Aaron Rodgers' situation in Green Bay has received a lot of attention over the past year, but even with 2020 first-round pick Jordan Love on the roster, the Packers have made it clear they're not anxious to move on from the future Hall of Famer.
Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst discussed Rodgers' existing contract and where he fits into Green Bay's plans on Monday, doubling down on the team's conviction in continuing the Rodgers era.
"I'm not gonna get into contract specifics, but Aaron's our guy," Gutekunst said. "He's gonna be our quarterback for the foreseeable future. We're excited about the things we're gonna try to accomplish here over the next couple years. We certainly think that with the contract that you're kinda talking about, it's something we'll work through."
Rodgers' contract doesn't include any guaranteed salary after 2021, and though he's scheduled to account for a cap hit of nearly $40 million in 2022, that number falls to $28.3 million in 2023, at which point Rodgers will be 39 and turning 40 in December of that year. It makes for an easy potential parting of ways, creating room for uncertainty that would also allow the Packers to easily transition to Love and close the door on Rodgers' storied career in Green Bay, even if he isn't ready to meet the same outcome.
Then again, at this point, this is nothing more than unnecessary worrying. The Packers are poised to again contend for the NFC crown with a team that is about as strong as it was in 2020, save for the loss of Jamaal Williams and Corey Linsley, and Rodgers is at the center of that effort.
Contract security would be nice, of course, but one can't allow allegiances to cloud their vision for the future, either. Take one look at Pittsburgh's offseason to get an idea of how that can get in the way of things. And even with the Steelers expertly navigating the immediate treachery to position themselves for another year of contention, it would be foolish to dole out a lavish new deal to a quarterback headed toward 40, even if he's still playing at a premier level.
There is an interesting note in Rodgers' current deal, though, which makes 2022 almost guaranteed to be another year with the reigning MVP in Green Bay: Rodgers' cap hit increases from $27 million in 2021 to the aforementioned $39.85 million in 2022, making it an intriguing and potentially perilous situation. Should the Packers part ways, they'd only be on the hook for $17 million. But keeping Rodgers as it currently stands would actually cost them more than in 2021, a year in which Green Bay has already felt the financial squeeze.
A key point we cannot overlook could be the saving grace to this entire discussion. The salary cap is expected to increase significantly in 2022, making up for lost money following the 2020 pandemic-affected season and giving the Packers necessary financial breathing room. This might all end up being a bunch of wasted breath.
Just ask Gutekunst, who said Monday that cap-hit increase is not a discouraging factor when considering Rodgers' contractual status in 2021 and beyond.
"No, not at all," the GM told reporters. "We're gonna be kinda in the same situation next year as we are this year with trying to continue to push more money out to field our team. I think we had to do a lot of things to bring guys back this year and we'll have to do that again so we're not done by any means yet and we are working through that with a number of our players, including Aaron."
Reworking Rodgers' deal could free up some immediate cap space for the Packers to work with in the remaining months of the offseason, and pushing ahead some of his current hit into future years could be feasible if the cap ends up increasing as expected. That is, of course, dependent upon getting fans back into stadiums, something NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said earlier this offseason the league expects to see become a reality this fall.
For now, the Packers are standing pat. But internal discussions could bring about financial changes. And as both the Packers and Goodell would likely admit, Rodgers' presence in Green Bay is undoubtedly good for business.