The Packers won’t trade the quarterback who doesn’t want to play for them because the Packers don’t believe he won’t play for them.
That’s the gist of a recent report from Matt Schneidman of TheAthletic.com, and it makes plenty of sense. Schneidman writes that the Packers would trade Rodgers if the Packers “believed he was truly committed to never playing for them again,” and if the Packers “wanted to get draft picks and players in return instead of forcing him to retire.”
While to a certain extent obvious given the current posture of quarterback and player, the news here is that the Packers don’t buy the idea that Rodgers will refuse to show up and play for them. The question of whether they’d prefer draft picks and players and letting him play elsewhere over the money they’d get back from him if he retires (nearly $30 million in bonuses plus salary avoidance, starting with $14.7 million this year) doesn’t become relevant until the Packers conclude that he will never play for them again.
For the reason, the Packers remain dug in. They won’t trade Rodgers because, as a threshold matter, they don’t believe that he won’t show up.
That leads back to the prevailing question regarding Rodgers. Will he show up?
The problem for the Packers is that, even though they could have gotten a significant haul in return for Rodgers if they’d decided to trade him earlier this year, the seats have filled up elsewhere. The Broncos, and maybe the Raiders, remain the only possible trade partners (especially if Rodgers wants to play in or close to California). At some point, it makes sense to kick the entire issue until after the season — especially since any picks the Packers would peck for Rodgers would come from the 2022 draft, anyway. Let the 17 regular-season games of 2021 play out, let the teams that inevitably will decide to make a quarterback change realize that they’ll be in the market, and then invite them all to the table for a bidding war to get Rodgers.
The Broncos will still be firmly in play. The Raiders, if they go four for four in playoff failures during Jon Gruden’s return to the NFL, could be much more motivated to make a move. The Seahawks, if they can’t fix the Russell Wilson situation, could be interested. The Saints could be in play, if the post-Brees plan doesn’t work. The Panthers continue to search for a franchise quarterback; they’ll know after a year if Sam Darnold is the answer.
The Steelers likely will be looking for a replacement for Ben Roethlisberger. What if the Titans decide they’d rather have Rodgers than Ryan Tannehill? What if Carson Wentz doesn’t bounce back in Indianapolis? What if the Eagles decide that Jalen Hurts won’t be a franchise quarterback, or if Tua Tagovailoa doesn’t take the next step in his second season in Miami?
Then there’s the injury question. There’s always a chance that a quarterback who is entrenched as of June 1, 2021 will be unable to play in 2022, or possibly beyond, due to an injury that happens this season. While unlikely, it’s still possible. That possibility becomes another reason for the Packers to wait.
So at this point, then, there’s no reason for the Packers to be anything other than dug in. If Rodgers is going to force a trade before early 2022, he needs to do something to convince the Packers that he’ll never play for them again. Saying things like “beautiful mystery” and “I love my teammates, I love the coaching staff, I love the fans” won’t cut it. For the Packers to make a move before March 2022, Rodgers needs to make them convinced that he’s moving out of Green Bay for good.