Aaron Rodgers

Rodgers: Finishing Career With Packers May Not Be Realistic

The Packers shocked the NFL world by trading up for Jordan Love. While Aaron Rodgers is under contract through 2023, his status with the Packers looks to have changed.

Although the two-time MVP understands Green Bay’s move, he now concedes he was “not thrilled” and that finishing his career with the Packers may no longer be in the cards. The 36-year-old quarterback still wants to play into his 40s.

As much as I feel confident in my abilities and what I can accomplish and what we can accomplish, there are some new factors that are out of my control. And so my sincere desire to start and finish with the same organization, just as it has with many other players over the years, may not be a reality at this point,” Rodgers said, via ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky, while adding that the Love pick did surprise him.

And as much as I understand the organization’s future outlook and wanting to make sure they’re thinking about the team now and down the line — and I respect that — at the same time, I still believe in myself and have a strong desire to play into my 40s. And I’m just not sure how that all works together at this point.”

Brett Favre said recently he no longer expects Rodgers to finish his career in Green Bay. The Packers executed one of the best baton passes in NFL history when they gave Rodgers the reins in 2008, but they have been the exception. Since Rodgers was selected in the 2005 first round, only two first-round quarterbacks — Brady Quinn and Jake Locker — did not start games as rookies. Rodgers staying healthy this season would almost certainly add Love to that list, but if the Packers do not turn things over to Love at some point during his rookie contract, they would fail to reap perhaps the top roster-building benefit the modern NFL offers.

In his first season with Matt LaFleur, Rodgers’ QBR figure dropped to a career-low 50.4 — 20th in the league — but the Packers still advanced to the NFC championship game. Green Bay would absorb a $31.6MM in dead money by moving on from Rodgers after 2020. In 2022, that number drops to $17.2MM.

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Latest On Packers’ QB Situation, Draft Plan

The person most familiar with the situation in which Aaron Rodgers now finds himself, Brett Favre said his former successor was surprised the Packers traded up for Jordan Love in Round 1. Favre also expects Rodgers to finish his career with another team.

Rodgers has four years remaining on his Packers contract, one agreed to in 2018, and has said on multiple occasions he would like to play into his 40s. The two-time MVP will turn 37 in December.

I’m not going to talk about all that we talked about, but he was … let’s just say surprised that they went in that direction,” Favre said during an appearance on the Rich Eisen Podcast (via ESPN.com). “… I think he’ll play somewhere else.

My gut tells me no,” Favre said of Rodgers finishing his career in Green Bay. “I don’t know this for certain, but I guarantee you, it’s got the wheels turning in Aaron’s mind. If that’s the case, then that means there’s a chip on his shoulder toward the organization that otherwise was not there. All he needs is a reason other than this reason to expedite that.”

GM Brian Gutekunst, who was with the Packers as a scout when predecessor Ted Thompson drafted a falling Rodgers at No. 24 overall in 2005, determined Love’s long-term potential was more valuable than picking a player who could help the 2020 Packers, Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com notes.

Gutekunst did not expect Love to fall into the mid-20s and told NBC Sports’ Peter King the Packers had him rated too highly on their board to pass. The Packers had “significant intel” a team with an early-second-round pick was targeting Love, per King. While that may have been the case, no team appeared interested in taking Love late in Round 1.

As a result of this and some surprising choices as the draft progressed, the Packers have the same wide receiver depth chart — excluding UDFAs — they did coming into the virtual event. Rodgers and some other members of the Packers organization were “enamored” with LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson, per Demovsky. Jefferson ended up going to the Vikings at No. 22. And the Packers stunned most by exiting a stacked receiver draft without selecting one.

Gutekunst told King the Packers targeted two receivers in Round 2 and made attempts to trade up with several teams. After both were picked, they ended up selecting running back A.J. Dillon at No. 62. Tee Higgins (Bengals), Michael Pittman Jr. (Colts), Laviska Shenault (Jaguars), K.J. Hamler (Broncos), Chase Claypool (Steelers), Van Jefferson (Rams) and Denzel Mims (Jets) went off the board between Nos. 33 and 59.

The Packers received historically poor production from their pass-catcher group last season. For the first time since 1977, Green Bay had just one player (Davante Adams) record more than 500 receiving yards (excluding the 1982 strike-shortened season).

