Aaron Rodgers' NFL future has become an annual point of speculation. This year, the speculation is starting earlier than usual.
The Packers were eliminated from playoff contention with a 20-16 loss to the Lions at Lambeau Field on Sunday night. Green Bay dropped to third in the NFC North standings. The loss marked the first time in four years the Packers didn’t win the division or reach the playoffs.
Following the loss, there were plenty of signs, but no certainty, indicating whether Rodgers was ending his career.
He appeared to stay on the field longer to take in the surroundings. He told Lions wide receiver Jameson Williams that he needed to keep his jersey from the night and turned down a swap request. He walked arm in arm with longtime teammate Randall Cobb into the locker room.
Jameson Williams asked Aaron Rodgers for his jersey after the game.— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) January 9, 2023
Aaron's response: “I’m gonna hold on to this one.”
Let the speculation begin...pic.twitter.com/zU6CmcCfV3
Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb walking off the field and into the tunnel....pic.twitter.com/t0uI3UA2QZ— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) January 9, 2023
Here’s what Rodgers said Sunday night about his future:
Will Aaron Rodgers retire?
Rodgers might retire. He might come back. It appeared Sunday night that a decision hadn’t been made.
Rodgers told reporters that he wanted to take the emotion of the game out of the decision. He said that he won’t hold the time hostage, hinting that a decision will be made before the start of the free-agent market in March.
“It’s a little raw right now,” Rodgers said. “It’s just a little bit after the game, so (I) want to take the emotion out of it and have conversations and see where the organization’s at and see how I feel after some time has passed.”
Part of the decision process, Rodgers said, will be evaluating whether he feels like he has anything left to prove to himself and whether he feels like he’s ready for the grind of another season. He also said it would come down to whether he believes it’s time for someone else to lead the team.
“I think I need to get away and contemplate those things,” Rodgers said. “I have a lot of pride in what I’ve accomplished in this league, but I’m also a realist and I understand where we’re at as a team. We’re a young team. There could be some changes to some of the older guys and it could be time to step away. But I could take some time and say, ‘Oh, no, man, I need to get back out there and go on another run.’ But I’ll have to see what it feels like once I’m away from it.”
Rodgers addressed some of the postgame signals that many will into. He said his embrace with Cobb was “a lot of gratitude in the midst of disappointment.” He didn’t want to give the jersey to Williams because he said it was special and there are certain jerseys he just wanted to hold onto.
If Rodgers decides to retire, his final pass in the NFL — in Lambeau Field, no less — would be an interception that proved to be a pivotal turnover that allowed the Lions to run out the clock. But Rodgers said he wouldn’t dwell on that play possibly being his last one.
“At some point, the carousel comes to a stop and it’s time to get off. And I think you kind of know when that is and that’s what needs to be contemplated. Is it time? Also, what’s the organization doing? It’s part of it as well,” Rodgers said.
Would the Packers trade Aaron Rodgers?
There is, of course, another option besides retiring or returning to the Packers, and that would be a trade. Should Green Bay decide to move on from Rodgers but Rodgers feels he’s still capable of playing, then the team could explore a trade.
Would he be open to playing for another team?
“I don’t like saying never, but (I’ve) got to see how I’m feeling first once the emotions are out of it, and then have the right conversations and see what the best direction is,” Rodgers said.
Aaron Rodgers contract
Rodgers has four years and more than $150 million remaining on his contract. Last March, he signed a three-year, $150 million extension that, at the time, included the most guaranteed money in a single deal for a quarterback.
He’s signed through 2026, though the last two years of the deal could be redone, per NFL.com.
Is the money incentive enough for him to want to stick around? Rodgers said without hesitation that he could leave.
“Money is energy and I have made a ton of it, and I’m very thankful for this organization, the generational wealth that they’ve offered me,” Rodgers said. “But yeah, for sure. I can definitely walk away from that.”
According to Spotrac, if Rodgers were to retire after the 2022 season, the Packers would have $40.3 million in dead cap, while Rodgers would be leaving $59.5 million on the table.
Aaron Rodgers' contract was structured "year to year" for retirement purposes, starting with a 1 year, $42M deal this season. If he retires after 2022, the #Packers will be left with $40.3M of dead cap, and Rodgers will be walking away from $59.5M cash.https://t.co/AyJn3ATlIq— Spotrac (@spotrac) October 6, 2022