The organization must decide within the next five months whether to extend former first-round pick Jordan Love by picking up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract for 2024. The context of that decision contains a number of moving pieces, most importantly whether Love is up to the task should the Packers need to turn to him as the starter next season or the one following.
Of course, the best way to find out whether to pay the man is to actually play the man. But the Packers (5-8), currently recuperating on their bye week, remain in the playoff hunt and are likely to reside there for at least 2-3 more weeks. Green Bay will host the Los Angeles Rams, a 3-9 team without several of its best offensive players, the next time the Packers take the field on December 19.
Green Bay general manager Brian Gutekunst met with reporters for a media session on Monday, December 5, during which he acknowledged that playing Love is probably what’s best for the quarterback, as well as for the franchise in regards to the question of whether to extend him. However, Gutekunst also said flatly that the Packers don’t need to see any more of Love in regular season action to make what will be an approximately $20 million call on his extension.
“I think that it would be really good for him — the growth that you need to go through, seeing things for the first time, making those mistakes that you need to make,” Gutekunst said of getting Love playing time down the stretch. “But I think from our end of it, we’ve seen what we need to see.”
Love has started just one game in his career, which came during the 2021 campaign and led to a loss against the Kansas City Chiefs. His only significant field time this year came during the second half against the Philadelphia Eagles, an outing in which Love looked promising.
Packers Sell Belief in Love While Insisting Rodgers Offers Best Chance to Win
Gutekunst’s comments Monday on Love’s future with the team were unambiguous. So unless he was setting up leverage for a future play that involves dealing either Rodgers or Love, which is entirely possible, it sounds like the third-year QB is going to be in Green Bay for at least a couple more seasons.
Selling that the team believes in Love allows the Packers to negotiate from a position of strength on any future trade involving him, though some of Gutekunst’s other comments Monday at least partially contradict the assertion that Green Bay believes in Love completely and needs no more evidence to support that conclusion.
The GM channeled the infamous words of former New York Jets coach Herm Edwards, talking about playing to win the games for the rest of the year and implying that will be the philosophy even if/when Green Bay is eliminated from postseason contention.
“Even if we’re eliminated from the playoffs, which it wouldn’t be ideal, I said we’re going to still go out to win the game,” Gutekunst told reporters. “There’s a bunch of guys in that locker room [who] deserve that. So we’re going to go out to win the game, and we’re going to make the decisions that are in the best interests of us going and winning the game.”
Packers Must Play Love in Interest of Responsible Financial Decision-Making
It feels a bit incongruous for Gutekunst to say that the franchise is ready to commit major dollars to Love in 2024 when the organization clearly believes that an injured, 39-year-old Rodgers remains the team’s best chance to “win the game.”
But, if the plan is to eventually attempt to move the four-time MVP, Green Bay needs to sell other NFL franchises on the idea that he’s still a quarterback worthy of the historic contract to which the Packers signed him over the offseason. Replacing him with a backup who has almost no real game experience sends the exact opposite message.
However, sticking with Rodgers once the regular season games no longer mean anything can be characterized as an irresponsible decision where the franchise’s future is concerned. If both quarterbacks are on the roster to start the 2024 season, the Packers will be committing more than $60 million in salary cap space to the top two spots at the position — one occupied by a player in his 40s and the other by a player entering his fifth year having played only a handful of minutes that actually matter.
For these reasons, and others, Albert Breer of MMQB said Wednesday it is paramount that the Packers get Love some regular season run this year.
The question of how sure the Packers are on Jordan Love will be front and center this offseason more so than it has been before. A decision on his fifth-year option will be due just after the draft, and exercising it will mean locking in a $20 million guarantee on the 2020 first-round pick for ’24.
Meanwhile, Rodgers will have a decision to make after the season on his own future. If he sticks around, things get exponentially more complicated with Love, because it could set the team up for a traffic jam of QB contracts in ’24.
And, again, that brings you back to the importance of gathering as much information as possible on Love between now and May. Which is why, if the Packers wind up suffering a ninth loss, it makes sense to at least start thinking about giving Love a few starts.
It isn’t just possible, but likely that when it comes to Love, the Packers simply know something everyone else doesn’t. That is certainly how Gutekunst framed it on Monday.
But is it irresponsible for the team not to do everything it can to know even more before making a massive financial commitment? With his comments, Gutekunst and the Packers are saying it isn’t. Time will soon tell.