Coming into the offseason, the Packers’ confidence appeared low in the 2020 first-round pick being prepared to make starts this season. That view seems to have changed, to some degree. Love made progress after handling a busy workload this offseason, Albert Breer of SI.com notes, with the second-year passer making particular strides with his footwork.
The Utah State alum took approximately 90% of the reps in the Packers’ offseason team drills, per Breer. GM Brian Gutekunst indicated the Packers planned to flood their highly drafted backup with work this year, after the COVID-19 pandemic nixed the 2020 offseason program and Love spent the season as Green Bay’s third-string quarterback.
The Packers’ signings of Blake Bortles, Kurt Benkertand Jacob Dolegala do not appear to have affected Love’s reps this offseason. The younger additions stand to serve as training camp arms — in the likely event Rodgers does not show next month — while Bortles would make sense as insurance if Love will not be ready to go in Week 1. For his part, Love expectedly expressed confidence he would be ready to make a Week 1 start.
It goes without saying the Packers want Rodgers to be their starter this season. That happening after Love went through a QB1 offseason would be a bonus for the Packers, for short- and long-term purposes, but nothing has emerged indicating Rodgers will suit up for the team again. If this scenario were to take place, with Rodgers starting every game for the 2021 Green Bay edition, Love would become the first Round 1 quarterback since Rodgers to spend his first two full NFL seasons on the bench. Beyond Rodgers, Brady Quinn‘s three starts from 2007-08 serve as the current basement for a first-round QB through two years in that span.
The big story of this NFL offseason has been the Aaron Rodgers drama in Green Bay. Depending on how things shake out, the Jordan Love Packers era could start in as early as a few months.
There have been reports that team brass didn’t think Love was particularly close to being ready to start last year, but the Utah State product sounds confident heading into 2021. “A hundred percent,” Love said when asked if he’ll be ready to start come Week 1, via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com.
“Obviously, this is a time where I’m getting a lot of extremely valuable reps that I might not have been getting in a normal circumstance. So I’m just going to take it day by day. … But yeah, that’s what I’m here for. I was drafted here to play quarterback, so I’ll definitely be ready Week 1.”
Love, of course, was referring to Rodgers’ holdout from the team’s mandatory minicamp. The 26th pick of last year’s draft also interestingly revealed that he’s stayed in touch with Rodgers this offseason. In fact, Demovsky reports that Love said he spoke with Rodgers shortly before arriving in Green Bay for OTAs.
A lot of Rodgers’ beef with the Packers reportedly stems from the process of selecting Love, which he wasn’t in the loop for, but he apparently hasn’t let that effect his relationship with his young potential successor.
Demovsky writes that Love has been hot and cold so far, struggling one day then having stretches of brilliance the next. Despite being in contact Love said he has no idea what Rodgers is going to do, and that he was “surprised” he elected to skip minicamp.
Despite getting drafted in 2020, Love won’t turn 23 until November. At this point, it seems like there’s a good chance he’s thrown into the fire before then.
As of the time of this writing, the Packers have given no public indication that they are planning to capitulate to Aaron Rodgers‘ trade demands. Given the state of the relationship between Rodgers and the team, however, Green Bay brass has certainly had internal conversations about what such a seismic trade would entail.
The Broncos have been the club most closely connected to a Rodgers trade, and early speculation has suggested that Denver (or any team for that matter) would need to part with at least two first-round choices, a second-rounder, and perhaps a quality player. As Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes, the Packers will also require their trading partner to send a QB back to Green Bay.
After all, Rodgers’ new club can reasonably be expected to make a postseason run with the three-time MVP under center, so any draft picks that the Packers acquire would presumably come at the end of a given round. And rumor has it that Green Bay does not believe 2020 first-rounder Jordan Love is ready to become the full-time starter just yet, so it makes sense that the club would insist on having another signal-caller be part of a trade package.
