After the 2020 and 2021 seasons, the Packers had one very specific Aaron Rodgers problem. As the 2022 season works its way toward a conclusion, the Packers have a different kind of Aaron Rodgers problem.
Previously, the concern was that Rodgers would retire or try to force his way to a new team. Currently (or, more accurately, soon), the Packers will have to worry that Rodgers will stay.
His current contract was negotiated to give him the power to walk away without financial consequence after 2022 or 2023. It wasn’t written to make it easy for the Packers to choose to pull the plug on the relationship.
Although the contract is complicated, the simple reality is that Rodgers will be gone only if he wants to be. If he wants to stay, he’s staying. And he’ll be getting paid a lot of money, whether he’s playing or not.
Nearly 15 years ago, the Packers (I believe) nudged Brett Favre to retire in February by telling him that they needed a clear and firm answer about his plans at a time when they knew, if he was forced to make a decision, he’d retire. With Rodgers, it becomes much more delicate.
Rodgers would have to retire on his own. If he senses that the team wants to turn the page to Jordan Love, Rodgers could become more determined to stick around.
And if he’d like to try his hand with a team that may be better equipped to contend for a championship, he could much more easily leverage a trade, if the Packers secretly hope to find a way to pivot as gracefully as possible from Rodgers to Jordan Love.
Where would Rodgers want to go? The 49ers could be a short-term option. Ditto for the Jets. Or maybe the Giants. Or wherever Sean Payton ends up, if he returns to coaching in 2023.
The point, for now, is this. The Packers spent two years fearing that Rodgers would want to leave. They may soon be fearing that he’ll want to stay, at a time when they’d be more comfortable moving on to the player they traded up to draft in the first round more than two and a half years ago.
In 2008, they wanted to move on from Favre. But dealing with Favre is like dealing with a dog. Rodgers is much more like a cat.
And he’ll find a way to stay a step ahead of the front office in whatever plan they may have to tun the page. Even if he’s ready to go, there’s real value in acting like he isn’t. If nothing else, he could finagle a little (or a lot) free money to retire, even if he was planning to retire anyway.