The Green Bay Packers lost their last two NFC Championship Game appearances to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the San Francisco 49ers. Now, the Packers are in danger of losing their four-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers to one of those franchises as well.
Whether the Packers can ultimately entice Rodgers to return to Green Bay is arguably the biggest question mark of the offseason as it could potentially alter the fabric of the league across both conferences. To what degree the NFL would be turned on its proverbial head were Rodgers to land elsewhere depends largely on the destination itself.
The leader in the clubhouse is the Denver Broncos (+275), a franchise that has been interested in Rodgers since last offseason and has ostensibly made fringe moves to attract the quarterback including hiring former Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett as its new head coach in January.
Just behind the Broncos on Bet Online’s list are the Niners (+350) and the Buccaneers (+400). Those numbers are interesting if for no other reasons than both play in the NFC along with the Packers and are collectively responsible for Green Bay’s last three exits from the postseason.
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Bucs, Broncos Can Offer Packers Solid Trade Packages in Return For Rodgers
ESPN insider Bill Barnwell reported flatly that the Packers will not trade Rodgers to the 49ers. Barnwell’s piece was published on January 29, exactly one week following the Niners’ 13-10 victory over the Packers in the Divisional Round of the NFC Playoffs. San Francisco also sent Green Bay home one win shy of a Super Bowl appearance in 2019-20, while the Bucs did the same the following season.
Trading Rodgers within the conference is a shaky proposition as it is. It tracks logically that Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst and head coach Matt LaFleur would want to avoid at all costs the optics of losing to their former quarterback in some future playoff matchup, particularly as a member of a rival franchise with a recent record of postseason success against Green Bay.
But if the Packers do end up forced to trade Rodgers away this offseason, it will also be in the team’s best interest to get the best return possible. If such a package happens to reside with the Bucs or the Niners, it would behoove Green Bay’s decision makers to listen.
As part of the January 27 edition of “The Colin Cowherd Podcast,” the long-time NFL analyst suggested a trade proposal in which the Bucs would send two first-round draft picks and four-time Pro-Bowl wide receiver Mike Evans to the Packers in return for Rodgers. Former Bucs quarterback and seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady retired earlier this month.
The most recent hypothetical trade proposal involving Green Bay and Denver — set forth by Alex Ballentine of Bleacher Report — would see the Broncos send five total draft picks to the Packers over the next three seasons, including two first-round selections, in return for Rodgers and a fourth-round pick in 2022.
Packers Remain Optimistic They Can Keep Rodgers And Build Super Bowl Roster
That Rodgers wanted out of Green Bay last offseason is common knowledge. That the Packers had a successful regular season campaign (13-4) with Rodgers under center in 2021 is plain for anyone to see. But just how much better is the relationship between the quarterback and his franchise?
Rodgers publicly acknowledged that GM Gutekunst and the rest of the front office made sincere efforts to address his concerns over play calling and player personnel throughout the year.
“Brian [Gutekunst] came out and saw me on the west coast and we had some good conversations and from the day I got back, I felt like there [were] earnest decisions on both sides to meet in the middle and communicate,” Rodgers said during the postgame press conference following the team’s playoff loss to the Niners.
“I feel like my opinion mattered … so that was definitely a special part of this season, to see that relationship grow,” he continued. “I think he put together a really nice team, a team that could have won a Super Bowl.”
However, Rodgers noted in the same interview that he is not interested in being part of a rebuild. The Packers have to clear approximately $50 million in salary just to get under the cap for next season, with important pieces like wideout Davante Adams and linebacker De’Vondre Campbell heading for free agency in March and looking for long-term deals.
Gutekunst spoke with the media on Wednesday, February 23 and addressed the current status of talks between the team and Rodgers.
“Obviously everything around here centers around the quarterback. That’s kind of how we do things,” Gutekunst said. “It’s a big piece. It’s a domino that has to fall before we go down other avenues. So it’s important as we go through this and the puzzle pieces that we got to make fit.”
The NFL’s free agency period officially opens on March 16. Rodgers has said he will announce his desire to either remain in Green Bay or to be traded before then. Gutekunst also acknowledged the time crunch both sides face, but said that did not mean discussions would be hurried.
“There’s some timing elements to things. We’ve had really good conversations with Aaron and everybody throughout the process,” Gutekunst said. ” [There are] no deadlines. We’re working together. I think the conversations after the season were very impactful.”