Good on the Green Bay Packers for refusing to capitulate after Aaron Rodgers‘ latest tantrum. If Rodgers thought announcing his desire to leave Green Bay just hours before the 2021 NFL draft would leverage the franchise into giving him another weapon for the passing game, he got a rude awakening.
The Packers chose former Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes with the 20th-overall pick in the first round. Cue steam rising off the top of Mount Rodgers. Choosing Stokes sent a clear message to the disgruntled quarterback: like it, or lump it. Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst and team president Mark Murphy reminded Rodgers that those in charge will continue to build the team as they see fit, not how the franchise’s face thinks it should be built.
“Packers select CB Eric Stokes with the 29th pick”
Aaron Rodgers: pic.twitter.com/569tOiVar3
— PFF (@PFF) April 30, 2021
Rodgers just got a reminder about a cold, hard truth. The Packers will go on as a franchise long after he’s called time on his NFL career. So he can either get with the program now or follow through on his reported desire to leave town.
That desire was expressed at the 11th hour preceding the draft, and the timing stunk. ESPN’s Adam Schefter covered the salient points of the issue, including the Packers having no intention to trade Rodgers, despite inquiries from the San Francisco 49ers.
Schefter also detailed Rodgers’ main points of contention with the team he’s played for his whole career:
Rodgers is unhappy for a variety of reasons, with some of it dating to last year’s draft when the Packers didn’t inform him before trading up to draft a quarterback with their first-round pick. Some took this as a sign that his days in Green Bay could be numbered.
He also is at a different point in his personal life, having recently gotten engaged to actress Shailene Woodley. Rodgers also has hosted ‘Jeopardy!’ and said it would be a dream to become the full-time host. He could play football and also host ‘Jeopardy!’
The fact Rodgers felt he should be consulted before the Packers exercised their first-round pick in 2020 speaks volumes about the dysfunctional relationship between player and franchise. Nobody’s doubting Rodgers is a valuable commodity, but he wields too much power if he thinks he should get to sign off on draft plans ahead of schedule. It can’t contribute to the efficient running of the team if the Packers think they have to check with Rodgers before making key personnel decisions.
Drafting Justin Love a year ago was a surprise initially, but there was some sense in taking a potential successor for a QB who will turn 38 during the 2021 season. Murphy and Gutekunst have to safeguard the future of the Packers beyond Rodgers’ career.
Critics will of course argue the Pack should be more concerned about the present. Specifically, about the need to win another Super Bowl while they have a generational talent at quarterback. It’s not an unreasonable concern, but ceding to the pressure of a title imperative misses the point about the problems between Rodgers and the Packers.
The question shouldn’t be can Rodgers win another Super Bowl before he retires? Instead, it’s better to ask can Rodgers win another Super Bowl with the Packers? I have my doubts because the two have failed to make it work so many times since last lifting the Lombardi Trophy after the 2010 season.
There’s a common perception the Packers have failed to surround Rodgers with enough talent for another championship run. This simply doesn’t wash when No. 12 currently throws passes to Davante Adams from behind a highly capable offensive line and gets to hand the ball off to Aaron Jones, one of the league’s best running backs. Add in a defense that ranked ninth in yards allowed last season, and Rodgers has a good enough supporting cast.
It seems he doesn’t agree because the timing of reports he wants to leave didn’t feel like a coincidence. That felt more like a power play to push the Packers into giving him more of what he wants. Another wide receiver, perhaps.
Nothing Aaron Rodgers does is an accident. Saying what he said the day the season ended wasn't an accident. And this happening on draft day wasn't an accident either.
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) April 29, 2021
The thing is Rodgers’ leverage is not so strong as it appears when Green Bay’s roster is pretty healthy in all the key positions. It looks healthier still after the selection of Stokes, a player the team was high on during the pre-draft process.
Stokes was also a player the Packers needed after Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers shredded them through the air during the NFC Championship Game. Putting Stokes alongside Jaire Alexander and Kevin King already makes the Green Bay defense stronger at a key position.
Rodgers’ leverage isn’t any stronger, though, not after the 49ers took Trey Lance third overall. Not after the New England Patriots, another mooted trade suitor stayed put at 15 and waited for Mac Jones.
One by one, teams from around the league were content to distance themselves from the latest drama involving Rodgers:
The Giants did not call the Packers about Aaron Rodgers. "No, it's none of my business," Dave Gettleman said. Giants are committed to Daniel Jones.
— Jordan Raanan (@JordanRaanan) April 30, 2021
If Rodgers is traded, it will be strictly on the Packers’ terms, with Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio outlining the financial considerations:
Trading Rodgers before June 2 would result in a $31.55 million cap acceleration. Coupled with the cap charge coming from the $6.8 million roster bonus that Rodgers already has been paid, that would amount to $38.35 million in dead money.
A post-June 1 trade would reduce the added 2021 cap charge to $14.352 million, pushing the balance of $17.198 million to 2022.
Cooler heads will likely prevail before then. Rodgers will view his options and realise his best chance of riding off into the sunset as a champion still resides in Green Bay. That’s a reality the Packers reaffirmed on draft day.
By sticking to their board, the Packers made it crystal clear Rodgers doesn’t call the shots. This team will survive without him, so it’s time Rodgers puts his complaints to one side and decides he’s all in on winning that elusive second title in Green Bay.