Few stories this off-season have loomed as large as the dispute between the Green Bay Packers and star quarterback Aaron Rodgers. As we hit the stretch in June and are within striking distance of training camp and re-draft season, this problem and its lack of resolution loom even larger. It also has a wide-ranging impact on the Packers, who’ve appeared in the NFC Championship Game each of the past two seasons.
Let’s consider the options and weigh the potential of each.
Option A for the Packers has to be getting Rodgers back under center. This rift started, to some degree, the last off-season as the Packers spent their first-round pick on a quarterback in Jordan Love. This came despite the fact their current franchise quarterback—Rodgers—had just taken them to the NFC Championship Game. Rodgers responded in 2020 by getting back to the NFC Title Game, posting a 13-3 record, and winning the NFL MVP Award.
Rodgers completed a league-best 70.7 percent of his passes, throwing for 4,299 yards and 48 touchdowns with only five interceptions. Again, the Packers fell short of the Super Bowl, and the heartbreaking way the NFC Championship Game ended seemed to take a toll on Rodgers, who has repeatedly stated this off-season he wants to move on. He has been with the Packers for 16 seasons and doubtless would be difficult to replace.
Rodgers has been the primary starter for the team since Brett Favre left following the 2007 season. As a starter, Rodgers has gone 126-63-1, throwing for 51,245 yards, 412 TDs, and just 89 interceptions. He’s regarded as one of the best to play the game and seems like a good bet for the Hall of Fame. No matter who takes over, there will be a falloff for the Packers. And if Rodgers goes to another team, there’s every possibility the Packers will be watching their former quarterback compete for a title while they are at home in January.
If Rodgers is gone—either via trade or because of a hold-out—Love could get his shot. The Packers selected Love with the No. 26 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. It was a surprising selection at the time, but one that paved the way for a potential future for the franchise. Love spent his college career at Utah State, throwing for 8,600 yards and 60 TDs in three seasons. He’s also gotten a chance to lead drills during OTAs and Mini-Camp this off-season with Rodgers nowhere in sight.
While Love was a high pick for the Packers, who believe he could be their potential franchise quarterback, you’d expect some growing pains if he takes over this season. Even Rodgers in his first season only finished 6-10 and threw a career-high 13 interceptions. The spotlight will be bright on Love, as it was for Rodgers during his first season stepping in for Favre.
The Packers have hedged their bets a bit, signing veteran Blake Bortles this off-season. Bortles has experience—starting 73 games in five seasons for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He went 24-49 in that time, throwing for 17,649 yards and 103 touchdowns with 75 interceptions. He also has some playoff experience, guiding the Jaguars to the AFC Championship Game in 2017. Since then, he’s had backup stints in Los Angeles with the Rams and Denver with the Broncos.
There’s also a possibility that, if traded, Rodgers would bring back a quarterback in return. Rumored sites include the Raiders and Broncos. Derek Carr, the starter for the Las Vegas Raiders, stated that he’d rather retire than move to another franchise, but he would bring starting experience that could be a quicker replacement for Rodgers. If the trade went through with the Broncos, a likely candidate to go to Green Bay would be third-year quarterback Drew Lock, who comes with his own set of questions. Lock would likely compete with Love for a starting spot in Green Bay.
Impact on the Offense
Then there’s the question of what the loss of Rodgers would mean for the Packers’ offense. The Packers had a Top 10 option at running back, wide receiver, and tight end in 2020. Aaron Jones—who returned on a four-year deal this off-season—finished as RB5. He rushed for 1,104 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 47 receptions for 355 yards and two touchdowns. Davante Adams finished as WR1, with 115 receptions for 1,374 yards and 18 TDs. Finally, tight end Robert Tonyan busted out in 2020, finishing as TE3, posting 52 receptions for 586 yards and 11 TDs.
Without Rodgers and without the team throwing for 48 passing touchdowns, it’s fair to say the numbers will drop off a bit. Jones will likely face more stacked boxes but should be a fringe RB1. Adams is an immensely talented receiver who should still perform no matter who the quarterback is. I’d imagine a finish more in the 10-15 range than Top 5. Tonyan made many of his points on touchdowns and incredible efficiency, catching 52 passes on just 59 targets, 11 of them for touchdowns. That is tough to achieve with a new quarterback learning the offense.
The 2021 Outlook
Rodgers is a great option in fantasy as well as on the field. He’s currently going with an ADP of QB8. He finished 2020 as QB3, and if he plays in 2021 he feels like a lock to return Top 10 value. He would be great back in Green Bay and could likely thrive well with the weapons in Denver or Las Vegas as well. But part of the gamble in drafting Rodgers is the unknown. He could also sit out some or all of the season or end up retiring. The upside is tremendous, but it’s not without risk. Fantasy players saw that happen with Le’Veon Bell and the Steelers during the 2018 season.
That’s part of the appeal for Love, currently going as QB38. If Rodgers isn’t back with the Packers, I believe Love gets a shot. He was taken in the first round and the Packers will want to see what they have in Love. With the rise of Superflex leagues, any starting quarterback holds value in fantasy. Love could put up decent numbers with a Packers’ offense that features some great players at key skill positions.
Ultimately, I don’t believe the Packers will trade Rodgers in 2021. It doesn’t make financial sense, and I don’t think the team wants to face the scenario the Patriots did in 2020 as they watched Tom Brady hoist another Lombardi Trophy in Tampa Bay. That’s why I am 50-50 that we see Rodgers this season. I think it’s likely he holds out through Training Camp and the Pre-Season, and in this game of chicken, it’s likely going to be a matter of who blinks first.
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL fan and Broncos’ homer. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus 2 Canton Network.