On the other hand, there aren’t many teams that are in a position to trade for Rodgers but that also have a quarterback that Green Bay would consider a worthy replacement for the face of its franchise. The 49ers were an obvious fit before they drafted Trey Lance, and while San Francisco could perhaps be persuaded to deal Jimmy Garoppolo in a separate trade with Green Bay, or as part of a three-team swap, the Niners are now out of the Rodgers sweepstakes.
The Broncos, meanwhile, are rostering Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater, neither of whom appear capable of leading the Packers to a championship. So even though Denver has the cap space and desire to make a Rodgers deal work, it’s unclear if Green Bay considers the Broncos a viable partner.
Per Silverstein, Packers head coach Matt LaFleur has indicated he will work with Love as though he will be the starter for now, but LaFleur didn’t exactly offer a ringing endorsement of the Utah State product, and he recently indicated he wants Rodgers back “in the worst way.”
Speculation that the Broncos could push to acquire Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers began to swirl in advance of last week’s draft, though Ian Rapoport of NFL.com indicated that such chatter was overblown. However, subsequent reports suggested that a Rodgers-to-Denver deal could still happen, and those rumors are not going away.
The feeling around the league is that Rodgers will not return to the Packers, according to ESPN’s Dianna Russini (video link). Russini adds that Packers brass is “deflated” about the direction this is heading. The team has continued to try and put a good face on the situation and insists that Rodgers will be back in Green Bay in 2021, but that feels like a dubious proposition at this point. And if the Packers ultimately cave and deal the three-time MVP, Russini hears that the Broncos will be the most interested and will present Green Bay with the strongest offer.
Although the Broncos recently acquired Teddy Bridgewater in a trade with the Panthers and are rostering 2019 second-rounder Drew Lock, it’s hard to imagine either player piloting a championship club. The rest of the roster, though, looks strong, and adding Rodgers would immediately make Denver a threat to win the AFC, just like Peyton Manning did nine years ago. So it’s easy to envision GM George Paton doing everything in his power to make that happen.
One way or another, Russini confirms that if a trade is consummated, it will not take place until after June 1, due to the salary cap ramifications. Of course, in addition to those cap concerns and negotiating the best possible deal with the Broncos or any other club, the Packers must also consider their own on-field product. After all, they came devastatingly close to winning the NFC last year, and they will return much of that successful roster in 2021. So will the team be comfortable passing the baton to Jordan Love, the 2020 first-rounder who is at the epicenter of the Rodgers-Packers rift?
Maybe not. Albert Breer of SI.com gets the sense that Green Bay does not necessarily believe Love — who was always considered a developmental prospect — is ready to take the reins. It’s unlikely that there will be any starting-caliber QB options on the free agent or trade markets, so assuming Love is truly not prepared, the Packers will really be in a bind if they can’t mend fences with Rodgers.
In addition to the Love issue, there are other factors contributing to this Spring of Rodgers’ Discontent, one of which is rather surprising. Rapoport says that the “death knell” of the relationship was when the team cut WR Jake Kumerow last September, right after Rodgers publicly referred to him as one of the team’s most reliable receivers (video link). Though Kumerow became something of a cult hero during his time in Green Bay, it would be odd for his release to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, but such is the enigma of Rodgers. For what it’s worth, Kumerow ultimately appeared in six games in 2020, all with the Bills. He recorded one catch for 22 yards.
Rapoport also confirms that Rodgers was hoping for an extension that would cement his status as the Packers’ starter until he chooses to retire, and that he wants a say in personnel decisions. Veteran NFL reporter John Clayton says that the team’s overall approach to the wide receiver position (and not just Kumerow’s apparently calamitous release) has also played a major role in the impasse. Although GM Brian Gutekunst has only been the team’s top decision-maker since 2018, Green Bay’s first choice in each of the last 10 drafts was used on a defensive player, and Rodgers’ frustration has reached the breaking point.
Former NFL agent Joel Corry offers a two-pronged approach by which the Packers might placate Rodgers. The first step, Corry says, would be trading Love, and the second would be giving Rodgers the extension he wants. Rodgers has three years remaining on his current contract, and while it’s exceedingly rare for a team to authorize an extension for a player who is still under club control for three seasons, the Cardinals did provide a blueprint for such a maneuver when they extended DeAndre Hopkins last year.
