NFL

Why Packers would want to keep all options open at QB

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The Green Bay Packers have the NFL’s MVP at quarterback, and he has said, on multiple occasions, that he wants to play several more years, and he wants to finish his decorated career in Green Bay. So why hasn’t the team committed to Aaron Rodgers long term?

The most likely explanation: the Packers want to keep all their options open at quarterback.

On Monday, Rodgers admitted nothing has really changed about his situation or future during an appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show.” And although his play will still be a hugely important factor, Rodgers is right – without a real alteration to his deal, the situation for him doesn’t look a lot different than it did in late April of last year.

Here are some reasons why the Packers haven’t changed anything at quarterback despite Rodgers’ incredible 2020 season:

– The Packers will have legitimate salary cap issues in 2022. The team has finessed the cap in smart ways to keep the team together in 2021, but the bill will come due, and soon. The team has a ton of money already committed to the cap in 2022. As it stands now, Rodgers will provide the team with one way to solve a big chunk of the cap problems after next season. Dead money would be involved, but the savings could be worth around $23 million in cap space in 2022. The Packers didn’t push the button to help this offseason, but they could be saving it for next spring. Eventually moving on from Rodgers would provide both cap space and a ton of draft capital, two important factors for building around a quarterback on a rookie deal.

– Jordan Love is a huge unknown variable. More specifically, Love’s developmental path. What we do know: The team thinks he’s very talented, obviously, but an offseason wrecked by COVID-19 hardly gave Love a chance to get off the ground as a rookie. He didn’t even get to play in a preseason game. The Packers should want a real chance to evaluate Love over a normal summer of work and during preseason appearances before making a final decision at quarterback for the next 4-5 years. By waiting, the Packers have bought themselves time. Valuable time.

– Remember, the Packers traded up in the first round to get Love. They thought very highly of the player coming out of Utah State. This wasn’t just some shot in the dark. Brian Gutekunst and Matt LaFleur and the rest of the decision-makers in Green Bay expressed a great deal of confidence in Love and his future. As Rodgers said Monday, his 2020 season might have thrown a wrench into the team’s plans, but it probably didn’t change the team’s opinion of their first-round pick. What if the Packers truly believe they have something really special at quarterback in Love? What if lightning is striking twice and the Packers think they have another elite talent? Changing Rodgers’ contract situation would all but eliminate Love’s future in Green Bay, and the Packers probably aren’t ready to pull that lever.

– Rodgers has three years left on his deal. Sure, the team can move on after 2021, and an extension could make a lot of sense for both sides, but there is also no approaching deadline on committing to him long term. The team probably doesn’t want to add years onto a lucrative deal with three years left, especially with Rodgers holding so much financial leverage after an MVP season and with the constant changes in the quarterback contract market. An extension here would not be straightforward. And it would not be cheap.

– Think of this thought experiment. Would you rather move on from Aaron Rodgers too soon, or move on from Jordan Love too soon? Think about it hard. It assumes the unknowable (Love is really good), but it’s fascinating to discuss. Moving on from Rodgers too soon would probably be sacrificing 3-4 more really good seasons. Moving on from Love too soon could mean sacrificing 10-15 good years. I don’t think there’s a wrong answer here, but it’s still a situation analysis the Packers might have to complete at some point soon. Once again, staying with the status quo provides more time to complete the analysis fully.

– The Packers are probably trying to have it both ways. They have a very good situation at the game’s most important position right now. No other team has a three-time MVP and a first-round pick at quarterback. They have a guy they know they can win big with, and they have a guy they think could develop into something special. Individually, for the two quarterbacks, it’s a delicate situation. But for the team? I’d bet the majority of the NFL would love to have this problem.

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