up with the Packers at all.