What's the Deal With Aaron Rodgers?
On April 29, the morning of the NFL Draft, a report came out that the league’s reigning Most Valuable Player (MVP), Aaron Rodgers, no longer wanted to play for Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst. This announcement shocked the sports world, as Rodgers has been in Green Bay since being drafted by the Packers in the first round of the 2005 draft and has been outstanding at quarterback since taking over the starting job from NFL legend Brett Favre in 2008.
Since then, Rodgers has produced incredible results, recording over 50,000 passing yards, 412 passing touchdowns, over 3,000 rushing yards and 30 rushing touchdowns — and leading the Packers to playoffs ten times. He has won three NFL MVP awards, been named to nine Pro-Bowl teams and led the Packers to a 2011 Super Bowl victory, being named the MVP of their win against the Steelers. Without a doubt, he has been one of the best quarterbacks ever to play for the Packers — a team known for its historically great quarterbacks (see the aforementioned Brett Favre and Bart Starr). So, why would Rodgers want out of Green Bay? Here are a few possible explanations that have emerged in recent weeks.
- He wants to live on the West Coast to be closer to his fiancée and host “Jeopardy!”.
Now, this might not be the primary reason Rodgers doesn’t want to be a Packer, but it is intriguing. Rodgers became engaged to actress Shailene Woodley in early 2021, and it has been rumored that he would prefer to live in California for a variety of reasons.
Rodgers grew up in California and owns a $28 million house in Malibu where he resides during the offseason. Living there would mean he could spend more time with Woodley as well as explore many other opportunities Southern California has to offer — like hosting the long-running game show “Jeopardy!”. Rodgers is known to be a fan of the show and dominated in his 2015 appearance on “Celebrity Jeopardy!”. Following the passing of long-time host Alex Trebek, Rodgers guest-hosted the show for two weeks and has even said in an interview that he may be interested in being the permanent host of the show in the future. However, it’s difficult to imagine that Rodgers, known as a fierce football competitor, would base such a significant career move solely on being closer to his fiancée or potential opportunity to host a game show. While Rodgers would likely want to move from Green Bay to the West Coast, his relationship with Woodley and hosting “Jeopardy!” are probably not the main reasons for him asking for an exit.
- The Packers didn’t put the ball in his hands when the game was on the line.
In the 2021 NFC Championship, Green Bay was down by eight points to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, facing fourth and goal from the eight-yard line with just over two minutes left in the game. Although the Packers still had all three of their timeouts to go and the two-minute warning, Packers head coach Matt LaFleur decided to send in the field goal unit, trusting that his defense could get the ball back, rather than allowing Rodgers to go for the touchdown and two-point conversion to tie the game. The field goal was good, but the Packers ended up giving the ball back to Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady. As he has done countless times before, Brady got the Bucs the first downs they needed to run out the clock, and Rodgers never got another opportunity to win the game.
In an interview following the game, Rodgers made it pretty clear that he would have liked to go for it. Even though he stated that he understood the decision, Rodgers is the kind of competitor who wants the ball in that situation. The partnership between LaFleur and Rodgers was beneficial last year, as the veteran quarterback had one of his best seasons with LaFleur calling plays. Even so, perhaps the championship put lasting misgivings in Rodgers’s head about his head coach’s apparent lack of faith in the star quarterback.
- The Packers drafted Jordan Love instead of another offensive player in the first round of the 2020 draft.
On the night of the 2020 NFL Draft, many scouts had graded Jordan Love as the fourth-best quarterback in the draft behind Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow, Heisman finalist Tua Tagovailoa and eventual NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert. The Utah State product was coming off a great junior season and figured to be a prospect who could develop into a starter after a few seasons. The Packers knew that Aaron Rodgers would be heading into his age-37 season and might only have a few great years left. In similar fashion to the pick that would ultimately result in Rodgers replacing Brett Favre in 2008, the Packers traded up to the 26th overall selection to take Love, thinking he would sit and learn from Rodgers for a couple of years before taking over the starting position.
Drafting his replacement rather than another offensive player to help immediately did not sit well with Rodgers. Instead of moving up for a wide receiver like Chase Claypool, Tee Higgins or Michael Pittman Jr., all of whom had terrific rookie seasons, or even a lineman or tight end, the Packers took a backup QB. In comparison with teams like the Chiefs, Buccaneers and Bills, which use the offseason to surround their elite quarterbacks with weapons and better offensive linemen, the Packers took a guy who might not see the field until at least 2022, if not 2023.
The 2020 draft is not an anomaly for the Packers, as they have drafted defensive players in the first round in nine out of the previous ten drafts. Granted, many of those picks have been impact players, and the Packers did get stars like wide receiver Davante Adams and running back Aaron Jones in later rounds. But, a team’s first-round draft choice is usually meant to fill its biggest need, and the Packers have demonstrated that helping Aaron Rodgers has not been their top priority. It’s no wonder that he is upset with the team’s general manager.
Moving forward, what will it cost a team to trade for Aaron Rodgers? And would the Packers even consider it? When the story about Rodgers no longer wanting to play for Gutekunst came out on draft day, the San Francisco 49ers reportedly approached Green Bay with an offer for the reigning MVP that would have included the third overall pick in the 2021 Draft. This offer was immediately refused, and the 49ers took their QB of the future in North Dakota State’s Trey Lance. Surely, any trade for Rodgers would need to be incredibly enticing for the Packers. It would likely take multiple first-round, second-round and third-round picks over the next two to three seasons for the Packers to even consider it. Rodgers also makes over $25 million a year, so there would have to be other players in the trade to ensure that the deal would fit under the salary cap. The Packers seem content with Jordan Love as their future quarterback, so they would likely be looking for some high-caliber players to place around him in addition to all the draft picks. Clearly, the price will be steep for the future Hall of Famer.
So, which teams would want to trade for Aaron Rodgers and where would he want to go? There are a few candidates that have already been rumored to be interested in acquiring Rodgers, the first of which is the Denver Broncos. Their current quarterback room is filled by Drew Locke and Teddy Bridgewater, neither of whom seem ready to try and beat Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes two or three times a year. Denver is closer to Southern California and has some impressive, young wide receivers and a solid defense that could get them in the playoff hunt should they add Rodgers. The second possibility is the Las Vegas Raiders. With the team having just moved there from Oakland, John Gruden would love nothing more than to replace the mediocre Derek Carr with an elite talent like Aaron Rodgers and make a run at the playoffs. As the Raiders are also in the AFC West, they still have to play the Chiefs twice a year, but it would be helpful to have a QB who can go toe-to-toe with Mahomes and Justin Herbert. Las Vegas is close to Southern California, so that might be a plus in attracting Rodgers to Sin City.
While there are undoubtedly countless teams that would love to get Rodgers, another interesting fit might be the New Orleans Saints. After Drew Brees’ retirement, the Saints’ offense is set to be run by either Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston. The Saints have consistently made the playoffs for the past decade and have a good defense to go with All-Pro running back Alvin Kamara and star wideout Michael Thomas. The Saints are not rumored to be in on Rodgers, but New Orleans could be his best option to contend for a title right away — other than remaining in Green Bay, that is.
Rodgers will be 38 years old in the 2021 season, and though he is still playing at an incredibly high level, he may only have a few seasons left during which he can lead his team to a championship. Hopefully, he will be on a team in Super Bowl contention and not hosting “Jeopardy!” full-time.