In the drama that is the NFL offseason, Aaron Rodgers is “Hamlet”. The Packers quarterback has a big decision to make on what he will do in 2022 in beyond, to be or not be a Packer.
Although it’s impossible to know what the wacky Rodgers is thinking, the back-to-back league MVP has only three options:
- Return to play in Green Bay
- Retire from the NFL at age 38
- Request a trade to another team
Rodgers could come back to a Packers team that has won 13 games in three consecutive seasons to try again to get to his second Super Bowl ring.
Rodgers might also decide to walk away from the game and be satisfied with living more of his offbeat off-field life.
Rodgers may also consider that he needs to keep playing but with a change of scenery for the final chapter of his career.
Here’s trying to get into his head and figure out what he’s thinking:
Why Aaron Rodgers would stay with the Packers
This is the most likely scenario, otherwise known as “Much Ado About Nothing”. Rodgers didn’t sound like there was big change ahead when he shed little light on his recent cryptic Instagram post during his most recent guest stint on “The Pat McAfee Show.”
He lobbied his free agent go-to wide receiver Davante Adams to get paid, either as a franchise-tagged player or with a lucrative long-term deal. Rodgers once again brought up his strong friendships with the veteran Packers, from contemporary coach Matt LaFleur on down.
He also made everyone go through this the previous offseason, until he got an adjusted contract and showed up to deliver at more of an elite level once training camp began. Rodgers seems to be in recharging mode again, trading his high-profile Hawaiian vacation from 2021 for a Panchakarma cleanse. There’s one big difference — the end of his engagement to actress Shailene Woodley.
The bottom line is, Rodgers made it clear to McAfee he still finds joy playing football and expressed how much he still loves being a Packer. That didn’t sound like someone who’s blowing out of “Titletown”, looking for late-career team glory somewhere else.
The Packers are still a loaded offensive team around the QB, assuming they bring back Adams and look to upgrade at wideout. Their backfield is in great shape with Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon. They have a strong line and they also will get tight end Robert Tonyan back healthy. The defense, which has improved in the LaFleur era, hit a higher gear with new coordinator Joe Barry.
The reigning Super Bowl champion Rams are facing cap issues. The NFC runners-up, the 49ers, who beat the Packers in the divisional round, are transitioning at QB to second-year man Trey Lance. The Buccaneers no longer are quarterbacked and led by Tom Brady.
Before the Packers get into a better position for the playoffs, NFC North will be a walkover again with the Bears and Vikings breaking in new coaches and the Lions still in full rebuilding mode.
If Rodgers is indeed playing for that second ring to put the cherry on top of his all-time-great Hall of Fame resume, the Packers would still represent the best way to accomplish that vs. a young gun QB-heavy AFC.
Why Aaron Rodgers would choose to retire
This time last year, Rodgers was getting ready to guest-host “Jeopardy!” to honor the late Alex Trebek and earn money for charity. He was comfortable and effective in that role, but so far, the iconic game show has brought back only Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik to share regular duties this year. Rodgers' decision to not get the COVID-19 vaccine likely didn’t help his cause to keep presenting answers to intelligentsia.
That said, Rodgers has a variety of non-football interests, ranging from the spiritual to spirits, given his love of Eastern medicine and Western scotch. Although he is out there to some, Rodgers is a bit of a renaissance man among NFL players. He is smart enough to succeed in most ventures — a la recent retired greats Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Tom Brady — to build on his estimated net worth of $120 million.
Rodgers still has one ring in Green Bay, like Brees from his time in New Orleans. Manning got a second one late because of an elite defense carrying the Broncos. No one, including Rodgers, can match Brady’s seven rings.
Few NFL players also play more than two decades like Brady did. Rodgers has put in 17 seasons, 14 as a starter. He won’t get the big passing records because of Brady, but Rodgers still can walk away as the second-most efficient QB in league history, behind the Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes (for now). The second Super Bowl victory would be nice, but Rodgers' career is already complete and elite without it.
So will it be “All’s Well That Ends Well” for Rodgers? It’s unlikely the curtains have come down on his long-running football stage.
Why Aaron Rodgers would want a trade — and to where
In our final act, let’s play “As You Like It” for all the teams hoping Rodgers will want to continue his career somewhere besides Green Bay. Rodgers is big on “the people” being the most important aspect of winning together and liking life in the NFL. That’s a good place to start.
The Broncos offer that most, as they desperately need a quarterback and have hired former Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett as their new rookie head coach, joined in running the offense by former Packers tight ends coach Justin Outten.
Denver is also loaded with Rodgers-pleasing weapons, including tight end Noah Fant, running back Javonte Williams and wide receivers Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and Tim Patrick. That team also has a solid offensive line anchored by ace left tackle in Garett Bolles.
The Broncos have pulled off this type of move before to clean up a QB mess with Manning. Their GM, George Paton, was with the Vikings when they made the splashy, expensive acquisition of Kirk Cousins.
It might seem crazy for Rodgers to get into a division with Mahomes and the Chargers' Justin Herbert, also keeping in mind the Raiders were the second AFC West playoff team in 2021. But the familiar coaching situation and the challenge that comes with it make for a strong 1-2 punch of Rodgers appeal.
When taking retirement off the table for Rodgers' decision in 2022, it would seem to be Packers a dominant first, the Broncos a dimmed second, and the field a distant third. But don’t sleep on other suitors, such as:
—The 49ers have been rumored to be thinking about every outside veteran QB, including keeping Jimmy Garoppolo and bringing Brady out of retirement, despite having Lance waiting. File Rodgers into this faint rumor, with the appeal of joining an NFC power that just beat his team and also representing a return to his native Northern California.
—The Colts have a great running game and defense but missed the playoffs because of Carson Wentz not playing well enough. Given how they went big to bridge from Andrew Luck with Philip Rivers and then Wentz, aggressive GM Chris Ballard should be considering Rodgers as the missing piece to replace Wentz and make them a potential Super Bowl team under Frank Reich.
—The Steelers need a replacement for retired Ben Roethlisberger who isn’t Mason Rudolph. Rodgers' viral smiling exchange with coach Mike Tomlin suggests he would love lifting another class organization to another ring, knowing it’s also the team he beat to win his first Super Bowl.
—The Buccaneers, who just did this with Brady to win a Super Bowl, may be addicted to bringing in legendary QBs for Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich to keep a loaded team alive and well in the NFC championship hunt. Just like San Francisco vs. Green Bay, Tampa Bay is the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” scenario.
—The Raiders also can’t be totally ruled out to want to upgrade from Derek Carr to Rodgers, based on what Brady once said about how awesome Rodgers could be in Josh McDaniels’ offense.
—The Browns have a playoff-caliber team that let down in 2021 because of Baker Mayfield and a struggling passing game, on top of a ton of injuries. Rodgers can be the missing piece there, too.
—The Titans can be ruled out despite Rodgers reportedly building a house near Nashville. George Kittle lives in that city and he’s locked in as the 49ers tight end.
Every team that doesn’t have a bona fide top-flight situation at QB should be somewhat interested in Rodgers, but the rub is that he needs to be interested in them, too.
Although Rodgers is big on the people, don’t forget about the money. The Packers gave him a new player-friendly contract in 2021, but that didn’t include a bump in total value from his previous deal. If he does leave Green Bay, his new team would likely to give him a solid raise as it “goes all in” to win a Super Bowl.
Rodgers might seem complicated but his decision is simple. He should be definitive about his destination in end, but the best bet remains no departure at all.