Packers Rumors

Latest On Packers, Aaron Rodgers

The first two rounds of this long-running Aaron Rodgers-Packers drama produced fireworks — particularly in the 2021 offseason — but no separation. Although Rodgers headlines have been an NFL constant for the past three years, round three is upon us.

After two years of Rodgers and the Packers standing down and finding common ground, the two sides are cognizant the long-rumored divorce may finally come to fruition. The Packers trading Rodgers at some point this offseason is a “very real scenario,” Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports (video link).

A deal would be complicated, due to Rodgers’ complex extension agreed to in March 2022, and it would not be expected to involve NFC suitors. The Packers should only be expected to send the four-time MVP to the AFC, Schefter adds (video link). Rodgers was linked to AFC teams — primarily the Broncos — for two offseasons, but he patched things up with the Packers two years ago and signed the three-year, $150.8MM extension months later. Denver moved on, via the Russell Wilson trade, but other AFCers will be interested if Rodgers truly becomes a trade chip.

Rodgers, 39, is owed a $58.3MM bonus payment this year, and while the future Hall of Famer said he has not committed to playing a 19th season, it would be fairly surprising if he walked away given the money in this equation. Structured as an option bonus, the monster payout only translates to a $31.6MM cap hit — if Rodgers is a Packer in 2023. If Rodgers is dealt, however, the team acquiring the superstar passer would have him on its books at just $15.79MM in 2023. That stands to increase the aging QB’s trade value.

Because the option can be paid at any point before the season, the Packers have months to decide on a trade. Though, Rodgers being dealt early would stand to help him acclimate to his next team and give the Packers more time to prepare for Love’s first starter season. The Packers would be best served to trade their current starter after June 1, when the dead-money hit would be just $15.8MM (along with a $24.5MM charge in 2024). A pre-June 1 trade would tag the Pack with $40.3MM dead-cap hit.

Rodgers said a contract adjustment would need to happen for him to play in 2023, citing the near-$60MM bonus, but he is open to making such a move to accommodate the Packers or another team.

There’s a lot of teams, because of COVID, that are strapped, and you’re seeing with a lot of different contracts, they’re pushing more money out in deals,” Rodgers said during his latest Pat McAfee Show appearance (via ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky). “They’re creating void years to allow for an easier cap hit, so there would have to be some adjustments, for sure.”

Matt LaFleur said he wants Rodgers back, and Brian Gutekunst did not entertain the prospect of a trade earlier this month. But the sixth-year GM noted Jordan Love is ready to play. Green Bay must decide on the former first-rounder’s fully guaranteed 2024 option by May. Gutekunst said a scenario in which the team rolls out a Rodgers-Love depth chart for a fourth straight year is in play, but a trade would both clear a Love path and arm the Packers with valuable draft capital. The Packers should be expected to ask for at least two first-round picks, Peter King of NBC Sports writes.

Of course, the Packers would run the risk of a steep drop in QB quality by trading Rodgers. The franchise has rostered Hall of Fame-bound talents at the position since 1992. It did, however, execute the Brett Favre-to-Rodgers handoff — a clunky but effective baton pass that occurred ahead of Favre’s age-39 season — by trading Favre to the Jets during training camp in 2008. Rodgers turned 39 last month. The 15-year Packers starter dropped from first in QBR in 2021 to 26th this season. Green Bay’s diminished receiver situation contributed to that dip — during a season that included zero 300-yard passing performances, along with thumb, knee and rib injuries — but Rodgers’ value might not be what it was when the trade topic first surfaced ahead of the 2021 draft.

A no-trade clause is not present in Rodgers’ contract, but he would certainly be signing off on his destination before the Packers moved him. The Jets, who traded for Favre during owner Woody Johnson‘s ownership tenure, have long been connected to acquiring a veteran. The Raiders have been linked to reuniting Josh McDaniels with Tom Brady or Jimmy Garoppolo, but they were linked to Rodgers two years ago. Receiver-wise, the Titans situation reminds of Rodgers’ Green Bay setup. But they make some sense as a suitor as well. A few teams will be interested, and if Rodgers is an AFC-only trade piece, it increases Derek Carr‘s odds of being dealt to an NFC team. However, Carr and Garoppolo are set to be available in February and March, respectively. It may take longer for a team to land Rodgers.

