It’s better to move on a year too soon than a year too late. Unfortunately for the Green Bay Packers, they missed their best opportunity to trade Aaron Rodgers.
Green Bay should’ve turned to Jordan Love a year ago, traded Rodgers for a boatload of draft picks, and started a new era.
The Denver Broncos gave up two first-round picks, two second-rounders, one fifth-rounder, tight end Noah Fant, defensive tackle Shelby Harris, and quarterback Drew Lock in a trade for Russell Wilson last offseason.
Trading Rodgers to Denver likely would’ve resulted in something similar.
The Packers could’ve still traded Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders. The result could’ve been three first-round picks in 2022 and two more this year after both trades.
They would’ve had the entire 2022 season to evaluate Jordan Love and determine whether he is their long-term answer at quarterback, just in time to make a decision on his fifth-year option this spring.
Instead, the Packers gave Aaron Rodgers a massive contract extension.
After last year’s heartbreaking playoff exit to the San Francisco 49ers, the Packers had missed two huge opportunities, the first by not making the Super Bowl in 2020, and then failing to cash in on home-field advantage yet again in 2021.
Their opportunity had passed. With so many free agents and limited cap space, running it back was always going to be a big ask.
Instead, the Packers went 8-9, missed the postseason, and now have all the same questions to answer as last year.
What’s next for Rodgers? Is Love ready? How do they create cap space?
But they are in a worse position than 12 months ago. Rodgers’ new deal hurts the Packers’ salary cap, no matter whether he stays, retires, or is traded. The Packers can’t release him due to the dead cap hit they would be left with.
Love still hasn’t had an opportunity and the Packers must decide whether to exercise his fifth-year option this spring.
Even if the Packers trade Rodgers, it’s unlikely they would get the boatload of picks in return they could’ve demanded a year ago following back-to-back MVP seasons.
Yet, there is talk of running it back again?
Maybe Gutekunst is just giving the standard annual “we want all our players back” answer that every general manager gives, but he sure gave the impression during his press conference that the Packers want Rodgers back.
That leaves the decision to Rodgers, who may retire.
But if Rodgers returns, the Packers aren’t starting a rebuild. They would need to keep pushing money into future years to ensure they can retain key players like David Bakhtiari and Aaron Jones.
Would a Rodgers return mean re-signing Randall Cobb and Allen Lazard? What about defensive starters like Adrian Amos and veteran kicker Mason Crosby?
The Packers tried that approach a year ago, and it failed big time. They lost more games than they won, missed the playoffs, and created more salary cap issues for the future.
Why would 2023 be any different? The Packers could lose several starters in free agency.
Will Aaron Rodgers bounce back to his MVP best?
Yes, he played through a broken thumb for much of the season, but let’s not forget the offense wasn’t exactly firing before then.
In the opening four games, Rodgers threw for 935 yards, six touchdowns, and three interceptions, with the offense averaging just 18.8 points per game.
In Week 5 against the New York Giants, the offense scored 20 first-half points but got shut out in the second half. That was before his injury.
As for the defense, a lot of work is required to turn things around.
Green Bay had the 26th-ranked run defense in 2022. An inability to stop the run hurt them in their season-ending defeat to the Detroit Lions.
This isn’t a team in Super Bowl contention. The window slammed shut when the 49ers eliminated them last January.
All running it back does is worsen the salary cap problem and waste another season.
It’s time to start over. Trade Rodgers (if he decides to keep playing) and rebuild around Jordan Love.
It. Is. Time.