They don’t draft any weapons — not just in the first round but any weapons that can help immediately, to my knowledge. And that just sends a disrespectful message to Aaron Rodgers,” Favre said. “He has every right to be disappointed if he is.”

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Packers HC, GM On Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love

The Packers caused quite a stir on Thursday night when they traded up to the No. 26 overall pick to select polarizing Utah State QB Jordan Love. Right away, the NFL world was buzzing about what the move means for Aaron Rodgers‘ future and — perhaps just as importantly — how Rodgers would react.

Head coach Matt LaFleur was asked about those issues on Saturday, and as expected, he tried to downplay the drama as much as possible.

“Aaron is a pro, and he’s the leader of our football team, and I anticipate that for a really long time,” LaFleur said (via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com). “I have so much respect for him not only as a player but the person, and some of the stuff that nobody sees. So I can’t tell you how much I like working with him.”

LaFleur, though, declined to say what he meant by “a really long time.” Rodgers, 36, is under contract through the 2023 season, and while he experienced something of a decrease in production in 2019, he was still effective and continues to look the part of a top-tier signal-caller. He has yet to speak publicly on the Love pick, but given that Green Bay made an aggressive move to select his potential successor and did little to upgrade his cadre of pass catching weapons, you can be sure that he is none too pleased.

Of course, Love is now in a very similar situation to the one that Rodgers was in when A-Rod was selected in the first round of the 2005 draft: a surprise pick who will be groomed behind a curmudgeonly legend with the unenviable task of ultimately replacing said legend. It obviously worked out for Rodgers, but we probably won’t know how it will work out for Love for a couple of years.

Packers GM Brian Gutekunst was also asked about a potential Rodgers-to-Love succession. “The reason that back when we moved from Brett [Favre] to Aaron was because of what Aaron had done his first three years here, and that’s got to happen with Jordan,” Gutekunst said. “He has to be able to do the work and he has to do that for us to make us believe that he can be a starting quarterback in the National Football League. We drafted him in the first round, we certainly think he has that kind of talent. But that’s not enough in the National Football League. You’ve got to work, you’ve got to earn it, you’ve got to become a good enough player.”

Rodgers is scheduled to carry a cap charge of over $39MM in 2022. Although Green Bay would have to absorb a significant dead money hit by releasing him prior to that season, it would also save about $22MM of cap space by doing so. So if Love progresses as the Packers hope, it would not be surprising to see them make the same difficult, but possibly necessary, transition at that time.

“Again, we have one of the best to ever lace them up, and we’re shooting for championships for as long as he’s here, and we expect him to be here for quite a while,” Gutekunst said. His definition of “quite a while,” and LaFleur’s definition of “a long time,” may be about the same: two years.

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Packers, Aaron Rodgers Rework Deal

The Packers carved out some future cap room on Friday, with some help from Aaron Rodgers. The quarterback agreed to convert $14.26MM of his $19.5MM roster bonus into a signing bonus, which allows the club to prorate the hit over five seasons, including 2019 (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Field Yates). 

It’s a common move in the NFL – Yates notes that the Lions recently agreed to a similar adjustment with Matthew Stafford‘s 2020 roster bonus, which was slated to count for $6MM against the cap.

With the move, the Packers have carved out $11.4MM in cap space for 2020. The Lions, meanwhile, have $4.8MM to work with.

Rodgers is signed through the 2023 season thanks to the four-year, $134MM extension he inked with the Packers just prior to the 2018 season. Before the deal was revised, his contract was slated to count for more than 16% of the Packers cap next year.

With a little extra breathing room, the Packers will have more dollars to fortify their roster on the open market and retain key players, including right tackle Bryan Bulaga and defensive tackle Kenny Clark.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Rodgers, Cardinals, Panthers

After playing behind Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson, Cardinals quarterback Brett Hundley is looking forward to providing teammate Kyler Murray with some essential wisdom. However, the 26-year-old made it clear that he’s not just going to hand the starting gig to the first-overall pick.