The Pack taking their time on a Rodgers trade, for money-defraying purposes, would put potential suitors to major decisions. While franchises will want to solidify their QB situations by April, the latest round of Rodgers trade rumblings may dominate yet another offseason.

2023 Offensive/Defensive Coordinator Search Tracker

As the head coaching carousel spins, many of the league’s offensive and defensive coordinator positions are open as well. Teams seeking new head coaches will soon begin OC and DC searches — some have already started those processes — but a handful of other teams that did not make HC changes are also searching for top assistants.

The Browns and Patriots have begun 2023’s coordinator hires. Here are the rest of the teams searching for new OCs and DCs. As new searches emerge, they will be added to the list.

Updated 1-26-23 (10:06pm CT)

Offensive Coordinators

Baltimore Ravens (Out: Greg Roman)

Los Angeles Chargers (Out: Joe Lombardi)

Los Angeles Rams (Out: Liam Coen)

New York Jets (Out: Mike LaFleur)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Out: Byron Leftwich)

Tennessee Titans (Out: Todd Downing)

Washington Commanders (Out: Scott Turner)

Defensive Coordinators

Atlanta Falcons (Out: Dean Pees)

Carolina Panthers 

Miami Dolphins (Out: Josh Boyer)

Minnesota Vikings (Out: Ed Donatell)

QB Rumors: Packers, Carr, Burrow, Colts

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is expected to play in 2023, per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler (video link). Fowler cites the ~$60MM balloon payment that Rodgers is due between March and the start of the 2023 regular season as a motivating factor for the four-time MVP, and assuming he does want to suit up, Green Bay will have to decide if it wants him back or wants to seek a trade.

The club’s top power brokers, GM Brian Gutekunst and HC Matt LaFleur, have publicly indicated they want Rodgers back in Wisconsin, which could — in Fowler’s estimation — force Jordan Love to request a trade. The 2020 first-rounder believes he is ready to become a QB1, and as he is entering the final year of his rookie deal, now would be a good time for him to get that chance.

Here are more QB rumors from around the league:

  • In the same piece linked above, Fowler says that the Derek Carr sweepstakes will start to heat up as we get closer to the Super Bowl. Carr, whose contract with the Raiders includes a no-trade clause, is beginning to do his homework on possible landing spots, and Fowler hears (unsurprisingly) that the Jets, Saints, and Commanders are expected to have interest. Several clubs have already reached out to Las Vegas to lay the groundwork for trade talks.
  • Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow will be eligible for an extension when Cincinnati’s season comes to an end, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports that the club wants to get a new deal done this offseason. A Burrow extension will be hugely expensive, and owner Mike Brown and Burrow himself acknowledged the challenges that such a deal creates for roster construction (via Ben Baby of ESPN.com). Of course, the Bengals will have to operate within the same salary cap confines as every other team in the league, but as Rapoport observes, the small-market franchise does have more cash on hand these days thanks in large part to the success that the team has enjoyed with Burrow under center.
  • In a comprehensive piece that is well-worth a read for Colts fans, a piece that details owner Jim Irsay‘s increasingly impulsive decision-making and the ensuing fallout, Zak Keefer of The Athletic (subscription required) says that Irsay wanted to draft and develop a rookie QB in the 2021 draft. However, then-head coach Frank Reich convinced Irsay that he could resuscitate Carson Wentz‘s career. When that experiment went awry, Irsay began to lose faith in Reich, who apologized to his boss for his misstep. The team again opted for an established passer last offseason when it engineered the Matt Ryan trade, and in light of that failure, Adam Jahns of The Athletic (subscription required) believes Indianapolis is finally going to eschew the veteran QB route. The Colts, armed with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2023 draft, are in prime position to select a top collegiate signal-caller and could trade up to land the player of their choice.
  • Dolphins GM Chris Grier recently confirmed reports that Tua Tagovailoa will be the team’s starting quarterback in 2023, as Daniel Oyefusi of the Miami Herald writes. Grier says the medical professionals he has consulted have told him that the concussions Tagovailoa suffered this season will not make him more prone to concussions going forward. He also said “everything’s on the table for us” when asked if the team would exercise Tagovailoa’s fifth-year option for 2024 and/or engage in extension talks.
  • The Jets may keep 2021 first-rounder Zach Wilson on the roster in 2023, but the team is widely expected to pursue a veteran like Carr or Rodgers to upgrade the quarterback position. Apparently, that will be a welcome development for some of Wilson’s teammates and coaches, who “rejoiced” when Wilson was benched in favor of Mike White in November and who were disappointed when Wilson was reinserted into the lineup following White’s rib injuries (via Zack Rosenblatt of The Athletic (subscription required)). Regardless of whether Wilson’s apologies to his teammates in the wake of his failure to accept much blame for his poor performance in New York’s Week 11 loss to the Patriots helped him regain the respect of the locker room, the consensus seems to be that he is not the passer who will guide the Jets back to the playoffs.

