Aaron Rodgers is still stuck with one Super Bowl appearance and victory after 14 seasons as the Packers quarterback. This was confirmed by Green Bay’s shocking loss to the No. 1 seed 13-10 to the No. 6 seed San Francisco in Saturday’s NFC playoff.
Now the big question that lingered over the past NFL season will be asked again – did Rodgers play his last game with the Packers?
Rodgers (20 pass from 29, 225 yards) wasn’t one of his best games against the 49ers defense. Single-digit temperatures, gusts of snow, and the rush of the trail that drove him out five times all contributed to his chill. So did the offense that reverted to being confined to three trusted playmakers – linebacker Aaron Jones, AJ Dillon and wide receiver Davante Adams.
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Rodgers went 13-3 as the QB for the Players for three straight regular seasons. The first two times, he led them to an NFC Championship match. They lost to the 49ers in 2020 and the Buccaneeers in 2021. This January looked different with a more impressive defense, until the special teams were gone. With the crime gone, the beams are gone and doing the role of a single seed.
Since the Packers won Super Bowl 45 and Rodgers was seeded No. 6 11 years ago, they’ve gone 7-7 in the playoffs. They went 0-4 in the NFC Championship games and fell to 5-3 in the division round. Falling to Team 49 was a reversal of the loss to the Giants as the 15-1 seed at Lambeau Arena in the 2012 qualifiers.
Despite never being able to get the Super Bowl again, Rodgers is a strong contender for his second consecutive MVP of the regular season, and his fourth MVP overall. At the age of 38, he can still play at a high level for several more seasons. The bottom line is to see if the Packers have done enough on and off the field to make Green Bay their happiest NFL spot for the rest of 2022.
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On the other hand, Rodgers may have used his dramatic situation in 2021 to modify his contract, motivate his teammates and alert the front office he needs to take care of his key supporting team members, spearheading the suspended free agent move to wide receiver Davante Adams. On the other hand, perhaps it was a real alarm, that he wanted to take his talent elsewhere if his pursuit of a second ring were to hit a wall in Green Bay, which he could have just done.
Just making it to the Super Bowl could land the Rodgers in the Packers. But the clock is now ticking on whether he will demand a deal that the Packers should stick to.
According to the terms of his current contract, there are reasonable parameters to facilitate the deal. Circulating it prior to his appointment on June 1 would cost the Packers $26.8 million in dead money but also give them $19.6 million to ease the salary cap in 2022. With a June 1 appointment, the dead money would be spread out over two years and raise the cap relief to $27.2 million.
There’s no doubt the Packers will want him back given how he has communicated with coach Matt LaFleur. Aside from the disappointments in the playoffs, the Packers should know that they stand no chance of a fourth consecutive season of 13 wins if they turn to backup green Jordan Love, their first-round pick in 2020.
But that now comes down to Rodgers’ choice. Tom Brady chose his second team, The Buccaneers, as a free agent. Matthew Stafford had a late shot in the playoffs in being traded from lions to rams. This upcoming season, speculation about Rodgers will be matched by that surrounding Seahawks’ Russell Wilson, who is also looking for his second ring after winning one early in his career.
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Rodgers, like Wilson, will have his choice of attractive teams. The Broncos and Raiders, who have not yet settled on head coaches for 2022, are returning to play with their talent rosters. The Steelers, with Ben Roethlisberger set to retire, should also be interested in creating more viral smiles between Rodgers and coach Mike Tomlin. Washington, Carolina and New Orleans are other teams needing in QB with an upside. With no sure-looking QB predictions for the 2022 NFL Draft (yet), Rodgers will not lack suitors who will be looking for him to pull Brady and deliver an instant Super Bowl ring.
As the game of waiting for Rodgers to make his decision begins, the Packers didn’t have much time this time around, with the league opening to trading and other businesses in less than two months.
Marking the Adams franchise is a must to please Rodgers. But can the packer do enough otherwise to convince him to stay if there is already so much rift in the relationship? Unlike the period of hosting guests in “Danger!” There are, again, more questions than answers.