“The knowledge that I have, I’m able to pass it along to [Murray], especially through this journey of his because the NFL isn’t a sprint. It’s a long distance marathon,” Hundley said (via Jelani Scott of NFL.com). “For me, my goal has always been to start, no matter what position it’s in. I don’t play to be second. So I think that’s my number one goal, to get that starting job, and at the same time, it’s a competition for a reason.”

Hundley’s only extended stint as a starter came in 2017, when he started nine of his 11 appearances for the Packers. That season, Hundley completed 60.8-percent of his passes for 1,836 yards, nine touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. He also added another 270 rushing yards and two scores on 36 carries.

Let’s check out some more notes from around the NFC…

  • With Aaron Rodgers apparently tuning out Mike McCarthy‘s play calls, many pundits wondered how the Packers quarterback would handle a brand-new head coach. Well, Albert Breer of SI.com says the franchise quarterback is working with Matt LaFleur on a compromise. LaFleur’s system is intended to take decision-making off the quarterback’s list of responsibilities, all while allowing the offense to run quickly and more efficiently. The team is planning on using the “double call” method that was made popular by Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan, although they’ll also provide Rodgers with the freedom to adjust from there. As Breer writes, the ideal scenario is “giving Rodgers the option, but not the obligation, to make changes on the fly.”
  • Breer writes that the Panthers had an under-the-radar front office hiring this week when they added Taylor Rajack as their new director of analytics. The 27-year-old previously served on the Eagles’ analytics staff, and Philly has quickly established themselves as one of the NFL leaders in advanced stats. Breer notes that Panthers coach Ron Rivera has previously embraced the use of analytics, while new owner David Tepper made it a priority in his front office.
  • 49ers kicker Robbie Gould isn’t backing off his trade demand, and he provided some insight on the situation earlier today.

North Notes: Packers, Rudolph, Steelers

The freedom Aaron Rodgers may or may not have to change plays at the line of scrimmage has become an issue in Green Bay, and first-year Packers HC Matt LaFleur explained the concern he has with enabling his decorated quarterback to have the kind of pre-snap autonomy he did under Mike McCarthy.

One thing we have to work through is the audible thing,” LaFleur said, via Michael Silver of NFL.com, of his conversations with Rodgers. “We’re running a system I first picked up while working with Kyle (Shanahan) in Houston a decade ago, and we’ve never really had a quarterback who’s had complete freedom to change plays at the line, because that’s not really the way the offense is set up. But, I mean, this is Aaron Rodgers. He’s had a lot of freedom to make those calls, and deservedly so. Now, how do we reconcile that, and get to a place where we put him in the best position to succeed?

LaFleur would prefer Rodgers only have one play he can check to, while the 15th-year passer would like more leeway. The former Rams and Titans OC cited the pre-snap movement he’s bringing to Green Bay as a reason for the potential constraints Rodgers will face.

We move a lot more. There’s a lot more motion. There are a lot more moving parts,” LaFleur said, via Silver. “And so if you just let the quarterback have that freedom to just get to whatever, I’m afraid it would slow our guys down. Now, he is a special talent and he’s got an incredible mind, so as we move forward throughout this process he’s getting more freedom. It’s just, where is that happy medium?

Let’s look at the latest news out of the North divisions:

  • Although Kyle Rudolph received the outcome he wanted — a four-year, $36MM Vikings extension — he acknowledged the prospect of a Patriots trade. But it’s still unclear if the teams engaged in discussions. “Obviously the speculation is going to be there because of their situation at my position and then our team’s cash/cap situation and my salary,” Rudolph said, via SI.com’s Albert Breer. “So there was kind of just a natural, like, ‘Hey, Kyle’s familiar with the offense, he played for a coach (Charlie Weis, at Notre Dame) that was a coordinator there.” After signing Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Ben Watson, then cutting ASJ and nixing the Michael Roberts trade with the Lions, the Patriots still face the prospect of not having a proven tight end during Watson’s suspension.
  • The buzz about Donte Moncrief becoming Ben Roethlisberger‘s No. 2 target continues, with Mark Kaboly of The Athletic (subscription required) calling it a “slam dunk” the former Colts and Jaguars wideout will be the Steelers’ WR2. It still figures to be a collaborative effort replacing one of this generation’s best players, Antonio Brown, but it looks like Moncrief’s offseason has him in position to lead that charge.
  • Artie Burns‘ standing in Pittsburgh is certainly not on the same level, and the Steelers face a decision on the underwhelming first-round cornerback. The team has until the third day of training camp to waive Burns and save $800K, but Kaboly notes that if the fourth-year corner has not yet been cut, the Steelers are probably planning to give him another shot. Regardless, Kaboly expects this to be Burns’ final year in Pittsburgh.

