The hiring of Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to serve as the new coach of the Broncos already has intensified speculation that quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be relocating from Wisconsin to Colorado. But Denver isn’t the only possibility.
So let’s look at the places we’re watching as decision-time moves closer and closer for the soon-to-be four-time MVP.
There are many reasons to think he should stay put in Green Bay. The Packers own their division. With half of the four-team field cleaning house this month, and with the Lions entering Year Two of their latest regime, the deck continues to be stacked for the Pack. Why would Rodgers want to leave?
He said on Saturday that he doesn’t want to be part of a rebuild. He surely will exercise a little leverage (or a lot) to try to shape the roster the way he’d like it to be shaped, beginning with the retention of receiver Davante Adams. How much of that will the front office welcome?
They seem to at least be listening to him at this point. Whether they’ll heed his preferences and act on them is a different issue. G.M. Brian Gutekunst may grow weary of Rodgers using the not-so-subtle threat of leaving as a way to get what and who he wants.
As to the previously fractured Rodgers and Gutekunst relationship, Rodgers claims publicly that has improved. Privately, as we understand it, it’s still far from warm or fuzzy. Rodgers didn’t like Gutekunst before the 2021 season and — surprise, surprise — the strong-willed, grudge-clinging quarterback still doesn’t particularly care for the G.M.
Our current guess is that Rodgers will indeed invoke the verbal (i.e., not worth the paper it’s not printed on) promise by the team to trade him this year, if that’s what he wants. As we understand it, the two sides agreed to keep the contract intact for this season so that the Packers could get immediate compensation for Rodgers, not a compensatory draft pick in 2023.
Where could he go? The Broncos obviously will be one of the most logical destinations. Having Hackett there makes the transition much easier than it would be if Rodgers lands with a team where he hasn’t worked with the coach. Other teams to watch, in our reasonably informed opinion, are the Steelers, Raiders, 49ers, and maybe even the Giants. (The Saints were in play, before Sean Payton resigned. Presumably, they could re-enter the discussion depending on their coaching hire.)
As to the Giants, Wednesday’s comments from management about quarterback Daniel Jones seemingly close the door on the possibility. But if Rodgers would show interest, the Giants would be crazy to not listen and ponder. In Las Vegas, the coaching hire obviously becomes a major factor. The Pittsburgh option becomes fascinating, given that this is the kind of move the organization normally wouldn’t make. For Rodgers, maybe they make an exception.
The 49ers remain a long shot. Beyond the fact that they’ve cast their lot with Trey Lance, Gutekunst likely wouldn’t ship Rodgers to a franchise that has established a postseason mastery of the Packers in recent years. In 2008, for example, the Packers were adamant about blocking Brett Favre from joining a division rival, adding a term to the trade package that would have required the Jets to give up three first-round picks if they traded him to Chicago, Detroit, or Minnesota. (The Jets released Favre after one year, opening the door for his signing with the Vikings.)
What if the Packers renege on the unenforceable promise to trade him? Rodgers would retire, and then possibly unretire later in the year, like Favre did. One thing about the retirement possibility is very clear — if Tom Brady calls it quits this year, Rodgers will not want to inevitably be second fiddle to the GOAT when they enter Canton in the same class.