Jordan Love SZN: Packers' SNF Loss Jump-Starts Offseason Evaluation Period

Brent SobleskiNovember 28, 2022

Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love throws during the second half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
AP Photo/Matt Slocum

The Green Bay Packers are now Jordan Love's team.

The third-year signal-caller's insertion into the lineup isn't simply a result of Aaron Rodgers dealing with multiple injuries. Instead, his play from Sunday's contest through the rest of the season will help provide the blueprint for the Packers' offseason plans.

A grimacing Rodgers during the 40-33 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field became symbolic of the Packers' 2022-23 campaign as a whole and the potential tipping point between Green Bay's past compared to its future.

The back-to-back league MVP left the contest with a rib injury to go along with the avulsion fracture in the thumb of his throwing hand that he had already been playing through for the last seven weeks.

"Couldn't really breathe and couldn't really rotate my body," the veteran signal-caller told reporters about his latest injury.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) reacts during the second half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
AP Photo/Matt Slocum

Rodgers looked broken and beaten, whereas Love provided a spark coming off the bench, albeit far too late in the contest.

The ball exploded out of the 24-year-old quarterback's hand, who completed 6-of-9 passes for 113 yards, including a 63-yard score with rookie wide receiver Christian Watson. The play may very well serve as a glimpse into the Packers' offense next season.

In a twist of fate, Love replaced an injured Rodgers during a primetime game nearly 15 years to the day that Rodgers did the same to Brett Favre. The transition could become official this offseason.

At 4-8, the Packers' chances at another postseason run are basically non-existent. The entire purpose of the next five contests is to set up what the organization plans to do during the offseason.

Quarterback is the obvious starting point. How Love performs will have dramatic implications on the franchise's overall direction.

With a strong finish to this season, the Packers will almost certainly pick up Love's rookie fifth-year option, which comes due next spring. In doing so, the front office will have set the path to certainty regarding the inevitable transition from one quarterback to another.

Rodgers turns 39 later this week. Maybe he decides to retire this offseason and lets the organization off the hook after signing the most lucrative deal in NFL history on an annual basis.

Or the Packers can look to move Rodgers via trade. It certainly won't be easy. The majority of the quarterback's deal will linger. By releasing or trading Rodgers after June 1, Green Bay will only save between $50,000 to $1.2 million of his $31.6 million salary-cap hit, according to Over The Cap. But a deal isn't feasible before that point because of how the contract is structured.

The numbers are relative, though. They'll basically be the same overall for the Packers' accounting since Love's rookie deal will help offset expenses. Whatever the case, Green Bay already sees a starting quarterback in Love.

"He's a starting quarterback," linebacker De'Vondre Campbell said during an appearance on Clubhouse Live (h/t Sports Illustrated's Joseph Salvador). "He's better than a lot of quarterbacks ... a lot of starting quarterbacks."

That position may be the biggest looming predicament, but it certainly isn't the only major decision.

Green Bay Packers guard Elgton Jenkins plays during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya

From an overall roster-building perspective, the Packers are already in the red for next year's projected salary cap, per Spotrac. Certain contracts can be terminated or restructured. Something will need to be done to retain any of the team's own free agents, a handful of which are significant contributors.

Offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins, safety Adrian Amos, wide receiver Allen Lazard, tight end Robert Tonyan and defensive linemen Dean Lowry and Jarran Reed aren't under contract beyond this season. Each should receive interest on the free-agent market, especially Jenkins, who will be one of the most sought-after blockers.

Lazard's potential departure would further exacerbate the team's issues at wide receiver. Watson may have developed nicely in recent weeks, with six scores in his last three games, and the Packers have other young options in Romeo Doubs and Samori Toure.

However, the team's overall depth and consistency in the passing game have been significant sore spots for some time. Lazard possibly leaving to sign elsewhere removes a quality option from the slot and arguably the team's most reliable threat.

The Packers currently sport seven contracts that match or exceed $48 million in total value. Financial flexibility can be found in those deals by converting base salaries into bonuses, but that groundwork still needs to be laid for other deals to get done, whether those are in-house or available free agents on the market.

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - NOVEMBER 27: Miles Sanders #26 of the Philadelphia Eagles stiff arms Justin Hollins #47 of the Green Bay Packers during the first quarter at Lincoln Financial Field on November 27, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Defensively, change is necessary with how porous the unit has been. Green Bay has more holes in its run defense than the simulated cheese heads the team's fans wear. The Eagles obliterated the Packers' defensive front to the tune of 363 rushing yards, which is the most Green Bay has allowed since 1977, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

The removal of Joe Barry as defensive coordinator is the obvious choice. Head coach Matt LaFleur isn't going anywhere after the strong start to his tenure, but he needs to get the defense right.

Potential re-signings of or replacements for Reed and Lowry are yet another step toward solving the problem. While the Packers did draft Devonte Wyatt in this year's first round to eventually replace one of the pending free agents, further reinforcements would be a welcome addition.

Unsurprisingly, Rodgers doesn't want to go away quietly and make this transition as smooth as possible. Instead, he wants to remain in the lineup despite being a total liability.

"As long as I check out OK tomorrow, I expect to play next weekend," Rodgers said.

He added, "As long as we're mathematically alive, I'd like to be out there."

A slender, almost impossible hope of making the postseason shouldn't be enough reason to keep Rodgers in the lineup. More to the point, the Packers can't put their plans on hold simply because they made a mistake by overpaying for an aging and disinterested Rodgers this past offseason.

The future is now in Green Bay.

Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @brentsobleski.