Aaron Rodgers is still locked in for a Super Bowl appearance and win after 14 seasons as the Packers’ starting quarterback. That was confirmed by No. 1 seed Green Bay’s surprise 13-10 loss to No. 6 seed San Francisco in Saturday’s NFC divisional playoff game.
Now the big question that lingered during the last NFL offseason will be asked again: Did Rodgers play his last game with the Packers?
Rodgers (20-of-29 passing, 225 yards) didn’t have one of his best games against the 49ers defense. Single-digit temperatures, flurries and a pass rush that caught him five times all contributed to the chill. So did an offense that was again limited to three reliable playmakers: running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon and wide receiver Davante Adams.
Rodgers has gone 13-3 as the Packers’ QB for three consecutive regular seasons. The first two times, he took them to the NFC championship game. They lost to the 49ers in 2020 and the Buccaneeers in 2021. This January looked different with a more impactful defense, until the special teams melted down. With the offense gone, the Packers were one and finished as the 1 seed.
Since the Packers won Super Bowl 45 with Rodgers as the No. 6 seed 11 years ago, they’ve gone 7-7 in the playoffs. They have gone 0-4 in NFC championship games and have dropped to 5-3 in the divisional round. Losing to the 49ers mirrored losing to the No. 1-seeded Giants 15-1 at Lambeau Field in the 2012 playoffs.
Despite not making it to the Super Bowl again, Rodgers is the heavy favorite to win his second straight regular season MVP, his fourth overall. At 38 years old, he can still play at a high level for several more seasons. The bottom line is whether the Packers did enough on and off the field to make Green Bay their happiest place in the NFL for the rest of 2022.
For one thing, Rodgers may have used his dramatic stance in 2021 to tighten his contract, motivate his teammates and alert the front office that he needs to take care of his key supporting cast members, led by wide receiver Davante, agent free pending. Adams. On the other hand, it may have been a real ultimatum, that he wanted to take his talents elsewhere if his quest for a second ring hit a wall in Green Bay, which it might have.
Just getting to the Super Bowl could have locked Rodgers into the Packers. But now the clock is ticking on whether he will request a trade that the Packers must accept.
Under the terms of your current contract, there are reasonable parameters to facilitate a deal. Trading him before the June 1 designation would cost the Packers $26.8 million in dead money, but would also give them $19.6 million in salary-cap relief in 2022. With a June 1 designation, the money dead would be distributed over two years and would increase the ceiling. relief to $27.2 million.
There’s no question the Packers would want him back given the way he connects with coach Matt LaFleur. Playoff disappointments aside, the Packers should know they have no chance of a fourth straight 13-win season if they turn to green backup Jordan Love, their first-round pick in 2020.
But this now comes down to Rodgers’ choice. Tom Brady got to pick his second team, the Buccaneers, as a free agent. Matthew Stafford got a shot at the end of his playoff career when he was traded from the Lions to the Rams. This upcoming offseason, speculation about Rodgers will be matched by that surrounding the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson, who is also seeking his second ring after winning one early in his career.
Rodgers, like Wilson, will have his pick of attractive teams. The Broncos and Raiders, who have yet to decide on head coaches for 2022, are back in the game with talented rosters. The Steelers, with Ben Roethlisberger on the verge of retirement, should also be interested in creating more viral smiles between Rodgers and coach Mike Tomlin. Washington, Carolina and New Orleans are other teams that need QBs and have potential. With no QB prospects looking safe in the 2022 NFL Draft (yet), Rodgers won’t be short of suitors looking to take out a Brady and deliver an immediate Super Bowl ring.
As the waiting game begins for Rodgers to make his decision, the Packers don’t have much time this time, with the league open for trades and other business in less than two months.
Adams’ franchise tag is a must to appease Rodgers. But can the Packers do enough to convince him to stay if there’s already too much fracture in the relationship? Unlike his time as a guest host on “Jeopardy!”, there are again more questions than answers.