GREEN BAY, Wis. – There’s a logical reason to trade Aaron Rodgers.
It’s been more than a decade since he led the Green Bay Packers to the Super Bowl, let alone won one. The Packers the last three seasons became the first team in NFL history with three consecutive 13-win seasons. They earned the highly coveted No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs – meaning homefield advantage and the only first-round bye – in back-to-back seasons. Rodgers is coming off back-to-back MVP seasons.
All of that meant exactly nothing in the playoffs. The run defense was terrible in the 2019 NFC championship. Kevin King was terrible in the 2020 NFC Championship Game. The special teams were terrible in the 2021 divisional game. But Rodgers wasn’t close to good enough in any of those games.
If the Packers couldn’t win the Super Bowl in 2020 or, especially, 2021, when they got some key players back from injuries and had a full house and miserable weather to host San Francisco, then maybe they’ll never win another Super Bowl with Rodgers.
Meanwhile, the Packers could trade Rodgers – and Davante Adams, while they’re at – and get three or four first-round picks (and another pick/player or two) in return along with an opportunity for a financial reset.
It’s an intriguing idea.
And it’s wrong.
Just because the Rodgers-led Packers haven’t won another Super Bowl doesn’t mean they can’t or they won’t.
The greatest case in point is Tom Brady.
Brady was well on his way to becoming an NFL legend after capping the 2004 season with a third Super Bowl win in four years. He was merely 27 years old on the night New England edged Philadelphia 24-21 for Super Bowl ring No. 3.
But the Brady-led Patriots didn’t win the Super Bowl in 2005. Or 2006. Or 2007. Or 2008. Or 2009. Or 2010. Or 2011. Or 2012. Or 2013. They reached the Super Bowl in a couple of those seasons, but Brady’s championship drought had reached a decade when, in 2014, the Patriots drafted quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo as the potential successor for the 36-year-old Brady.
That set the stage for the next act of Brady’s career. New England won a gift-wrapped Super Bowl against Seattle in 2014, then staged a comeback for the ages to stun Atlanta for another championship in 2016. The Patriots’ defense gave Brady another title in 2018. In 2020, Brady went to Tampa Bay, beat Rodgers in the NFC Championship Game and won a seventh Super Bowl in a rout of Kansas City.
A great quarterback gives his team a realistic opportunity to win the Super Bowl every season. Greatness – whether it’s as a player or as a team – isn’t guaranteed, though. Even with Brady’s legendary success, consider this: During that one-decade championship drought, Brady lost eight playoff games. He put 17 or fewer points on the scoreboard six times and 21 points in a seventh game.
A lot of things have to go right to win a Super Bowl, with Exhibits A, B and C being the Packers' last three playoff exits. The play of the quarterback, obviously, is at the top of the list. Brady didn’t deliver enough in key moments during his title drought. Just like Rodgers hasn’t delivered in key moments.
But with a great quarterback, there’s always a chance. There’s a chance to get hot in the playoffs, to make the big play, to rise to the occasion, to build a legend. Over the last six seasons, Brady is 13-3 in playoff games. He led his team to 30-plus points in 12 of those games. It was staggering, overwhelming success.
Without a great quarterback, you’re just a team that, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t really relevant. You’re the Saints without Drew Brees. You’re the Broncos of the last several years. You’re the Bears of, seemingly, forever.
General manager Brian Gutekunst knows that. And that’s why he wants to keep Rodgers. That’s why he’s betting on Rodgers instead of draft picks.
No doubt he’s considered the opportunity to reload on the fly by trading Rodgers for a king’s ransom. But he also knows there’s no guarantee that next quarterback is on the roster (Jordan Love) or waiting in the wings (a 2023 first-round pick). His playoff failures notwithstanding, riding with Rodgers doesn’t just provide the best chance to win a Super Bowl over the next season or three. Rodgers probably provides the only chance.
“I think we’ve got as good a shot as anybody to win a Super Bowl next year,” Gutekunst said when asked why he wouldn’t trade Rodgers. “He’s the MVP of the league. That’s our goal. I think we have an opportunity to do it right now. That’s why.”
