Aaron Rodgers Leaving the Green Bay Packers Would Be a Disaster for All Sides

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistJanuary 26, 2021

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) walks off the field after the NFC championship NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Green Bay, Wis., Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021. The Buccaneers defeated the Packers 31-26 to advance to the Super Bowl. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Morry Gash/Associated Press

After yet another disappointing NFC Championship Game loss, future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers looked frustrated and sounded discouraged about his current path with the Green Bay Packers

"[The Packers have] a lot of guys' futures that are uncertain—myself included," Rodgers told reporters following the 31-26 home loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. "That's what's sad about it, most, getting this far. Obviously, it's going to be an end at some point, whether we make it past this one or not, but just the uncertainty's tough and finality of it all."

Those comments sent the sports world into a frenzy of speculation about whether the likely 2020 MVP will play elsewhere in 2021. But there's a good chance Rodgers was just reacting emotionally in the immediate aftermath of a dispiriting loss, and that he'll be back to collect $37.6 million next season from a Packers team that owes him at least another $31.6 million regardless of where he winds up, according to Spotrac.

If he hasn't already, Rodgers will likely soon realize that Green Bay gives him his best chance at capturing a second Super Bowl ring. And if they haven't by now, the Packers will inevitably soon realize that Rodgers gives them their best chance at capturing their fifth Vince Lombardi Trophy. 

Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

The Packers used a first-round pick on another quarterback last April. That was silly, and it bothered Rodgers, but he eventually got over it. He can probably get over losing to a highly talented opponent led by the most accomplished quarterback in NFL history on the brink of the Super Bowl, too. 

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He'd be smart to, because the Packers are well-equipped to make another run in 2021. It's a shame for Rodgers that this wasn't their year, but their fate might have been different had stalwart left tackle David Bakhtiari not suffered a season-ending knee injury on New Year's Eve. 

To win a Super Bowl, the stars have to align and you need luck on your side. Although the Packers had a Super Bowl-level ceiling, they ran into the wrong team at the wrong time and the breaks didn't go their way. 

That does not mean a similar version of this Packers team can't win the Super Bowl next season, especially with a healthy Bakhtiari protecting Rodgers' blind side. The 37-year-old took five sacks and was hit eight times in the loss to the Bucs.

Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

Green Bay has one of the strongest offensive lines in the NFL. Davante Adams is one of the best wide receivers in the sport. The running game has experienced a rejuvenation under head coach Matt LaFleur's tutelage, and the Packers have enough pieces on defense to compete consistently as well. 

No team in the NFL has won more games over the last two years than the Packers, who are 26-6 in the regular season under LaFleur. They've also averaged a solid 26.5 points per game in four playoff outings during that stretch, although the run defense was gutted by the San Francisco 49ers last January, and the pass protection and the defense struggled Sunday against the Bucs. 

Rodgers might fancy a return home to play for the 49ers, but he'd be operating in a similar offense under Kyle Shanahan without Adams or Pro Bowl running back Aaron Jones. Deebo Samuel and Raheem Mostert have not been as reliable or productive in those roles in San Francisco, and the 49ers have a lot of healing to do after an injury-ravaged six-win season. 

Mike Roemer/Associated Press

And while it might be a struggle for the Packers to keep the band entirely together with an expected salary-cap crunch and Jones as well as center Corey Linsley scheduled to become unrestricted free agents, the 49ers aren't projected to be in much better cap shape. They also have even more key in-house free agents to worry about (left tackle Trent Williams, fullback Kyle Juszczyk, cornerback Richard Sherman, defensive lineman Solomon Thomas and safety Jaquiski Tartt). 

In other words, the grass isn't always greener. 

Does Rodgers really want to risk trading in Adams, Jones and Bakhtiari for T.Y. Hilton, Jonathan Taylor and whoever replaces newly retired left tackle Anthony Castonzo with the Indianapolis Colts? The New England Patriots are basically rebuilding on both sides of the ball following a brutal season, and the Las Vegas Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers and New Orleans Saints are in similar or worse cap shape than the Packers.  

When oddsmakers roll out their 2021 win total futures this spring, expect the Packers to eclipse all of those teams. 

Meanwhile, the calculus from the Packers' perspective is even clearer. Rodgers will almost certainly be named MVP after posting the second-highest qualified single-season passer rating in league history in 2020. He isn't the problem. 

Even if they could save a few bucks by parting ways with Rodgers after one of his best seasons, downgrading to Matthew Stafford, Jimmy Garoppolo or even Dak Prescott would make it harder to overcome the NFC title game obstacle that keeps tripping them up. The savings would be minimal after paying somebody like that, and the draft capital they'd get in a trade likely wouldn't pay immediate dividends. 

Ditching Rodgers for 2020 first-round pick Jordan Love to accumulate more draft capital and save about $6 million in cap space would be even more ridiculous for a team that has no idea what to expect from Love and would risk wasting prime years for Adams, Jones, Bakhtiari and highly paid defenders Za'Darius Smith, Preston Smith and Adrian Amos.

With that in mind, it's hard to imagine the Packers would even consider moving on from Rodgers unless No. 12 forced their hand. But few expected them to draft Love, so we can't rule anything out. 

Regardless, both sides need to take a breath. There's no reason to break up this marriage, because the alternative prospects aren't enticing enough for either party. Sunday's experience wasn't pleasant, but let's call it a lovers' quarrel and move on.

          

Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012. Follow him on Twitter: @Brad_Gagnon.