Just as the AFC Championship game was getting into full swing, news from the NFC Championship post-game press conferences started to overtake the sports world. Aaron Rodgers and the one-seeded Green Bay Packers had just been eliminated by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and after Rodgers stepped down from his Zoom podium, this tweet sent shockwaves through the NFL.
Aaron Rodgers sure sounded like a guy saying goodbye.— Jason Wilde (@jasonjwilde) January 25, 2021
That’s Jason Wilde, who has been on the Packers beat since 1996. And when you read some of these quotes from Rodgers’ post-game press conference, this doesn’t exactly feel like Wilde is exaggerating.
“A lot of guys’ futures that are uncertain, myself included,” Rodgers said. “That’s what’s sad about it, most, getting this far. Obviously, it’s going to be an end to it at some point, whether we make it past this one or not, but just the uncertainties is tough and finality of it all.”
He later continued.
“There’s a lot of unknowns going into this offseason now. I’m going to have to take some time away, for sure, and clear my head and just kind of see what’s going on with everything. But it’s pretty tough right now, especially thinking about the guys that may or may not be here next year. There’s always change. That’s the only constant in this business.”
And, yeah, there was a little perceived friction between Rodgers and head coach Matt LaFleur, who made a puzzling decision to kick a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 8-yard line when the Packers were down 8 points with just over two minutes left.
“I didn’t have a decision on that one,” Rodgers said before a long pause. “Yeah, that wasn’t my decision. I understand the thinking, above two minutes with all of our timeouts, but, yeah, that wasn’t my decision.”
Even the very end of the press conference seemed like a series finale.
“It's a grind to just to get to this point, and that makes the finality of it all hit you like a ton of bricks. That’s why it’s a gutting feeling in your stomach,” Rodgers said with another big sigh before turning his attention to the media.
“But I do appreciate you all and the job that you’ve done this year. I appreciate our interactions. I appreciate the opportunity to share every week and I’ll always be thankful for this season.”
That is not your typical Rodgers sendoff.
Of course, last year’s drafting of quarterback Jordan Love has helped accelerate trade speculation surrounding Rodgers, but we need slow down our excitement for a second here.
Logistically speaking, trading Aaron Rodgers just makes absolutely no sense right now. Right now, the Packers are projected to be somewhere between $25 and $30 million over the cap for the 2021 season, meaning they’ll have to likely get rid of a handful of players to even get back to zero. But Rodgers frees up almost nothing for them. Per ESPN, it would just save them $4.76 million in cap space while costing them $31.6 million in dead cap. Those figures mean the Packers will be wholly unwilling to trade him.
There’s always a chance Rodgers tries to force his way out like Deshaun Watson is currently doing in Houston, or he may even be considering retirement at age 37, but the big question is why would he want that? He’s about to win his third MVP and is coming off the best statistical season of his career. He doesn’t appear to be dealing with a nagging injury, and he’s clearly got more left in the tank.
He couldn’t have been happy about the team drafting Love, but there is no indication his starting job is anywhere near in danger at this point. Love didn’t take a single snap in 2020 and was a gameday inactive for essentially the entire season. Plus, reports out of training camp were that he looked nowhere near ready.
Meanwhile, Matt LaFleur made it pretty clear on Sunday night that he wants, and expects, Rodgers to be the team’s quarterback next year.
“The guy’s the MVP of this league. He’s the heart and soul of our football team. So, hell yeah, he better be back here,” LaFleur said per ESPN. “He’s our leader, and you know, just so appreciative of him buying into what we’re trying to get done around here and leading that group. His voice carries a lot of weight in that locker room.”
So while Rodgers’ press conference certainly raised some eyebrows, don’t expect him anywhere but in Green Bay next year.