GREEN BAY — When Brian Gutekunst addressed reporters on Monday in advance of the NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers general manager was asked explicitly whether there was any disconnect between Aaron Rodgers, the team’s three-time NFL MVP and future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback, and the organization, or if there was unhappiness on either side.
As part of that query, Gutekunst was also asked where he felt things stood between Rodgers and the organization.
“I think I understand your question. I’m not really sure exactly where you’re coming from,” Gutekunst replied. “But what I will say is, we’re really excited about Aaron Rodgers and his future with the Green Bay Packers. We think he’s going to be our quarterback for the foreseeable future.
“I think that, obviously, every year there’s different things you go through to get to the season and I think we’re going through those right now — whether it be contractually or whether it be working with our players on other things, and that’s where we are. Again, he’s such a unique, different player than anyone that I’ve ever been around. He affects our organization in so many different ways that you just can’t value him because he’s so important to what we do. We’re excited moving forward and we’ll kind of see where things go.”
Well, things officially went sideways on Thursday, when ESPN reported that Rodgers is so disgruntled with the Packers that he has told some within the organization that he does not want to return to the team, league and team sources told ESPN on Thursday.
Two league sources told the State Journal Thursday afternoon that Rodgers’ unhappiness has been festering for a while, despite Rodgers putting together his third MVP season last year in response to the team’s first-round selection of Utah State quarterback Jordan Love. One source said Rodgers’ camp had requested a trade and the 37-year-old had vowed not to play for the Packers again.
ESPN reported that the Packers were aware of Rodgers’ displeasure and that Gutekunst, team president Mark Murphy and head coach Matt LaFleur each flew out on separate trips to meet with Rodgers at various points this offseason. The NFL Network reported that Rodgers had his agent, David Dunn, fly to Green Bay over the past month for several days of meetings with the team about the situation.
“As we've stated since the season ended, we are committed to Aaron in 2021 and beyond," Gutekunst said in a statement first released to ESPN and then to other media outlets. "Aaron has been a vital part of our success and we look forward to competing for another championship with him leading our team."
The State Journal reported earlier this offseason that the Packers had approached Rodgers about restructuring his contract around the time of the team’s season-ending NFC Championship Game loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Jan. 24. It’s unclear whether the Packers were willing to actually extend Rodgers’ deal and add new money to his deal, which would have been a tangible way to show the commitment Gutekunst said the team has made to its QB.
FOX Sports reported multiple teams have inquired about Rodgers’ availability in a trade, and San Francisco 49ers GM John Lynch confirmed that his team reached out to the Packers about Rodgers’ availability this week, only to be rebuffed.
“Yeah, we inquired and it was a quick end to the conversation,” Lynch told Bay Area reporters after his team selected quarterback Trey Lance with the third overall pick Thursday night. “It wasn’t happening.”
The Los Angeles Times had reported back in late January that the Los Angeles Rams had made a run at Rodgers in the wake of the Packers’ season-ending loss to the Buccaneers. After that game, Rodgers had talked about how many of his teammates were facing uncertain futures before adding, “myself included.” The Rams eventually acquired Matthew Stafford from the Detroit Lions instead.
Rodgers has three years remaining on the four-year, $134 million extension he signed with the team in 2018. He’s set to count $37.5 million against the Packers’ salary cap in 2021, the highest cap number in the league. Gutekunst had said on Monday that the team was working on Rodgers’ contract but was vague about those talks.
NFL Network reported that Rodgers and the Packers have been negotiating a long-term contract extension that would give Rodgers the security he has been seeking, not wanting to be a lame-duck place-holder for Love to take over in 2022.
But Rodgers’ unhappiness goes beyond simply his contract situation, a source said, and now the Packers find themselves on the cusp of a sequel to the messy divorce the organization had with their previous Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback, Brett Favre, during the summer of 2008.
Perhaps that’s why Rodgers, on the day he signed his extension in August 2018, cautioned that the deal didn’t necessarily ensure that he’d end his career where it started — a statement he made long before Love ever entered the picture.
“I don’t think this guarantees anything, other than maybe the first three years of the deal,” Rodgers said then. “To get to the end of the contract would be sustained, consistent play. So, that’s the most important thing. And realizing that Brian is a new GM, he has decisions that he wants to make in the interests of the team and bringing in the type of players he wants to bring in. Thankfully, I’m one of those players that he sees building this immediate future around, which is great.
“But you have to prove yourself every year in this league that you can still play and you’re still an important part of the squad. Obviously, my financial commitment is such that I feel good about my place on the team in the next few years. But that’s not the type of player I am, to just rely on something like that. I want to go out and prove that I’m still an elite payer in this league. And if I do that, then I’ll feel good I’ve got the opportunity to finish my career in Green Bay.