While the Packers-Aaron Rodgers situation remains unresolved, one thing should be clear to Rodgers and to most observers: Rodgers’ best chance of winning another Super Bowl remains him staying in Green Bay.
The Packers are a team that is built to win now so long as Rodgers returns as their quarterback. They are coming off back-to-back 13-3 seasons and consecutive appearances in the NFL Championship Game. In 2019, the Packers were the number two seed in the NFC, in 2020 they were the number one seed. Their offense, which is returning all 11 starters if Rodgers remains on the team, led the NFL in points scored last season.
Gutekunst Went to Work
GM Brian Gutekunst spent the offseason determined to keep as many players who were already on the roster with the team. The Packers re-signed running back Aaron Jones, starting cornerback Kevin King and veteran contributors like tight end Marcedes Lewis, Will Redmond and Tyler Lancaster. The only starter not returning from last year’s team is center Corey Linsley who signed with the Chargers as a free agent.
The team also drafted to fill any remaining holes. They added a cornerback in round one to serve as the long term replacement for King, a center in round two who could start as a rookie and a slot receiver in round three to fill the hole left by Randall Cobb’s departure after the 2018 season.
The Packers Have Weapons In Place
The Packers feature a Pro Bowl running back in Jones, an All Pro left tackle in David Bakhtiari, Davante Adams who may be the best wide receiver in football today and an elite cover corner in Jaire Alexander. Offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins just went to his first Pro Bowl and has the potential to go to several more as he continues to develop and Kenny Clark is a Pro Bowl-caliber defensive lineman when he’s healthy.
If Rodgers is traded, it is highly unlikely he will have the same kind of weapons anywhere else. The three teams that have been mentioned as the most likely destinations for Rodgers if the Packers change their minds and decide to trade him are the San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders.
Of the three, the 49ers probably have the most talent despite their 6-10 record last season. San Francisco suffered several devastating injuries last season that caused them to slip from their appearance in the Super Bowl the year before to last place in the NFC West in 2020.
Which Destination Makes the Most Sense?
While Rodgers may be interested in heading back to the team he grew up rooting for as a kid in nearby Chico, California, there is no way the Packers will consider trading Rodgers to another NFC club. The 49ers or any NFC team would have to overwhelm the Packers with an offer for Gutekunst to even think about dealing him to a team the Packers would have to beat to get to the Super Bowl. This is very unlikely.
The Raiders are coming off an 8-8 season while Denver was 5-11 a year ago. Without getting into the details of the rosters of each team, it’s safe to say that as of now, neither of them has as much talent on their roster as the Packers do.
In addition, to acquire Rodgers, these teams will have to give up some great players and at least a couple of first round draft picks. That will lower the talent level of any team Rodgers goes to and prevent them from adding more talent early in the next few drafts.
Rodgers also has a $37.2 million cap hit in 2021 according to spotrac.com. That number goes up to $38.9 million in 2022 and then down to $28.35 in 2023. Even if Rodgers is willing to sign an extension that lowers the cap hit somewhat in the short run, paying a future Hall of Fame quarterback big bucks will have an adverse effect on his new team’s cap situation for the next few seasons and make it more difficult for his new team to add talent.
The Packers Are His Best Bet
Rodgers will turn 38 before the 2021 season is over. While he may be able to play four or five more seasons, he is unlikely to continue to play at an MVP level for more than another two or three years at most. By the time his new team has cap space and draft picks, he will likely be on the downside of his career.
Changing teams will also mean that Rodgers will have to learn a new playbook, new teammates and a new coaching staff. That will take some time just like it did for Rodgers when LaFleur took over with the Packers although this new adjustment would probably be bigger than that one.
If winning another Super Bowl before he retires is truly Rodgers’ biggest desire at this stage of his career, staying with the Packers would clearly give him the best chance to accomplish that goal.
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