With the 29th pick in the first round of the NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers selected blah blah blah irrelevant OK WHAT IS HAPPENING BETWEEN THE PACKERS AND AARON RODGERS!?
A team that was just a few plays away from the Super Bowl a few months ago is now on the precipice of self-destruction as its star player heated up his cold war with management, with NFL reporters dropping the bomb right before Thursday's first round that defending MVP Aaron Rodgers wants out of Green Bay. An evening dedicated to adding to a team's roster became all about whether the Packers would suddenly have a 12-shaped hole on theirs – as soon as possibly that very night.
How did we get here – and how does this end?
Let's start with how things escalated on Thursday. Earlier on in the day, reports began coming in from radio hosts and writers that the San Francisco 49ers called the Packers about a trade for Aaron Rodgers – one that would reportedly involve multiple picks, including the Niners number three pick Thursday night, and their current quarterback Jimmy Garropolo. While ESPN's Packers reporter Rob Demovsky and Packers GM Brian Gutekunst tried shooting down the rumor, it's now been confirmed by 49ers GM John Lynch that they called the Packers to ask about Rodgers – a conversation that ended quickly with no trade offers.
In the end, it was a lot of smoke but, for Packers fans, nothing appeared to be on fire. If Green Bay was shopping Rodgers, now THAT would be a news story – but other teams poking around to see if they could snag a mid-contract-negotiating MVP on a whim? Of course they would do that. In the end, the story seemed like interesting hypothetical sports talk thought experiment fodder – would you stick with Rodgers or cut bait on an aging quarterback for a younger guy and future pieces? – and nothing more than that.
If only it were that simple.
At 2:19 p.m., ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter dropped the bombshell, making official what had been rumored ever since the NFL Championship postgame press conference (and well beyond then too): Aaron Rodgers wants out of Green Bay. And considering the report came out just in time for the NFL Draft, when teams have the unclaimed picks and pieces to shift around, Rodgers seemed to want it to happen Thursday night. (*Nervous gulp*) Welcome to the Jordan Love era?
Why the sudden anger out of Rodgers? According to NFL reporter Trey Wingo, it wasn't so sudden, building instead over the years – firing Rodgers' preferred QB coach Alex Van Pelt after the 2017 season without letting him know first and hiring Brian Gutekunst as general manger rather than candidates the quarterback was promoting.
Some of the other tensions out there are debated – Wingo also said the Packers promised to trade Rodgers in the offseason but then backed out, something Gutekunst called "absolutely false" after the draft – but everyone agrees that the seemingly final blow between the two sides happened a year ago at the very event we were supposed to be focused on Thursday night: the NFL Draft. There, after an offseason of not-so-subtle pleading and campaigning from Rodgers for a wide receiver amongst the 2020 impressive pass-catching class, Green Bay instead moved up in the Draft to not fix the current team (one a win away from the Super Bowl) but to prepare for a future team by picking Rodgers' heir apparent: Jordan Love out of Utah State. Worst of all, the Packers allegedly didn't tell Rodgers they were picking his likely replacement over the help he asked for either.
Add in some tricky contract negotiations this offseason – with NFL.com insider Ian Rapoport reporting the Packers wanted to restructure the quarterback's contract to save cap room while Rodgers wants an extension that commits to him long-term – and you get Thursday night's fracas.
If Thursday's stunning news was a leverage play from Rodgers' camp to get traded, it didn't work – at least for now. With all of Packers Nation suddenly watching the 49ers third pick with horrified interest (and, according to Pro Football Talk, Rodgers watching with anticipation), San Francisco drafted a quarterback – Trey Lance out of North Dakota State – rather than trade for one. Then suddenly Packers fans had their eyes on Denver as rumors circulated that the Broncos were close to a deal for Rodgers too – but that turned out to be nothing as well, with the Broncos picking a cornerback.
