- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Aaron Rodgers regained some control over his immediate future during the 2020 season. The Green Bay Packers won 13 more games, Rodgers delivered his third MVP season and the team was a few uncharacteristic plays away from going to a Super Bowl.
While his contract remains a highly speculative issue, Rodgers’ future in Green Bay is once again mostly in his hands.
Of course, the Packers trading up to take Jordan Love in the first round last April forced everyone, including Rodgers, to recalibrate the timeline of his career. He lost some control. He admitted as much after the pick. No team trades up in the first round to take a quarterback they don’t ever intend on playing. Sure, the Packers always invest in quarterbacks. But the pick was also a reflection of where the team saw the twilight of Rodgers’ career heading.
An MVP season as great as the one Rodgers just produced certainly must have forced another internal recalibration inside the walls of Lambeau Field.
This quote from Rodgers last May reverberates: “I know I can control this year and my play and my approach and my attitude.”
These variables are all within Rodgers’ control again in 2021. And with another great season playing the game’s most important position, he’ll make it nearly impossible for the Packers to move on, even with Love waiting in the wings.
At this point, the Packers haven’t done anything to Rodgers’ contract, creating the assumption that – if left untouched – the team would likely transition to Love following the 2021 season. But it’s an assumption without factoring in all the variables, including Love’s development and also one of the most important variables: Rodgers’ performance next season.
No one should expect Rodgers to repeat the kind of numbers he created last season, but there’s absolutely no reason to expect a significant dropoff, considering the players returning, the possibility to add help in the draft and both the scheme and play-caller. The Packers offense lost center Corey Linsley but was mostly kept together. The team has 10 draft picks. And Matt LaFleur is still designing plays and calling games. This offense, which ranked No. 1 in scoring last year, should be great again in 2021.
The New England Patriots drafted Jimmy Garoppolo but never turned to him as the starter because Tom Brady never made it possible. The situations aren’t synonymous, but Rodgers – who is still only 37 years old – holds much of the same power.
In many ways, the 2020 season helped Rodgers begin rewriting a new final chapter. He mastered LaFleur’s scheme, rediscovered his Jedi powers from the pocket, played a style of quarterback befitting an aging passer and didn’t get hurt or show any signs of physical regression. He displayed, week after week, that he can distribute the ball on time, with stunning accuracy, and run LaFleur’s quarterback-friendly offense without the need for constant improvisation. And as a result, he led the NFL in completion percentage and passer rating, took only 20 sacks and was never on the injury report.
The 2019 season was rocky on offense. Signs of previous regression persisted, highlighting why the team invested in a quarterbacking insurance policy. But last season should have given the Packers great confidence that Rodgers can play at a high level for many more years. Brady just won a Super Bowl 43 years old. Rodgers, who doesn’t turn 38 until December, is just as intelligent at quarterback as Brady but with a better arm and more overall athleticism. His skillset should age well, especially if his legs – a focal point of his rejuvenation in 2020 – remain strong and healthy. There’s now strong evidence to suggest Rodgers could play well into his 40s.
The Packers likely haven’t touched Rodgers’ contract because they want to keep all their options open. In many ways, they are in an ideal situation at the position, with the league’s MVP under contract for three more seasons and a first-round pick developing behind him. No one really knows if Love can play, but the Packers probably have more talent at quarterback than any other team in football. Waiting – and letting all the variables play out for at least another season – has to be an attractive option to the Packers.
If Rodgers suffers an injury, reverts to an old playstyle or shows signs of physical regression in 2021, and Love takes the right developmental steps, the Packers can make the franchise-altering move and make a change at quarterback entering 2022.
But if Rodgers plays at a high level again next season, Love’s development probably won’t matter. No team is going to take on over $17 million in dead cap to move on from an MVP-caliber player. Like Mark Murphy said a few months back, the Packers’ decision-makers aren’t idiots, and only an idiot would send a future Hall of Fame quarterback packing after back-to-back seasons of elite-level play. If the salary cap is a worry in 2022, and it almost certainly will be, an extension can be done next offseason to lower Rodgers’ number and provide some relief. The work on his deal doesn’t need to happen now.
Rodgers might have concerns about being a lame-duck player, but they are mostly unfounded. He has control. It might not be financial control. But it’s a type of control that works in his favor. The play of Rodgers in 2021 will likely have more to say about his future with the Green Bay Packers than any other variable.