GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers must be in compliance with the salary cap by the start of the league-year on March 16. With the Packers staring at a $50 million hole in the salary cap, they’ll need some certainty on Aaron Rodgers’ playing future sometime in the next seven weeks.
Rodgers promises to let the Packers know before that.
“I’d like to be respectful of the organization,” Rodgers said on Tuesday’s episode of The Pat McAfee Show. “One decision that will be upcoming will be obviously Davante (Adams) and his future with the team.”
The futures of Rodgers and free-agent-to-be Adams are tied together to some extent. From the perspective of Rodgers, who said after Saturday’s season-ending loss to the 49ers that he doesn’t want to play for a rebuilding team, he might not want to play on a team without the All-Pro receiver. From the perspective of Adams, it’s almost impossible to believe he’d re-sign with a team quarterbacked by Jordan Love.
The middle ground is the franchise tag, which would tie Adams to Green Bay for the 2022 season at a cost of about $19 million, according to OverTheCap.com. Adams’ silence about that possibility late in the season spoke volumes.
“I don’t think ’17’ wants the franchise,” Rodgers correctly noted.
The Packers’ cap predicament doesn’t include Adams. Adding that $19 million to the ledger would push the deficit close to $70 million. If Rodgers returns, that presumably would come with an extension that would create cap space for 2022 while pushing money into 2023 and beyond, when the cap is expected to rise significantly.
If Rodgers tells the Packers he’s coming back sometime between Feb. 22, which is the start of the franchise window, and March 8, which is the end of the franchise window, general manager Brian Gutekunst and vice president of administration/player finance Russ Ball would have some time to get to the cap by March 16. And, conversely, if Rodgers decides to retire, the team will have time to react accordingly.
“I don’t want to put myself on a specific date but I do want to be sensitive to Davante and many other guys who have decisions to make on their own futures,” Rodgers said. “To drag it out past free agency would be disrespectful to the organization and to those guys, and that 100 percent will not happen.”
Last offseason, Rodgers didn’t decide to return until just before training camp. That won’t be the case this time. A lot has changed between Rodgers and the franchise that drafted him in the first round in 2005. Irked at Gutekunst and the rest of the front office to such an extent that he considered retiring or forcing his way out of Green Bay, the relationship between quarterback and general manager has improved significantly.
“I feel like I’m at the place relationally with the Packers, in a really good place especially with Brian and the way our friendship and trust has grown, where it would be a simple conversation and whatever comes out of the conversation is moving forward,” Rodgers said. “There’s not going to be a weird standoff, war of silence of anything. Brian and I have had good conversations throughout the year and when it comes time to make a decision, we’ll have a conversation and that’ll be that. It won’t be a long, drawn-out process. I think that’s what’s best for me, for him, for the organization and for all the other decisions that need to be made.”
Just what will that future be? Return to Green Bay? Ask to be traded? Retire? Rodgers isn’t ready to make that decision. Whatever it is, he will be fully committed. He made it clear he won’t retire this year and then return next year.
He also said he’s not afraid to retire, having experienced a bit of retirement life last spring when he skipped the team’s offseason program. He called the uncertainty about starting a new life “almost exciting,” but there’s also the fact that he’s about to win his fourth MVP and, Saturday’s playoff loss notwithstanding, still an elite player.
“I don’t want to be sitting there during the season going, ‘Man, I probably should’ve hung it up.’ Or, sitting there and not with the organization – a organization – and going, ‘God, I should be playing right now,’” Rodgers said. “Once you make a decision, that’s the decision and you move forward.”