GREEN BAY, Wis. – Four months of drama between Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers was, as William Shakespeare wrote in Macbeth, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
As part of a revamped contract that Rodgers is expected to sign before the first practice of training camp on Wednesday, ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter reported the team had agreed to void the 2023 season, his final year under contract, and would “review” the status of the 2022 season after the upcoming season.
In other words, Rodgers’ final season could be 2021 – same as it’s been for the past 15 months.
When the Packers selected Jordan Love with their first-round pick on April 23, 2020, the logical point of departure was always after the 2021 season for two reasons.
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One, the deadline to flip the switch on Love’s fifth-year player option is after the 2022 season. That’s an expensive decision. Love is playing under a four-year, $12.4 million contract. When the Cleveland Browns exercised the option on Baker Mayfield in April, that guaranteed him an $18.86 million salary for 2022. Obviously, the Packers would like to make an informed decision on such an expensive transaction, and the only way that can happen is if Love jumps into the starting lineup in 2022.
Two, the Packers can create mountain of cap space by moving on from Rodgers after the 2021 season. While the numbers will change based on his upcoming restructure, trading Rodgers next offseason would create $22.65 million of cap space, according to OverTheCap.com. Wait until after June 1, and that moves to $25.5 million.
Team President/CEO Mark Murphy has stated repeatedly, including at Monday’s shareholders meeting, that the Packers want Rodgers back “beyond” 2021. So, from Rodgers’ perspective, the past few months haven’t been a nothingburger. Rodgers has seized control over his future after losing it the moment general manager Brian Gutekunst drafted Love and sent the financial wheels of a trade after the 2021 season in motion. This indeed might be his last season in Green Bay but he'll at least have a big say in the decision. That’s a big win for the three-time MVP quarterback.
It's also a big win for the Packers. Despite being more than $28 million over the cap at the start of the offseason, Gutekunst retained the heart of the roster with the exception of center Corey Linsley. The Packers were perhaps David Bakhtiari’s torn ACL away from getting to the Super Bowl last year. With Rodgers, there’s no reason this year’s edition can’t take the next step.
It's just crazy that an MVP season, a trip to the NFC Championship Game and three months of tearing at the hearts of the fans have merely sent the pendulum back to center. Rodgers is guaranteed to be Green Bay’s quarterback in 2021. Anything beyond that is, to borrow a phrase from another renowned wordsmith, a beautiful mystery.