North Rumors: Rodgers, Steelers, Bears

Tasked with adjusting to a new offense for the first time in his tenure as an NFL starter, Aaron Rodgers showed a bit of resistance to Matt LaFleur‘s new attack this week. At least, the Packers‘ future Hall of Fame quarterback does not want to be limited at the line of scrimmage. The first-year head coach’s system does not feature the same kind of pre-snap flexibility Rodgers previously enjoyed.

I don’t think you want me to turn off 11 years. There’s stuff that not many people in the league can do at the line,” Rodgers said during an interview with NFL.com’s Michael Silver (Twitter link). “That’s not a humble brag. That’s just a fact.

LaFleur said earlier this offseason the plan will be for Rodgers to either run the called play or switch to one alternative, and Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel anticipates some pushback on this. A detailed story this offseason examined Rodgers’ checkered history with Mike McCarthy, so the Packers are facing a crucial season — one in which their two-time MVP turn 36 — so getting their passer and head coach on the same page figures to be essential. While LaFleur said this week he does not want to minimize Rodgers’ penchant for off-script brilliance, it does appear the Packers have some sorting out to accomplish.

Here is the latest news out of the North divisions:

  • Although Teryl Austin‘s title with the Steelers is senior defensive assistant/secondary, the former Lions and Bengals DC will have another key game-day responsibility. Austin will be Mike Tomlin‘s unofficial replay-review coach. Austin said, via Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he will watch every play that generated a replay review from the 2018 season to prepare for his new role. Tomlin has won just two of his past 14 challenges, dating back to the beginning of the 2016 season, Dulac notes, adding the 13th-year coach is 0-for-12 on fourth-down challenges during his career.
  • As for Austin’s role instructing Pittsburgh’s secondary, the Steelers have deviated from a plan that meant for their new hire to coach one position and secondary coach Tom Bradley another. They are sharing responsibilities leading that unit, per Dulac.
  • Antonio Brown‘s exit leaves the Steelers perhaps the biggest void in the NFL, given his production as the team’s top wide receiver for most of this decade, and the Steelers may have to fill the JuJu Smith-Schuster sidekick role as a group. But among the James WashingtonDonte MoncriefDiontae Johnson contingent, Ben Roethlisberger (via Ray Fittipaldo of the Post-Gazette) singled out Moncrief as having the best offseason. Still just 25, Moncrief posted 668 yards for the Jaguars last season.
  • Another North-division surprise factor: large Bears tight end Bradley Sowell. The converted tackle’s switch to tight end appears legitimate, with Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com called the 6-foot-7, 312-pound veteran a legitimate threat for regular playing time — rather than this being a gimmicky or in-case-of-emergency position change. Sowell played tight end on 30 snaps last season but may be working toward a usage bump.

North Notes: Steelers, Packers, Vikings

Details of Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown‘s January domestic dispute have been released via a police report, as Andy Slater of the 640 The Hurricane tweets. Per the report from the Hollywood, Florida police department, Brown allegedly pushed the mother of his daughter to the ground. The woman was reportedly dropping off Brown’s daughter and requested reimbursement for the child’s recent hair appointment. As she blocked Brown from closing his front door, Brown allegedly used both hands to push her down. No arrest was made following the incident, and Brown’s attorney has refuted any wrongdoing on the part of the star wideout, per Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The NFL is planning to investigate the episode, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two North divisions:

