Silverstein: Aaron Rodgers and Packers seem headed for an ugly divorce
GREEN BAY - Give Aaron Rodgers credit, he knows how to air his grievances for maximum exposure.
Leaking word to ESPN the afternoon of the NFL draft is a public relations home run. It was all over the airwaves, social media and message boards on one of the biggest days on the NFL calendar.
Shoot, it’s probably already in production for a Netflix series.
But the one thing Rodgers should know is that today’s home run is tomorrow’s bean ball. This is no bluff and the Packers are going to play hard ball if they can’t get him to reconsider his declaration that he no longer wants to play in Green Bay.
Just ask Brett Favre how forcing the Packers’ hand turned out. He wound up wasting a year of his career with the New York Jets and made a run to the NFC championship game with Minnesota before calling it quits after the 2010 season.
To do this, Favre had to endure a shift in allegiance from hero to villain by half the Packers fan base and had to spend seven years estranged from the organization he helped build into a perennial winner. It couldn’t have been easy to go from being revered to despised by half of your congregation.
This is what Rodgers must prepare for if he indeed decides to force his way out. Does he have the stomach for being an enemy to a portion of the Packers faithful and does he have the desire to continue his career somewhere else, somewhere in the AFC where he’ll probably be sent if traded?
Rodgers’ 16-year run with the Packers seems over after it became public Thursday that he told members of the organization he is so “disgruntled with the team” that he does not want to return.
This comes after the Packers gave in to his grievances and attempted to negotiate a long-term extension that would give him financial guarantees if he and the team were to part ways next season and go with 2020 first-round pick Jordan Love.
ESPN reported three separate meetings took place, and PackersNews confirmed that the Packers offered him more money and a longer contract in order to remain with the team. But he has grievances, apparently with Gutekunst, president Mark Murphy and possibly vice president of finance Russ Ball.
It’s not known if he is unhappy with coach Matt LaFleur.
Rodgers is mad and he’s one of the few players in the NFL who has the leverage to do something about it. This goes well beyond grandstanding, and while it’s possible things could get patched up, some teammates are going to look at him differently after he let the team know he doesn’t want to be there anymore.
Not only that, at a time when other players are helping the team get under the salary cap for another run at the Super Bowl with contract adjustments, Rodgers is asking to get paid more than the $22 million he is due to earn, including $6.8 million he has already received.
It’s almost as though Gutekunst has to trade him now. Love isn’t ready to be the starter, and he would have to get a placeholder for a year, but the number of valuable draft picks he could get would be extremely enticing.
If this all sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Rodgers is following the Favre blueprint for punishing the team for drafting his successor.
Favre never really got over general manager Ted Thompson drafting Rodgers with the 24th pick in the 2005 draft, sulking about it so badly that he treated Rodgers like a disease. His famous words about not being obligated to help out Rodgers were part of the reason the two were estranged for so long after Favre left.
Favre couldn’t make up his mind whether to retire and balked at Thompson’s request that he make a decision before the offseason started up. In the end, Favre and his family came to detest Thompson because he had the gall to ask the franchise’s greatest quarterback to let him know whether he wanted to keep playing.
After a decision was planned for early March, Favre said he couldn’t commit to returning and so he officially retired March 6. However, three weeks later Favre started reconsidering and the Packers decided there was still time for him to return. He declined.
Favre finally decided to return and he timed his announcement such that the Packers were three weeks from the start of training camp and all in on Rodgers. Favre asked for his release and eventually he was traded to the New York Jets.
Rodgers apparently has not gotten over the selection of Love, feels like the Packers weren’t attentive enough to his concerns about his future and let it be known he wanted out at a key moment in the offseason.
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It’s unclear when Gutekunst found out Rodgers was through with the Packers, so we don’t know if the general manager had enough time to consider a trade for 2021 draft choices. There are reports that the Packers have been receiving calls from teams inquiring whether Rodgers is available via trade and sources have said Gutekunst has said no.
In fact, he released this statement:
“As we’ve stated since the season ended, we are committed to Aaron in 2021 and beyond. Aaron has been a vital part of our success and we look forward to competing for another championship with him leading our team.”
It’s almost impossible for Gutekunst to trade Rodgers now because he hasn’t had time to field all the calls he might get by putting the quarterback on the trading block, and there hasn’t been time for interested teams to meet with Rodgers or negotiate a new contract.
Ideally, Gutekunst would want to trade Rodgers after June 1 because it would mean he could gain around $14 million of cap room with the maneuver. But if he does it anytime after Thursday night, it means he’s lost out on any high picks from the 2021 draft and would have to take picks a year from now.
Maybe he could get San Francisco to send Jimmy Garoppolo as part of a trade, but the 49ers won’t be in need of a quarterback once they select one with the No. 3 pick. New England has a ton of picks they could trade this year, but they don’t have a quality placeholder available.
In no scenario are the Packers better off without Rodgers this year than they are with him. The guy can still play football and while he can’t seem to win championship games anymore, Gutekunst has filled his roster with a bunch of guys who can help him get over the top.
It’s not surprising that the Rodgers era is ending the way it is. It happened with Favre, it happened with Joe Montana, it happened with Tom Brady, it happened with Peyton Manning and it will happen with a lot more quarterbacks in the years to come.
At some point, there’s going to be conflict between an established quarterback and his successor and the Packers are experiencing that once again. And just like the last time, it’s heading for an ugly divorce.