Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers proved in 2020 that he can still play at an elite level, winning his third NFL MVP award. With the 2021 NFL season approaching, the league’s top quarterback might be sitting out.
The drama between Rodgers and the Packers reached a tipping point this offseason. A year after general manager Brian Gutekunst spent a first-round pick on Jordan Love, Green Bay reportedly didn’t want to offer Rodgers a contract extension. With the franchise unwilling to make a long-term commitment, Rodgers asked to be traded.
Since Rodgers informed the Packers of his desire to play elsewhere, Green Bay has done everything possible to avoid separation. Gutekunst, CEO Mark Murphy and head coach Matt LaFleur each met with the 37-year-old individually. Murphy also released a statement saying the franchise was committed to Rodgers and Gutekunst said he wouldn’t be traded. Unfortunately for the Packers’ Super Bowl hopes, it might not be up to them.
NBC Sports’ Peter King believes that Rodgers would rather not play football next season than suit up with the Packers. He is committed to moving on, playing for any other front office and is willing to take extreme measures to avoid playing under Gutekunst again.
The situation is similar to what happened with Carson Palmer. After becoming a star with the Cincinnati Bengals, he became dissatisfied with how the organization was run and asked for a trade. When the Bengals refused, Palmer retired and sat out until Cincinnati eventually traded him on Oct. 18, 2011.
With the 2021 NFL Draft in the rearview mirror, the Packers can focus their efforts on trying to convince Rodgers to return. But he is already contemplating retirement and told some teammates that he won’t play for this team next season. So, even with Green Bay now willing to offer a contract extension, the damage might already be done.
As Rodgers looks to gain some leverage over the front office, the first step will be holding out this summer. Due to the new CBA, it will result in daily fines and he could incur additional penalties. If he ultimately decides to retire, he is required to pay back approximately $24 million to the organization to cover part of his original signing bonus.
He might already have plans for the summer. After serving as the two-week host for "Jeopardy!," he is reportedly in the running for the full-time gig. Most of the filming would take place in a few months, so this would give him the time to film a season’s worth of episodes if he holds out from the Packers.
While there is plenty of examples of star players holding out and even stepping away from a team, this situation is unique. The reigning NFL MVP has never been traded the following offseason and Rodgers stepping away from football would have a seismic impact on the 2021 season.
The Packers are often on national television because they boost the NFL TV ratings and Rodgers plays a huge part in that. Part of the league expanding to a 17-game schedule this year included a matchup between the Packers and Kansas City Chiefs, putting Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes in a head-to-head matchup.
Naturally, this would also dramatically alter the Super Bowl race and the NFC North. The Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings would suddenly be the strongest contenders for the division, with the Packers going from No. 1 seed to potentially out of the playoffs.
There’s a slim chance the Packers find a way to fix things, but that’s increasingly unlikely. Ultimately, we might not see Rodgers on the field for Green Bay ever again.