The suspense may be over in the Aaron Rodgers saga.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Rodgers has indicated to people close to him that he plans on playing for the Green Bay Packers during the 2021 season, a positive step for both sides after months of ambiguity about the reigning NFL MVP’s short- and long-term future with the team.
Rodgers’ status for 2021 has been in question since ESPN’s Adam Schefter’s initial report on April 29 about the rift that had formed between him and the organization this offseason. He did not attend any of the Packers’ offseason activities, including their mandatory minicamp in June, and has still not given a clear answer about whether he will report for camp with the rest of the team’s veterans on Tuesday.
Rapoport, however, said Rodgers’ plans for the 2021 season have come together “in the last 24 hours” after several days of “consistent conversations” between the Packers and David Dunn, Rodgers’ agent, about a possible path forward.
Earlier on Monday, Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst had offered slight optimism to the fans in attendance for their annual shareholder meeting at Lambeau Field, sharing no specific details about the situation but expressing his belief that the two sides could still reach “a positive resolution.”
“We have been working tirelessly with Aaron and his representatives to resolve the issues he raised this offseason and we remain hopeful for a positive resolution,” Gutekunst said Monday, via Matt Schneidman of The Athletic.
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Will Rodgers Report for Camp Immediately?
News about Rodgers’ reported plans should be encouraging for Packers fans who have been doubting whether they would ever get to see 12 play again in the green and gold. From rumored trade demands and Rodgers’ own suggestion of a “culture” issue within the organization, the offseason has been an anxious mess for a team that stacked its roster to go all-in on chasing another Super Bowl title in 2021.
It remains to be seen if Rodgers will actually show up for camp on time, though. After tweeting his information about Rodgers’ plans, Rapoport made clear on The Pat McAfee Show that he is “very comfortable” with the information he received about the situation, but he also clarified that he isn’t certain when Rodgers will arrive for camp.
While there are obvious financial consequences to Rodgers skipping out on the early parts of training camp — mandatory $50,000 daily fines — it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for the Packers to get more time with second-year quarterback Jordan Love as their top guy at quarterback. Love looked improved during spring workouts, but getting to see him run the offense with the starters for a prolonged period of time will give them a golden opportunity to evaluate his long-term potential.
Even if Rodgers doesn’t skip out on any camp practices, Love will still get his chance to shine during the team’s three preseason games in August, something that was missing during his rookie season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rodgers rarely plays in preseason games, meaning Love could get the starting nod in all three contests.
Rodgers’ Long-Term Future Still a Mystery
For now, the Packers are likely just content to know Rodgers is still planning on leading their team into the 2021 season, but that doesn’t exactly solve the quarterback dilemma that Green Bay will face in the coming years.
The Packers are still in a position to follow the succession framework that was established when they traded up to select Love in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft. Based on the contract numbers, there is an opportunity for the Packers to make an affordable transition from Rodgers to Love beginning in the 2022 offseason when Rodgers’ dead-cap hit drops from $38.356 million to $17.204 million. That would allow Love to play two full seasons on his rookie contract before the team has to decide whether to pick up his fifth-year option.
That transition process gets even easier in 2023 ahead of Rodgers’ final year of his deal with the number falling to $2.852 million; though, it would also give the Packers just one season to assess Love’s capabilities as a starter before having to decide on whether to pick up his option.
The sooner transition plan would seem to be the more logical approach for the Packers, especially if Rodgers is also interested in getting out of Green Bay after 2021. They could trade him prior to the 2022 draft and would almost certainly net a massive haul of draft picks or starter-caliber players to build a new team around Love.
Of course, if Rodgers plays like he did last year again in 2021 and decides he would still like to finish out his career in Green Bay, the Packers may decide no immediate transition is the best approach of all.