  • Aaron Rodgers‘ 2020 $19.5MM roster bonus became fully guaranteed today, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN.com (Twitter link), virtually ensuring what we already knew: Rodgers will be the Packers‘ quarterback for at least two seasons. Rodgers, 35, inked a four-year, $134MM extension last August that made him the NFL’s highest-paid quarterback by a wide margin. He’s collecting $33.5MM annually, $3.5MM more per year than Matt Ryan. Rodgers finished in 10th in adjusted net yards per attempt (the passing stat which correlates most with winning) in 2018, but ranked just 20th in ESPN’s Total QBR, a metric based on expected points.
  • The Vikings already moved former tackle Mike Remmers to guard in 2018, and they may end up doing the same with their blindside protector. Minnesota is considering shifting left tackle Riley Reiff to guard, sources tell Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Reiff, 30, has played tackle in all 105 of his NFL appearances, and he’s played it quite well: in 2018, Pro Football Focus ranked him as the 23rd-best tackle in the league. Per Goessling, the Vikings will take an “open approach” to rebuilding their offensive line, meaning they’ll search for new players in free agency and the draft before finalizing their front five configuration.
  • The structure of Everson Griffen‘s 2017 extension could end up making him a viable candidate for release as the Vikings enter the offseason, as Goessling writes in a separate piece. Per the terms of Griffen’s deal, he received nearly $19MM in new guarantees, but that money has already been paid out in his 2017-18 base salaries and roster bonuses. As Goessling notes, cutting Griffen after a year in which he dealt with mental health issues could seem cruel, but the club could save $10.7MM in cap space by doing so.
  • The Steelers have hired Adrian Klemm as assistant offensive line coach, the club announced this week. Pittsburgh lost offensive line coach Mike Munchak to the Broncos earlier this offseason, and replaced him by promoting Shaun Sarrett from within. Klemm, 41, enjoyed a six-year playing career with the Patriots and Packers before joining the collegiate coaching ranks in 2006. Most recently, Klemm was the offensive line coach/run game coordinator at UCLA from 2012-16.
  • Armed with the third-most cap space in the NFL, the Browns have begun to consider extensions for their current players. Cleveland has initiated talks with “most of” a group that includes linebacker Joe Schobert, safety Damarious Randall, tackle Greg Robinson, and receiver Rashard Higgins, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Schobert and Randall are still under contract through 2019, Higgins is scheduled to become a restricted free agent next month, and Robinson will be an unrestricted free agent.

Packers Notes: LaFleur, Rodgers, Murphy

Here’s the latest on the Packers and new head coach Matt LaFleur:

  • LaFleur will report directly to team president/CEO Mark Murphy, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). Such arrangements can lead to problems sometimes in the NFL, but GM Brian Gutekunst is presumably on board with the plan.
  • LaFleur told reporters that he that he had the opportunity to speak with Aaron Rodgers prior to accepting the job. “I cannot wait to get to work with him. I think he’s equally excited,” LaFleur said of Rodgers (Twitter link via Olivia Reiner of the team website).
  • The Packers interviewed a number of candidates for the job, but Murphy was unimpressed by everyone outside of LaFleur “Quite honestly, no one stood out,” Murphy said (Twitter link via Pelissero). After talking with other coaches, they interviewed LaFleur in Nashville on Sunday afternoon and found him to be “the most prepared candidate.”

Jim Caldwell Has Interviewed For Packers HC

Just before Christmas, it was reported that former Lions and Colts head coach Jim Caldwell would be a head coaching candidate in 2019. Just a few days later, he has apparently already interviewed for the vacancy in Green Bay, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports (Twitter link). 

The vacancy, of course, is the helm left after the team fired longtime head coach Mike McCarthy earlier in the season. A longtime quarterbacks coach, Caldwell would seemingly be a solid addition to work with Aaron Rodgers. In his career, Caldwell has worked with franchise quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning and Matthew Stafford.

However, Rodgers seemingly put his support behind interim head coach Joe Philbin after this past week’s win, according to Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal.

During his run as a head coach, Caldwell has amassed a 62-50 record and delivered three winning seasons in four campaigns with Detroit after the team logged just two such seasons in the previous 16 years before his arrival.

Before that, Caldwell was a longtime assistant with the Colts who became Indianapolis’ head coach in 2009 after Tony Dungy retired. He guided his club to an AFC championship in his first season at the helm and the Colts lost the Super Bowl that year. They returned to the playoffs in 2010, but finished 2011 with a 2-14 record after the season-long injury to Manning and Caldwell was fired at the end of the season.

Caldwell is a Wisconsin native who was born and raised in Beloit, just across the border from Illinois.

 

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