Bears Request Interviews With Commanders’ Chris Harris, Packers’ Jerry Gray

The Bears requested interviews yesterday with two names that have been brought up in defensive coordinator searches recently. They requested permission to interview Washington defensive backs coach Chris Harris for an unspecified position on the defensive staff, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. Jonathan Jones of NFL on CBS similarly reported that Chicago requested permission to interview Packers defensive pass game coordinator and defensive backs coach Jerry Gray for an “as-yet-undefined” role on the defensive staff.

Harris is a former All-Pro safety who began his NFL coaching career immediately after retiring as a player. He started off as a defensive quality control coach for the team that drafted him in Chicago. Harris was not retained after the firing of then-head coach Marc Trestman, and he joined the Chargers as the assistant defensive backs coach, moving with the team from San Diego to Los Angeles. When Ron Rivera was hired as head coach in Washington, Harris was granted a promotion to defensive backs coach, a position he’s held for the past three seasons with the Commanders.

The past couple of years have seen Harris participate in a few interviews for defensive coordinator positions. He was reportedly a finalist for the Packers coordinator job two years ago and interviewed with the Colts last year. Harris’s name came up today when Tennessee also requested to interview him. If he were to join the Titans, it’s presumed that he would come into the role of passing game coordinator, in addition to his usual position coaching gig.

Gray has actual coordinator experience from his time with the Bills and Titans. The 60-year-old coach was also requested to interview for the defensive coordinator position in Atlanta a week ago. After the Falcons’ former defensive coordinator, Dean Pees, announced his retirement, Gray’s name quickly came up as a replacement candidate. Gray’s defensive units have put up middling results over the years, but his experience calling plays makes him an attractive candidate to replace Pees, who has been doing so since 2012.

With defensive coordinator Alan Williams still in the position for the Bears, neither Harris nor Gray are likely being interviewed for his role. More likely, they are being considered for the role of passing game coordinator. Harris makes the most sense, considering his history with the franchise, but Gray has more experience in larger roles. The Bears should get to talk with both in the days to come.

Colts Conduct HC Interview With Rich Bisaccia

Staying true to their stated intentions of a widespread search for their next full-time head coach, the Colts’ list of HC candidates continues to grow. The team announced on Friday that they have completed an interview with Packers special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia.

The 62-year-old has a thorough background as an NFL assistant, having served on five different pro staffs. In each case, he worked primarily on special teams, establishing himself as one of the league’s most well-respected third phase coaches. He expanded his duties on a temporary basis last season, however.

In the wake of Jon Gruden‘s resignation from the Raiders in 2021, Bisaccia took over as head coach on an interim basis. He led Vegas to a 7-5 record down the stretch, which was enough to secure a surprising playoff berth. That level of success earned him an interview to retain the position on a full-time basis, but the organization pivoted to ex-Patriots staffers both in the front office (hiring GM Dave Ziegler) and on the sidelines (hiring Josh McDaniels).

Bisaccia also interviewed in Jacksonville last offseason, but he ultimately ended up making a lateral move to Green Bay. The Packers entered the offseason once again looking for a solution to their long-standing special teams problems, and the team saw notable improvement in that department. Green Bay ranked 17th in special teams DVOA in 2022, after finishing dead last the year before.

One element of their success was the play of first-team All-Pro returner Keisean Nixon. The former UDFA led the NFL in kick return yards, including a 105-yarder which led to his only touchdown. His 25.6 return average ranked fourth in the league, and has helped put Bisaccia back on the HC radar for the 2023 cycle. This is the latter’s first interview of the winter.

