Aaron Rodgers is keeping the Packers in the dark. Nearly a week after he emerged from his isolated darkness retreat, Rodgers has not communicated his intentions for next season, Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said at the NFL Scouting Combine. The two have only exchanged a few text messages.
“Obviously, free agency is coming up here [March 13] and that’s an important part of what we’re doing, so it would be nice to have some answers before that,” Gutekunst said Tuesday, “but until we have any conversations we’re still in a good spot.” Rodgers, 39, could decide to retire, return to the Packers or request a trade. The future Hall of Famer doesn’t have a no-trade clause, but it’s difficult to foresee him not having a big say in where he lands next.
Asked if the Packers still want Rodgers as their quarterback, Gutekunst said, “Our feelings haven’t changed about Aaron.” Moments later, however, he sounded upbeat about the possibility of starting the Jordan Love Era in the former first-round pick’s fourth season.
“We’re excited about him,” Gutekunst said. “He needs to play. That’s the next step in his progression.” The Jets are one of a handful of teams expected to be in the market for Rodgers if he becomes available. Would Gutekunst be asking for one or more first-round picks in a trade? A quantity of picks? A talented young player, of which the Jets have plenty?
“That’s a little premature,” Gutekunst said, adding to a smaller group of reporters that trade talks have “not yet” begun. “Certainly you look at all those things with all your players, not just Aaron. But we’re not anywhere near that yet.” The Packers took a step back last season, from annual Super Bowl contender — losing the 2019 and 2020 NFC Championship games and falling short as the NFC’s No. 1 seed in 2021 — to missing the playoffs. Rodgers’ frustrations with a young receiver corps were evident.
It seems like the right time for a reset under Love, who made strides behind the scenes and in limited parts of four games (14 of 21 passing with a touchdown). He made his only career start in 2021. “Comfortable in the offense and confidence in it is the biggest thing,” Gutekunst said. “He was making quicker decisions and letting it rip a little more. Thinking less and playing more. There was just a different level of intensity week-in and week-out than there had been prior.”
The Packers have a May deadline to exercise Love’s fifth-year fully guaranteed option for 2024. “He’s probably expressed that he wants to start every season, but he knows where he’s at,” Gutekunst said. “He’s eager to play. Sometimes those things are out of your control, like they have been for him the last few years.
“The length of time it really takes to go from playing well to winning in this league, he’ll need to go through those things, just like every other quarterback. He’s taken some really good jumps and there’s more out there for him, but he’s going to need to play to do that.”