I’ve yet to see anyone provide a compelling reason why Aaron Rodgers would want to retire. Sure, he’s dropped some hints to the media – which assures he stays in the news. But that in itself is telling. Retirement would kill off Rodgers’ newsworthiness – and it’s apparent that Aaron loves to be in the headlines. Didn’t we just go through all this retirement speculation a year ago? Forty or fifty million bucks a year is also a pretty fair incentive to keep playing.
How many times do you see stars at the top of their games call it quits? Brady accomplished all he could ever have wanted a season ago. In Las Angeles, both Aaron Donald and Coach McVay have been entertaining the media with their musings about leaving the game. Look at how the lure of winning another Super Bowl prompted Rob Gronkowski to come back from retirement.
Aaron has said repeatedly in the course of last season that he’s been the happiest playing football in a long time. He’s complimented his coaches, his players, and even GM Gutekunst. Does that sound like a guy who’s ready to call it quits?
Most importantly, however, Aaron loves the game and the competition – and winning. The quest to be the best is the one ingredient that is common to most superstars. He’s been open about wanting to be on a contender in 2022. I continue to believe that being a contender in 2022 will not be the Packers’ reality if Rodgers stays put.
Due to the salary cap, that would mean about six of their top ten players would be departing. It’s possible – though I’ve never seen anyone try to spell it out – that restructuring the biggest contracts could result in maybe only four such departures, but then the Packers would be left to pay the price in 2023 and 2024.
Currently, teams in the running in the Rodgers Sweepstakes, and their salary cap spaces, include: Miami, + $62.1M; Broncos, +39.2M; Las Vegas, +$19.8M; San Francisco, +$2.93; Green Bay, -$48.5M. If Rodgers is traded, it will be the Packers, and not Aaron, who decide which team he’ll go to.
Finally, if Aaron moves on, he’ll very likely go to a team that has a shot at making the Super Bowl. He’d also instantly become a huge celebrity in his new environs. I could see Aaron being drawn to Las Vegas (10-7 last season) or Miami (9-8). How about Arizona (11-6), where QB Kyler Murray doesn’t seem to be nicely maturing. Besides, running QBs have seldom risen to the top of the league – even if they manage to avoid serious injuries.
Another QB who has yet to establish himself as a top-tier guy is the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott, and he’s also proven to be hard to satisfy. Wouldn’t Jerry Jones love to have a full house of fans welcoming Aaron to a raucous AT&T stadium? The Cowboys went 12-5 last season, and the consensus is that they’ve had the most talented roster of players in the league for the past few years now.
And what about the 49ers? They are loaded with talent, and just weeks ago they were a snap or two from going to the Super Bowl – and that was with Garoppolo flinging the ball. Since 2017, Jimmy has only seen his passer rating reach triple digits once (102.0 in 2019).
I’m not so sure that Aaron would want to go to Denver (7-10 last season). I don’t think they can afford to give up several of their best players and/or future draft choices, in order to acquire Rodgers.
There is, however, one piece of recent evidence, as opposed to idle speculation, that the team is trying to retain Aaron for the 2022 season: bringing Tom Clements out of retirement to be the new quarterbacks coach. Clements was on the Packers’ coaching staff from 2006 through 2016. Rodgers has repeatedly lavished praise on Clements, who was the team’s quarterbacks coach for six years, followed by being offensive coordinator from 2012 through 2014 and associate head coach in 2015 and 2016. Aaron has repeatedly lavished praise on Clements, and the team has been highly successful in Clements’ time here – with only one losing season in eleven years. That was in 2008, Aaron’s first season as a starter, when the team went 6-10.
Of course, it’s also conceivable that the Packers’ front office views Clements as an ideal choice to guide Jordan Love through his first few seasons as the team’s starting QB.
My hunch, for what that’s worth, is that both Rodgers and GM Gutekunst have each already concluded that Rodgers will be playing elsewhere in 2022. We should find out if this is so within the next four weeks.
It might well be that Gutekunst is thinking of a different all-in approach: going all-in to position the Packers to be a playoffs team beginning in 2023 and for many years to follow. I don’t think Green Bay can have it both ways: going all in with Rodgers in 2022 would almost certainly render the Packers uncompetitive in 2023 and for several years thereafter. A competent GM needs to think long term as well as short term.
The Packers’ salary cap issues have caught up with them. Whether the Packers keep Rodgers or not in 2022, I’m reconciled to the inevitable: that the Packers will not make the playoffs this coming season.