Draft day was already at full hum Thursday—no one knows who the third pick will be, and Tim Tebow was trending on Twitter—when Aaron Rodgers threw a wrench into the mix.
First, at 2 p.m. ET, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that the 49ers, who hold the previously referenced no. 3 pick, called Green Bay Wednesday and inquired about trading for Rodgers, last season’s MVP. Rodgers has been a Packer for the last 16 years, since his own draft day, when he, ironically, was passed over by none other than his hometown 49ers, among other teams.
This inquiry, which did not include a formal offer, according to Pelissero, was meant to gauge availability, and was met with a resounding “not going to happen” from the Packers, who are not interested in trading Rodgers, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
This, apparently, is a matter of some conflict.
A little after 3 p.m. ET, Schefter reported that Rodgers is “so disgruntled with the Green Bay Packers that he has told some within the organization that he does not want to return to the team.”
Take a step back for a moment. On the same day that several franchises are already planning to dramatically reshape themselves for the future, news broke that the player deemed most valuable in the entire sport would like to change employers. Even a team that already moved mountains to be in position to take a quarterback high in the first round was not immune to the ripple effects.
It seems reasonable to assume that it would take multiple sources of tension between Rodgers and the Packers to break up what’s been one of the most successful partnerships in the NFL for well over a decade. Indeed, Rodgers has reportedly been irked by coaching decisions, the investment, or lack thereof, Green Bay has made in the wide receiver position, and last year’s selection of quarterback Jordan Love in the first round of the draft.
Now, according to multiple reports, another issue involves his contract status. Rodgers is under contract through 2023. According to the NFL Network, the Packers first asked if he’d restructure the deal, which could have helped Green Bay save cap space had it been done before Rodgers was due a $6.8 million roster bonus in March, but didn’t reach an agreement. Both the NFL Network and ESPN reported that Green Bay eventually offered an extension, though neither reported specific terms. This seems to be a symptom more than the source of the problem, but what’s clear is that tensions have escalated, the two sides have not reached a deal, and Rodgers wants out.
As @JayGlazer said, the contract is part of the reason for Rodgers’ discontent. I’m told he “doesn’t like anyone in the front office for a variety of reasons.”
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) April 29, 2021
Rodgers may not get what he wants, given that the Packers control his rights for the next three seasons. Agreeing to move on from an MVP-caliber quarterback would be a massively painful choice for an NFL team. No player has ever been traded after winning MVP the previous season—the only times one has not returned to his team the following season were due to retirement.
There never has been an NFL MVP traded after winning the award in the previous season. The only MVPs not to return to their team in the season after winning the award were Norm Van Brocklin (retired after winning MVP in 1960) and Jim Brown (retired after winning MVP in 1965). https://t.co/hH8kZfuI0A
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 29, 2021
Still, players who want to be traded have leverage due to how difficult they can make life for their current teams, and Rodgers is uniquely positioned to hold Green Bay’s hand over a flame. The Packers, who lost the NFC championship game to the Buccaneers last season, are in position to compete for a Super Bowl in 2021; the opportunity cost of adding turmoil to this season, given the quality of the roster and the resources spent to assemble it, is high. Rodgers, 37, recently completed a stint as the temporary host of Jeopardy! and made no attempt to hide his interest in becoming the show’s permanent host, though he believes he can do that job and play quarterback in the NFL at the same time.
One more note on #Packers QB Aaron Rodgers: He really impressed the brass during his stint on Jeopardy. The belief is, when they finish auditions, he’ll be among those with a chance to do the job full-time. If this isn’t sorted out, a job hosting is also a possibility.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 29, 2021
Rodgers, by the way, is apparently on his way to the Kentucky Derby this weekend, where he can enjoy a day at the races in close proximity to several hundred microphones and television cameras.
The Packers hold the no. 29 pick in the draft—for now. It’ll come late in the evening, but is now loaded with significance. And who knows what could happen before then? Happy draft day. The biggest story is about a 37-year-old who’s been in the league for 16 years. That’s the power of being Aaron Rodgers and, for Green Bay, it’s got to be a little nerve-racking.