NFL Key Dates for 2022
Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
General manager Brian Gutekunst and coach Matt LaFleur will talk to reporters on March 1. Player workouts will be later in the week. Teams are allotted 45 formal interviews. “It’ll be good to see the guys live and have a little bit better feel once we get to the Combine,” Gutekunst said. “But it’s another good offensive line class, which is good. I thought the offensive skill positions were deeper than they have been maybe in the past. The pass rush group is deeper than it has been in a while. Overall, I think it’s good. I think it’s an interesting year because there were so many guys that opted back in to play in the college season, so the numbers are way up across the board, especially in the bottom half of the draft. I think the numbers are much bigger than they have been in the past.”
Deadline to use the franchise tag strikes at 3 p.m. (Central).
The Packers could use it on All-Pro receiver Davante Adams. “It’s obviously a tool that’s made available to us,” Gutekunst said. “If we need to use it, we certainly will. I think we’d love to come to an agreement before that, but it is a tool to be able to protect tone of your star players. But at the same time, that’s not the way [we’ve done business]. We like to exhaust all options before we get to that point. But it is a tool that’s available to us.”
Beginning at 11 a.m. (Central) on March 14 and ending at 2:59:59 p.m. on March 16, clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with, players who will become unrestricted free agents upon the expiration of their 2021 player contracts at 3 p.m. on March 16. This is what’s called the “legal tampering period.” Aside from Adams, linebacker De'Vondre Campbell is Green Bay's top free agent.
The league-year begins at 3 p.m. Teams must be in compliance with the $208.2 million salary cap at this time.
“The pandemic certainly threw a wrench into everything as far as the salary cap numbers,” Gutekunst said. “They’d be so steady [in their annual increase] for so long. You kind of had that comforting feeling of where it’s going to be. When that got changed, with where our team was at, it made it a little more difficult. We’re very hopeful we’re coming out of that. We’re excited to get out of that. We got a really good football team and we’re excited to add to that this spring and see where we can go.”
Trades can be made beginning at 3 p.m.
The Packers can begin their offseason workout programs.
Deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets with other teams.
The Packers have one restricted free agent, receiver Allen Lazard. “He knows what kind of player he can be and he’s continuing to push that envelope every week,” veteran Randall Cobb said before the playoffs. “You see it in practice, you see it in meeting rooms, you see him taking notes, his attention to detail, and we get onto the practice field and his attention to detail with practice and then it comes down to opportunities, and he’s made every single one of them. You love to see it. I think his stock’s continuing to go up. His rise, it’s beautiful.”
The NFL Draft will be held in Las Vegas, with the first round on April 28, the second and third rounds on April 29 and the fourth through seventh rounds on April 30.
Last year’s first-round pick was used on cornerback Eric Stokes, who had an excellent rookie year. “When he was pressed into a little bit more duty than I think we might have thought he would, he obviously performed at a very good level,” Gutekunst said. “I really liked his demeanor. It’s probably a lot more to who he is but also coming from Georgia and the way he competed at that level the last couple years, I just don’t think it was too big for him. Even through his struggles, which every player in the National Football League goes through, he didn’t blink.”
This is the deadline for teams to exercise the fifth-year option on their 2019 first-round draft picks.
For the Packers, that’s outside linebacker Rashan Gary and safety Darnell Savage. “We’re not there yet,” Gutekunst said when asked about those players on Wednesday. “Obviously, both those guys have done a really good job for us. They’re coming into their own and becoming leaders of our defense. So, we haven’t made any decisions on that but both pretty good players.”
May 6-9 or 13-16
Teams can hold their three-day rookie orientation camps during this period – either Friday through Sunday or Saturday through Monday. Last year, the Packers held their rookie camp during the second of those blocks.
Football is back with the Hall of Fame Game on Thursday night.
Packers legend LeRoy Butler will get his Pro Football Hall of Fame Gold Jacket on Aug. 5 and be enshrined in the Hall of Fame on Aug. 6.
The NFL season will kick off, presumably with the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams hosting the Thursday night opener.
This is the first Sunday of the NFL season. Green Bay opened on the road in 2019, 2020 and 2021.