As Corry notes, Rodgers will want to top Patrick Mahomes‘ record $45MM AAV, and that would mean adding $90MM of new money over a five-year term (the three years on his current deal plus a two-year extension). Ultimately, though, Corry doesn’t believe the Packers will go that route, because he does not believe the team wants to deviate from its original plan of having Love succeed Rodgers when the time is right. Unfortunately for Green Bay, Rodgers might be forcing the team to throw Love into the fire before he’s ready.
Packers president Mark Murphy is aware of Rodgers’ issues with Gutekunst, Robinson adds. Gutekunst, who succeeded the late Ted Thompson as Packers GM in 2018, rose up from Green Bay’s front office. While Gutekunst has been more active in free agency than his predecessor and was in place when Rodgers signed his current extension in 2018, the Jordan Love pick — made without any consultation with Rodgers — continues to drive a wedge between the 13-year Packers starter and the GM.
Rodgers initially believed Gutekunst sought to move on from him after 2020. The GM has said the team remains committed to Rodgers, though the Love pick has clouded the prospect of Rodgers finishing his career in Green Bay. The veteran said in 2020 he no longer viewed that as realistic and has proceeded this offseason with an uncertain tone about his future in Wisconsin. Unsuccessful meetings between Gutekunst, Murphy and Rodgers escalated to this impasse becoming public Thursday.
The 37-year-old superstar/aspiring Jeopardy! host presented the Packers with an extension proposal this offseason, according to Robinson, that would essentially lock him in for two more seasons. The Packers, however, did not initially want to do anything beyond a restructure. While the team may have become more receptive to a new deal, its year-to-year approach remains in place as of draft weekend.
Rodgers indicated in 2018 he wanted to play into his 40s, which differs from Brett Favre‘s year-to-year timeline in the 2000s. Favre’s successor now would prefer to play past 40 in a different uniform.
If a trade is to occur, it would likely take place beyond June 1. The Packers could spread out Rodgers’ $38.4MM dead-money hit over multiple years that way. The Broncos, Raiders and 49ers reside on Rodgers’ wish list, and although the Rodgers-to-Denver buzz that surfaced Thursday evening appears overblown, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes that scenario is possible — especially after the team passed on Justin Fields at No. 9 overall (video link).
This impasse shows no signs of slowing down, and if Rodgers’ stance remains by the time the Packers report to minicamp in June, the prospect of Love going into training camp as the team’s starter increases.
If the Patriots do not opt to make a trade up for one of this draft’s top five quarterback prospects, or if none falls to New England at No. 15, the team could conceivably turn to Jimmy Garoppolo. The Pats, of course, sent Garoppolo to the 49ers nearly four years ago and have a need at quarterback — the Cam Newton re-signing notwithstanding. Tom Brady‘s former backup appears to be on New England’s radar. While a Thursday-morning report indicated Garoppolo is likely to stay put, some in the Patriots organization are wondering if San Francisco will realize keeping Garoppolo and the quarterback it selects at No. 3 overall tonight will not make sense, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com notes. The Patriots would figure to be at or near the top of Jimmy G’s wishlist, given his familiarity with Josh McDaniels‘ system. Garoppolo has a no-trade clause, giving him say in where he is dealt — if/when he is traded.
On a rather big day for the position, here is the latest from the QB world:
Jon Gruden has met with a few of this year’s top quarterback prospects, per Albert Breer of SI.com. Teams were permitted to conduct virtual meetings with an unlimited number of virtual prospects this year, with the pandemic still nixing “30” visits. Perennially linked to aiming for a Derek Carr upgrade, the Raidershave scouted QBs in this class. They have also discussed potential trade-ups from No. 17, Breer adds. Carr is going into Year 4 with Gruden, and although he has played well, the Las Vegas HC has been known to covet other passers from time to time.