And if it was a leverage play by Rodgers to push the Green Bay brass to make up for last year's jab of a pick and finally use a first-rounder on a wide receiver, it didn't work there either as the Packers selected Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes with their 29th pick. It's a pick that, in a bubble, makes perfect sense for the Packers; he's a talented, physical and skilled coverage artist, and the team needed another cornerback opposite Jaire Alexander – because as we all know too well after watching the NFC Championship game, Kevin King ain't it. Plus, he's got good Tom Brady takes.
I just don't like Tom Brady at all — Eric Stokes Jr (@_jamane_) February 2, 2015
But a solid second cornerback doesn't balance out potentially losing the most important player on your team, the man literally crowned the most valuable player in the entire league. Not that picking a receiver now after last year's Love debacle would've mended the bridge, but with buzzy Mississippi pass-catcher Elijah Moore still on the board at pick 29, the Packers could've reached out something resembling an olive branch. Instead, the pick played like another pie in the face. At this point, the Packers should've just used the pick on a punter and gone full fiery Elmo chaos.
So how does this all end? Fittingly with the title of a game show: You guessed it – "Deal or No Deal."
In the dream scenario for Packers fans, rational minds finally prevail, the two sides finally come together on a contract extension and this becomes an amusing side note in hopefully another long run into the playoffs next year. But as we've learned in two straight NFC Championship games now, Packer dreams have a habit lately of getting brutally crushed.
While Rodgers used much of his leverage yesterday, the team has the most leverage of all because it has the quarterback under contract through 2023. Rodgers can sulk and moan and feed NFL insiders all sorts of stories about how much he hates it in Green Bay (and, as Rapoport points out, Rodgers' agent David Dunn helped Carson Palmer get out of a similarly unhappy situation in Cincinnati years ago). In the end, though, the Packers can do with him what they want – and oddly enough, it sure sounds like they don't want to trade their future Hall of Fame, current MVP quarterback. Gutekunst underlined, italicized and bolded that point Thursday night after the Draft, and all trade reports from the night end the same way: The Packers don't understand the question and they won't respond to it. Plus, even if they wanted to move Rodgers, some reporters note that the deal would cost the Packers more than just an MVP quarterback.
Excellent point here - the Packers have $2.85M of cap space. It would cost them $1.15M of space just to trade Rodgers (yes it is more expensive to trade Rodgers than keep him).
If a trade happens tonight (unlikely), don't expect any trade to come with other players attached. https://t.co/s7YT54bPtl — Ken Ingalls - Packers Cap ð° (@KenIngalls) April 30, 2021
Now that the Draft's over too, there's not many places for Rodgers to happily go anyways. The Niners were the dream location, but now that they've selected Trey Lance, they have their quarterback situation covered. Would Rodgers want to go to another team with yet another newly drafted first-round quarterback breathing down his neck? The Broncos and Raiders were also named as potential trade destinations, but neither of those teams have the assets to entice Green Bay into making history and shipping out an MVP. The Niners had a quarterback who made it to the Super Bowl, a top three pick and several other future selections to offer – a fair haul that still didn't work for the Packers. The Raiders and Broncos have little close to that, especially now that the first round is through – though maybe Denver could trade us the Super Bowl XXXII trophy?
Then there's the nuclear option: The Packers refuse to make a deal or extension, Rodgers refuses to play and the quarterback sits out or even retires early ... and becomes the host of "Jeopardy!" It's a wild Mad Libs – but also somehow not entirely implausible. Fans across the spectrum thought Rodgers did charmingly well (even when people biffed on the easiest possible answer), he vocally loved his two weeks hosting the show and the show must've loved him in return – or at least certainly the ratings he brought in. So he leaves football early and still intact to take a well-paid full-time gig on a show he loves, a job that doesn't put your ACL or collarbone at risk on a weekly basis? Doesn't seem like all that unfortunate of an ending. (At least for Rodgers; less so for Packers fans.)
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.