With Bisaccia having sat down with the Colts, here is an updated breakdown of their ongoing search:

Falcons Request DC Interviews With Jerry Gray, Ryan Nielsen

The Falcons have reportedly hit a roadblock with their first target to take on their vacant defensive coordinator position. Two new names have quickly emerged as candidates the team is interested in meeting with, however.

Atlanta has put in an interview request with Packers defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator Jerry Gray, per Benjamin Albright of KOA Colorado (Twitter link). A sit-down is expected to take place next week, Albright adds. That news comes as little surprise, given the fact that Gray was quickly named as a candidate to replace Falcons DC Dean Pees following his retirement announcement.

Gray, 60, has NFL coaching experience dating back to 1997. His time on the sidelines at the pro level began in Tennessee, and includes a stint as the Bills’ DC from 2001-05. Gray ultimately found himself back with the Titans in 2011, when he took charge of their defense. His unit put up generally sub-par numbers during his time in Nashville, aside from his first year in charge where the team’s defense ranked eighth in scoring.

In addition, the Falcons have their eyes on the Saints’ Ryan Nielsen, Bruce Feldman of The Athletic tweets. The 43-year-old has exclusively worked with New Orleans during his time as an NFL staffer, beginning with the team in 2017. He spent five years working strictly with the defensive line, before being promoted to the role of co-DC this past offseason.

That move was necessitated by Dennis Allen being promoted to New Orleans’ head coach, of course, and increased Nielson’s importance (along with that of Kris Richard) to the Saints’ defense. The unit delivered a strong performance in 2022, ranking fifth in the league in yards allowed and ninth in scoring. That wasn’t enough to guide the Saints to a postseason berth given their offensive struggles, but it likely boosted Nielson’s stock as a high-end coordinator candidate.

Either option would bring significant experience to the rebuilding Falcons’ defense, so they could be serious candidates for the job. Atlanta is expected to cast a wide net in their search for Pees’ successor, however, so their list of interviewees is likely to grow in the coming days.

Packers GM Addresses QB Situation

Delivering an earlier-than-usual autopsy of the Packers’ season, Brian Gutekunst addressed what has already become a third straight offseason of Aaron Rodgers-driven uncertainty.

The sixth-year Packers GM said Jordan Love is “definitely” ready to play, indicating (via The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman, on Twitter) the three-year backup is “chomping at the bit” to become the team’s starter. When asked which quarterback would give the Packers the best chance to win next season, Gutekunst deferred to Rodgers’ four MVP honors.

[RELATED: Matt LaFleur Wants Rodgers Back In 2023]

Once the object of Rodgers ire, Gutekunst earned his way back into the future Hall of Famer’s good graces to close out a turbulent 2021. Rodgers ended up signing a three-year, $150.8MM extension in March 2022. That record-setting contract does give the Packers some flexibility, allowing a $58MM bonus to be paid at any point in 2023. That opens the door for a trade, and Rodgers said last week his Green Bay future may not be entirely up to him. Rodgers, 39, looks to also be considering retirement.

Gutekunst did not entertain the prospect of a Rodgers trade when asked about it Friday and said he can see a scenario in which Rodgers and Love are on the roster together for a fourth season, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Silverstein tweets. The Packers have received criticism for using a first-round pick on Love and sitting him for three seasons, effectively squandering the rookie-contract resource that has been so valuable to teams who have taken first-round QBs since the 2011 CBA reshaped rookie deals. The Packers must decide on Love’s fully guaranteed fifth-year option in May.

Love is on Green Bay’s payroll at $3.94MM for 2023; Rodgers would check in with a $31.62MM cap number. Unless the Packers trade Rodgers or he retires, the team could conceivably run back a Rodgers-Love depth chart for a fourth straight year. Given how far the team has pushed the Love apprenticeship, it would make sense to — NFL norms be damned — extend that into 2023. But the Packers’ QB depth chart is not yet certain. Gutekunst said (via Silverstein, on Twitter) he wants both players back and that Rodgers will take his time and regularly communicate with the team.

