On Monday, Aaron Rodgers will walk into the darkness, beginning a four-day stay in isolation that will go a long way toward shaping the quarterback landscape this offseason.
The Packers’ star QB plans to consider all options during his darkness retreat, detailing recently on The Pat McAfee Show that returning to Green Bay, asking for a trade and retiring are all options. The team is respecting Rodgers’ need for time to make his decision, and if Rodgers comes to the team with a request to play his 19th season elsewhere, sources say the Packers are open to working with the four-time AP NFL MVP on a trade.
The Packers would need Rodgers, 39, to rework his contract to facilitate any trade for cap purposes, allowing him to steer the process toward a preferred destination. Sources say other teams have already inquired about Rodgers, and the answer from Green Bay has been consistent: until Rodgers decides what he wants to do, it’s too early for any negotiations.
On the other hand, if Rodgers decides he wants to stay in Green Bay and is fully bought in — “I’m either all-in or all-out,” Rodgers told McAfee last month about playing in 2023 — the Packers would want him back. The sides had productive conversations in the days after finishing a disappointing 8-9 season. More conversations figure to be needed, though, to make sure everyone is on the same page about the direction of the franchise and the roster.
Rodgers has spoken in recent years about the value of acquiring and retaining respected veterans, and many of those he’s close to on the roster — including wide receiver Randall Cobb, tight end Marcedes Lewis and longtime kicker Mason Crosby — are pending free agents. So are other core players such as receiver Allen Lazard, tight end Robert Tonyan and safety Adrian Amos.
The Packers also are managing the future of former first-round pick Jordan Love, who has waited three years for his opportunity and wants to play. Love shined in relief of an injured Rodgers in a Nov. 27 loss to the Super Bowl-bound Eagles, buoying confidence that he’s ready to take over if for one reason or another Rodgers isn’t back in 2023. (A decision on Love’s fifth-year option is due in early May.)
Sources emphasized the relationship between the Packers and Rodgers remains positive 11 months after the club signed him to a massive contract extension that seemed to all but secure his stated goal of playing his entire career with one team. For much of the season, Rodgers played through injuries, including a fractured right thumb and a rib injury that opened the door for Love, and kept playing even amid fading playoff hopes.
Whatever happens from here, the Packers and their star QB will work on it together — but the first move belongs to Rodgers.
If Rodgers decides he wants to continue his career elsewhere, there figures to be no shortage of suitors, with the Jets (who recently hired Rodgers’ friend and former coach Nathaniel Hackett as offensive coordinator) and the Raiders among the most logical potential suitors.
Rodgers is due $59.515 million in 2023, including $58.3 million structured as an option bonus that lowers his cap number to about $31.6 million if he’s on the Packers next season. If Rodgers is traded, the Packers would need to rework the deal for cap purposes prior to any trade.
All of which is moot if Rodgers emerges from the darkness and decides to turn out the lights on his Hall of Fame-caliber career.
The clock will soon be ticking, with the new league year and free agency set to begin in a little over a month on March 15.
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