“No, we’re not going to trade Aaron Rodgers,” Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst said in a video news conference following Thursday night’s first round of the draft.
Gutekunst said he does not believe that Rodgers’s tenure with the franchise is over.
“I’m not going to speak for Aaron, obviously,” Gutekunst said. “But I think obviously we’ve got a really good team and I do think he’ll play for us again. And, like I said, we’re going to work towards that and we’ve been working towards that on a number of different fronts.”
The standoff between Rodgers, 37, and the Packers returned to prominence Thursday as the opening of the draft neared. Rodgers has been displeased with the team’s decision to use a first-round draft choice last year on quarterback Jordan Love and has expressed reservations throughout the offseason about his future with the organization.
One person familiar with the situation confirmed Thursday that Rodgers remains unhappy with the Packers but stopped short of saying that necessarily means he will not return to the team. That person downplayed the connection between Rodgers’s stance and his contract situation. Another person with knowledge of the matter said that Rodgers told team officials it’s possible that he will not play for the Packers in the 2021 season.
The Packers consistently have said they remain committed to Rodgers and expect him to remain their quarterback for the upcoming season. They rebuffed a trade inquiry Wednesday by the San Francisco 49ers.
The 49ers possessed the third pick in the draft Thursday night and selected North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance. First, they asked Wednesday about Rodgers, 49ers General Manager John Lynch confirmed in a news conference following the opening round of the draft.
“You’re talking about the MVP of our league last year,” Lynch said. “And I don’t know about you guys. But to me, when the MVP of the league might be available. ... I’m just reading the tea leaves just like everybody else and saying, ‘Hold on. Is something going on here?’ Yeah, we inquired and ... it wasn’t happening.”
Gutekunst said he received one call from a team about Rodgers after the news of the quarterback’s ongoing discontent was reported Thursday, first by ESPN.
“It was very brief,” Gutekunst said, “and that was it.”
Immediately after the Packers lost the NFC championship game in January to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Rodgers said his football future in Green Bay was uncertain.
“A lot of the guys’ futures that are uncertain, myself included, that’s what’s sad about it most, getting this far,” Rodgers said that day during a postgame video news conference. “Obviously there’s going to be an end to it at some point, whether we make it past this one or not. But just the uncertainty is tough and the finality of it all.”
Rodgers’s contract with the Packers runs through the 2023 season, meaning he could not play for another NFL team without being traded or released by the Packers. ESPN reported that the Packers have offered to adjust Rodgers’s contract and team officials have traveled to meet with him.
He won his third league MVP award for a 2020 season in which he threw for 4,299 yards and 48 touchdowns as the Packers went 13-3 during the regular season. He threw only five interceptions and his passer rating of 121.5 was the league’s best.
Rodgers said on the Pat McAfee Show two days after the NFC title game that he thought he would remain with the Packers but also knew that there are “not many absolutes” in the NFL.
“I don’t feel like I said anything,” Rodgers said then, “that I hadn’t said before. … It was more realization, I think, that ultimately my future is not necessarily in my control. I think that was just what kind of hit me in the moment. … Obviously after the season that I had and potentially winning MVP and we obviously made another good run, I don’t think that there’s any reason why I wouldn’t be back. But, look, I think there’s not many absolutes, as you guys know, in this business. So to make an absolute statement about something that is not an absolute, I didn’t do it. I guess that’s why it went kind of nuts.”
Gutekunst said the Packers had been in contact Thursday with Rodgers, expressing optimism that the matter can be resolved.
“Obviously we have a very good football team here,” Gutekunst said. “We have a great organization. We're very committed to him. And I think as the lines of communication have been open, I'm just optimistic that that’s what's best for the Green Bay Packers. And I truly believe that's what's best for Aaron Rodgers as well.”
Gutekunst declined to specify when the situation would become untenable for the Packers, calling that “a little bit of a hypothetical” and saying: “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.” The franchise once dealt with similar tension with Rodgers’s Hall of Fame predecessor, Brett Favre, after drafting Rodgers with Favre still on the roster. Gutekunst acknowledged Thursday that the Packers should have done a better job handling the circumstances surrounding last year’s selection of Love.
“Certainly, I think, looking back on it sitting where we sit today, there could have been some communication things that we did better,” Gutekunst said.
Rodgers served as a fill-in host on “Jeopardy” during the offseason and has expressed interest in being chosen as the permanent replacement for the late Alex Trebek.