GREEN BAY, Wis. -- There are four major players in the Aaron Rodgers contract situation with the Green Bay Packers: Rodgers himself (represented by agent David Dunn), general manager Brian Gutekunst, coach Matt LaFleur and team president Mark Murphy.
None of them have said much of late.
Rodgers’ future was thrown into question nearly a year ago, when Gutekunst traded up to pick quarterback Jordan Love in the first round. Since then, Rodgers won his third career NFL MVP and got the Packers back to the NFC Championship Game. Shortly thereafter, Rodgers wondered aloud that his future in Green Bay was uncertain. The team then restructured the contracts of six veteran players to gain salary-cap relief but surprisingly haven’t touched Rodgers’ deal, meaning it could move on after this season and save up to $25 million in cap space.
Rodgers reiterated nothing has changed from his perspective. He’s under contract through 2023 with no adjustments agreed upon to financially ensure he’s not entering a lame-duck year, and Dunn has not returned messages.
Murphy recently declined to answer three questions about why the Packers haven’t given Rodgers that assurance.
Gutekunst and LaFleur both made verbal commitments to Rodgers shortly after the season.
Until something changes, that’s about all anyone is going to get from those directly involved.
To get some clarity on what each party might be thinking, ESPN contacted an agent, a high-ranking scout, a veteran assistant coach and a front-office executive and gave them anonymity so they could share their unvarnished opinions on what each party might be thinking and what course of action they might take.
The agent’s take
“If I was Aaron’s agent, I mean, he has more leverage than anybody else in the country. But what can you do in this situation? That’s the thing. It’s really hard to say without knowing what conversations have occurred. Because what I’ve also heard is Aaron is stubborn, and who knows that they’re not offering up a palatable situation that is a middle ground and he’s saying ‘F--- that -- I’m not budging and do it the way I want to do it or not.’
“I’m going to assume that some sort of middle ground has been attempted by the Packers, and I’m going to assume right now that Aaron is not listening to it. So if I’m Aaron’s agent, if I have to cater to my guy, and I have to find a way to communicate to my guy and I have to find a way to make the whole situation palatable for him in his own perception because his ego is such that if you don’t make it that, then there’s nothing ever going to happen.
“I don’t know who’s really calling shots there, whether it’s (chief contract negotiator) Russ (Ball), Gutey, Murphy, whoever. But it’s screwing the Packers in a lot of ways right now because there’s just no cap space. They’ve called me about one of my players and said ‘Hey, this is where we are now, and until we get something big done -- hint, hint -- we don’t have any space.’ It’s kind of like a lose-lose situation right now. That’s what [is] surprising to me is, you’d think there would be a middle-ground situation to get something done.
“But here’s the other thing. I don’t know why he’s so worried about it. He’s the best player in the league. So what, they drafted Jordan Love? Who cares? But here’s the thing with players: They just want to be shown how much they’re loved and don’t want any sort of sign that they’re not the man. Look, I get it from Aaron’s perspective. But the team has to have a backup, and it might as well be a young guy and maybe he never plays.”
The personnel perspective
“I would’ve redone his contract, got some more money under the cap and went out and bought a receiver. I get why you might not need to extend it, because he’s got three years left and he’ll be 40 by then, but I might adjust it and give him some more money just so that he’s the highest-paid quarterback again. You can move money around. But I’m not going to give him five years. I would add more money to the final two years, and then I would go sign another legitimate receiver.
“They need somebody that can take the pressure off Davante [Adams] and make plays as well. [Marquez] Valdes-Scantling is fine if he’s your [No. 3] or 4 or 5 [receiver]. If he’s your fifth receiver, then you’ve got great depth. [Allen] Lazard is a good possession guy, but when they get into the big games, those guys can’t make enough plays. And they’re successful because of Aaron. Davante is successful with or without Aaron.
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“But, yeah, I’d commit to Aaron -- why wouldn’t you? He’s still playing at a high level. What am I going to do, go with Jordan Love next year? He’s signed through 2023, right? You know Aaron’s got a chip on his shoulder, so he’s not going easy. He’s going to play as well as he did last year again, and if he does that, I’m keeping him. I’m keeping him as long as he’s playing at a high level.
“When Brett [Favre] was there, he had a quarterback who was comparable to Brett. And some might say Aaron was even the better quarterback. But that’s not it in this case.”
The coach’s call
“If I’m Matt LaFleur, I make sure Aaron knows I’m in his corner, and based on the way Aaron has reacted to the coaching change the last two years, I’d say he’s done a good job of that. A couple years ago, everyone around the league wondered if Aaron was even coachable anymore and look what he’s done. He embraced the change. Now, what choice did he have? But he embraced it, and people there say his leadership has been just as good as his play -- off the charts.
“So even if LaFleur liked Love and sees the same stuff Gutey saw coming out, he’s smart enough to know that he needs Rodgers. Gutey might get another shot at it without Rodgers, but will the coaches? If they fail after Rodgers, they’re gone and Gutey’s picking another quarterback.
“So, look, I don’t know Matt at all, but he’s obviously done something right, and if I’m him, I keep telling Rodgers, ‘I’ve got nothing to do with what they’re doing upstairs. I’m here to win with you.’ Isn’t that basically what he said after the season?”
“The first thing I’m doing is not adding any outside stressors to this deal. I’m not sure why [Murphy] didn’t answer the questions the other day when you guys brought it up. That no-comment thing didn’t do anyone any good. It didn’t help Aaron, and it didn’t help the Packers.
“Now, hey, I get it, things are run different there without an owner. It’s a different setup and a different structure than the other 31 places in the league. Nobody else can really put themselves in [Murphy’s] shoes because he’s in such a weird spot. He has to act as the owner, but it’s not his team. It’s not his money.
“If it’s Jerry Jones up there or Bob Kraft up there, he just says, ‘This is a bunch of bulls--- and Aaron is our guy and we’re going to work on making sure of that.’ Even if it’s B.S., just say it. You know how this business is, people B.S. all the time, and if someone calls you out on it down the road, who the heck cares? It’s liar’s poker. That’s what the NFL is, really.
“But Murphy probably doesn’t want to make it seem like he’s meddling in football, so he goes the no-comment route. But that didn’t help. Like I said, if I’m up there and we’re taking heat for not doing anything, I’m going to assure my people that Aaron’s the guy and we’re working on it -- even if we’re not.”