If the Broncos pull the trigger on a quarterback at No. 9 or trade up from that position to snag one, Breer notes Drew Lock would be expected to go on the trade block as soon as Friday. The Broncos would certainly not recoup a second-rounder for their former second-round QB choice, but Breer notes the Vikings and Panthers would be teams in the Lock mix in this scenario. The Vikings have acquired two ex-Bronco QBs in recent years — Trevor Siemian and Kyle Sloter — to back up Kirk Cousins, while the Panthers just dealt Teddy Bridgewater to Denver. Bridgewater would make sense as a mentor to a quarterback the Broncos select — Justin Fields or Trey Lance perhaps — but Lock would not have a place on the team in this scenario.
The Packers’ quarterback depth chart may change soon. Green Bay is not planning to tender restricted free agent Tim Boyle, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com notes (video link).
Boyle has served as Aaron Rodgers‘ backup, a role he held over Jordan Love throughout the 2020 season. Love, however, could be set to move up. It would cost Green Bay $2.2MM to tender Boyle at the original-round level. He will now become an unrestricted free agent.
While the Packers could opt to retain Boyle at a lower cost, it would make sense for Love to move up and begin to dress for games in his second season. Almost every quarterback chosen in Round 1 since Rodgers has started games as a rookie; Love was not even active for any Packers contests. He is expected to be Green Bay’s QB2 next season, Garafolo adds.
A UDFA out of Eastern Kentucky, Boyle has not started a game for the Packers. He has worked in mop-up duty frequently, playing in 11 contests over the past two seasons. The Packers allowed Brett Hundley to defect to the Cardinals in free agency in 2019, leaving Boyle behind Rodgers. Despite the team trading up for Love last year, Boyle remained the team’s top backup.
The Packers have run into more trouble with the coronavirus, joining several teams in that regard this week. After seeing COVID-19 deplete their backfield, the Packers learned one of their starting defenders played Thursday night before testing positive Friday morning, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.
Linebacker Krys Barnes landed on Green Bay’s reserve/COVID-19 list Friday. The Packers also placed rookie quarterback Jordan Love on the list. Barnes tested positive for the coronavirus, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. It is not known if Love has tested positive. He may well be a close contact. Players do not have to test positive to be placed on a team’s reserve/COVID list.
Considering the timeline here, this is obviously a key situation for the Packers. A UDFA out of UCLA, Barnes started and played 25 snaps for the Packers. He left the game with a calf injury. Barnes has started all but one Packers game this season.
It sounds like players and agents are making progress in getting guaranteed money for all first rounders. ESPN’s Dan Graziano reports (via Twitter) that 49ers wideout Brandon Aiyuk (No. 25) and Packers quarterback Jordan Love (No. 26) received fully guaranteed rookie deals.
This is a significant difference from last year, when only the first 24 picks received fully-guaranteed deals. Last year’s 25th and 26th picks were Ravens receiver MarquiseBrown and Redskins defensive end MontezSweat, respectively. It’s worth pointing out that both the 49ers and Packers traded up for those aforementioned rookies, so it’s not shocking that the front offices were comfortable enough giving guaranteed money.
San Francisco sent No. 31, No. 117, and No. 176 to Minnesota for No. 25, which they used on Aiyuk. The Arizona State product earned first team All-Pac-12 honors in 2019 after hauling in 65 receptions for 1,192 yards and eight touchdowns. The wideout should have a chance to contribute immediately for San Francisco; Emmanuel Sanders departed in free agency while second-year pro Deebo Samuel recently suffered a broken foot. The 49ers signed Aiyuk to his rookie deal last month.
The Packers surprised many when they traded No. 30 and No. 136 to Miami in order to select Love at No. 26. The quarterback got into 13 games for Utah State in 2019, completing 61.9-percent of his passes for 3,402 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions. While the three rookie QBs drafted in front of him will be starting sooner than later, Love will likely serve as AaronRodgers‘ backup for the next few years. The Packers signed their rookie quarterback earlier this week.