Rodgers fell off the MVP perch this season, with the Packers’ controversial strategy at wide receiver impacting the superstar QB’s performance. Gutekunst said as much Friday, indicating (via Silverstein) the Davante Adams trade played a role in Rodgers’ numbers dipping in 2022. Thumb and rib injuries plagued Rodgers this season as well, leading to Love making an intriguing cameo in Philadelphia. The Packers staying in the NFC wild-card race kept Love on the bench. QBR was particularly harsh on Rodgers, dropping him from first (in 2021) to 26th. Trade interest would undoubtedly come, were the Packers to consider it this time around. They resisted Broncos interest in 2021, and Rodgers decided to stay in Green Bay via the extension last year.

Regardless of Rodgers’ status, Gutekunst said restructures are a near-certainty. Early projections have the Packers at $13MM over the 2023 cap, though the 2023 salary ceiling has not yet been finalized. Gutekunst expects both Aaron Jones and David Bakhtiari to return next season as well (Twitter links via Schenidman and ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky).

Jones’ cap number balloons to $5.9MM to $20MM next season; a restructure would knock that down while adding to future cap figures. Bakhtiari’s cap figure will spike from $13.4MM to $29.1MM. While the All-Pro left tackle returned to action this season, the knee trouble that shelved him in 2021 limited him to 11 games this season. Bakhtiari, who has missed 30 games since the 2020 season (counting playoff tilts), said recently he does not intend to retire.

NFL Reserve/Futures Contracts: 1/10/23

Many teams started signing players to reserve/futures contracts yesterday, allowing the organization to retain (routinely) young, practice squad players throughout the offseason. Here are the latest reserve/futures contracts:

Arizona Cardinals

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

New England Patriots

New York Jets

Pittsburgh Steelers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Commanders

Packers HC Matt LaFleur Open To Nathaniel Hackett Return, Endorses DC Joe Barry

Plenty of changes have already taken place on the sidelines in the NFL with the regular season now complete, but it does not appear that Green Bay will be the site of much turnover in that regard. One exception could be a reunion with a familiar face.

When speaking to the media, head coach Matt LaFleur said he is open to the possibility of former offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett coming back to his staff. The latter left last offseason to become the Broncos’ head coach, a move which did not end well, to say the least. Hackett was fired before the season – his first as a bench boss – had come to an end with the Broncos falling well short of expectations, particularly on offense.

The 43-year-old had previously spent three seasons in Green Bay as the team’s OC, albeit one who did not call plays. The same is now true of Adam Stenavich, who, as ESPN’s Rob Demovsky notes, is expected to remain in his current post regardless of whether or not Hackett is brought back. A reunion is something which LaFleur said he has “definitely entertained” though he admitted that his evaluation process of the staff has only just begun.

One other noteworthy change which could come about as a result of that process is LaFleur ceding play-calling duties. Such a move is one he has considered in the past, but, in light of the team’s middling defensive performance and discipline issues, one which would allow him to address other areas of the team.

“As far as the playcalling’s concerned, yeah that’s crossed my mind in terms of I want to do whatever’s best for us to have success,” LaFleur said. “If we feel like that is the best way for us to win games, then I would 100% hand that over.”

As for defensive coordinator Joe Barry, LaFleur gave an endorsement in favor of his return in 2023. The Packers were expected to lean on the strength of their defense more so this season than previous ones in no small part due to the team’s continued investment on that side of the ball. The unit finished the campaign ranked 17th in both points (21.8) and yards (337) allowed per game, though their secondary fared better than those overall statistics suggest. Despite Barry’s performance coming under fire during Green Bay’s five-game losing streak in particular, LaFleur reiterated that he expects Barry to be retained.

“I don’t really anticipate a whole lot, if any staff changes at all,” LaFleur said. “I do believe in the people, not only in the locker room, but our coaching staff… It’s my intention to try and have everybody back. I think continuity is a big part of having success in this league.”

After an 8-9 season which ended without a playoff berth, many questions will be asked this offseason in Green Bay. If LaFleur has his way, however, significant alterations to his staff will not be forthcoming.

Minor NFL Transactions: 1/9/23

A few transactions on the first day of the postseason:

Dallas Cowboys

Indianapolis Colts

New England Patriots

Bailey and Jones’s suspension was lifted today by the Patriots. In addition, free agent tight end Chris Herndon and Packers offensive lineman Sean Rhyan‘s suspensions were lifted by the league.