When Sunday night rolled around, the cameras turned on Aaron Rodgers Walking Lambeau Field in defeat against DetroitIt was hard to stop him from reading into his body language and where his eyes were traveling. It was easy to see that he seemed to walk a little slower, linger a little longer, and stare a little deeper, like someone delicately absorbing a moment that needed to hold on.
Judging whether this is the end for an elite player like Rodgers seems like football meteorology. You study the front office and the training atmosphere around it. You notice the emotional undercurrents in the locker room. Then you predict what all this will mean at the end of his career. In fact, only he knows where it all goes. And sometimes, as we saw with Rodgers on Sunday night, not even a player can fully understand what lies ahead.
This is not to say that Rodgers hasn’t given a preview to everyone who looks at him. Although he still feels the way he did through the disappointing end to a disappointing 2022 season, the Packers The quarterback provided enough information to boil all of this down to three questions that would either be on top of each other and end another season, or fall apart completely and lead to the end of his Green Bay career.
1. Does Rodgers have enough desire to increase the new season?
This is usually the first question that opens the door to top level players in the NFL. Especially those whose bodies are still healthy enough to continue.
It ceases to be a matter of whether they are can Plays and starts being a function of whether or not they are You want to play. While the 2022 season wasn’t his best ever, Rodgers’ arm talent remains near the top of the NFL. But he lost something dynamic with Rahil Davant Adams And packers have never been able to repeat it consistently down the stretch, even with Christian Watson Flowering in the second half of the season.
Rodgers now feels how difficult it is to live without Adams. He also knows there’s no guarantee he’ll change in 2023. That’s been where it seemed to frustrate him at times this season: trying to wean on the smaller parts of the offense while watching the team fail spectacularly at times when it came to playing football. Supplementary. Few players want to end this, especially quarterbacks who are watching the sunset of their careers (see: Tom Brady).
Rodgers summed it up nicely on Sunday when he talked about knowing if the end had come, describing the moment of clarity as a “feeling”.
“Do I feel like I have nothing left to prove to myself?” Asked. “Do I want to go back and get ready for another grind? Or is it time? Is it time to step away? Is it time for another voice to lead this team? I think I need to step away and think about these things. These are real to me.”
If yes, then this begs the next question.
2. Will the front office embrace a youth movement that leaves Rodgers on an island?
It should be no secret now that Rodgers prefers to be surrounded by his own men – veterans he knows, trusts and enjoys playing with. This is not unusual for quarterbacks playing in the mid to late 30s. As the changing room around them keeps getting smaller, their circle around them tends to get smaller. Soon, they are almost another layer of the coaching staff, expected to study as much as they play. And that can become especially difficult when the quarterback sees his friends walk out the door due to the march of time.
Rodgers offered an aspect of this before the 2021 season, when he asked the Packers to go pick up his old friend, Randall Cobbfrom Houston Tx. It should have been clear to everyone then how much he valued having important confidants in the barn. It’s a fact that could pose some problems next season, given the Packers’ tight salary cap and some looming free agents.
Consider Rodgers’ close associates who are set to enter the market: Cobb, who is nowhere near as performing near his latest payroll; Kicker Mason Crosby and narrow end Mercedes Lewis, who will each be 39 years old this year; And widely Allen Lazard and narrow end Robert Tonyan, which every agent will pull strong free offers in March. Also worth noting is the left tackle David Bakhtiariwho contracts with him until 2024, but he receives an exorbitant salary and a long list of injuries over the past three seasons.
If these players are erased from the 2023 roster, Rodgers loses a large number of the veterans he cherishes. And that seemed important to him on Sunday, when asked what the team would be like if he returned.
“That’s part of it,” Rodgers said. “It’s definitely part of it. You know, the big dog.” [Marcedes Lewis]Who knows what he’ll think? Obviously Randall [Cobb]Mason Crosby, a lot of the guys I’ve played football with a lot over the years, [David Bakhtiari]. So that would certainly factor into that because that’s a big part of what we do. It’s not just playing. It’s the guys you play with and the chemistry and love and friendship we have for each other because that makes a difference.”
If Rodgers wants to come back and the team is going to consist of the players he wants to do battle with, it all comes down to the last question.
3. What kind of commitment will the Jordan Packers show I love this offseason?
In all this talk from Rodgers about the need to know the direction of the organization is the constant question about the future of love. Drafted in the first round in 2020, nearing a decision on a fully guaranteed fifth-year option in Love’s rookie deal. Green Bay has until a spring deadline (likely early May) to secure Year 5 of Love in place. The price will be steep, and it’s expected to fetch north of $19.5 million for the season.
If the Packers stick with that option, they’re essentially signaling to Rodgers that 2023 will be his last season in Green Bay. There’s almost no chance the franchise will put itself on the hook for more than $60 million in quarterly pay in 2024, which is the dollar figure that Rodgers’ salary and fifth-year Love option will reach. Especially when Love’s salary makes it imperative for him to play this season.
As of this moment, there is a belief within the Packers that the team’s front office has already come to the conclusion that Love will be selected. Combine that with the ability to exit Rodgers’ contract after the 2023 season for net savings in the salary cap of nearly $16 million, and suddenly the writing is clear on the wall. Effectively, the clock is ticking in Rodgers’ final year with the Packers and the clock is ticking on Love taking over the starting position in 2024.
If the team is really heading towards more youth in 2023 and preparing to take on Love in 2024, do the Packers really want Rodgers back for another embarrassing season next season? For now, the team isn’t supposed to be fully committed to another year. When asked Sunday if he was sure Green Bay wanted him back, Rodgers suggested that was still up in the air.
“It’s just a feeling,” he said. “I think that’s a foregone conclusion [the team wants him to return] He might be a little cocky. So I’m going to be realistic here and understand that there are a lot of different parts to this. Like I said, I was aware of the possibility of them getting smaller if we got to a point where we were out and I’m aware of that possibility as well [now]. “
When you step back and think about all of these questions, the overall picture is just an ocean of moving parts. Maybe the team wants Rodgers back and he refuses. Maybe Rodgers wants to come back and the Packers are ready to move on. Perhaps they both want another crack together in 2023, but can’t agree on what this list should look like.
Very little of this can be answered in the next day or two. That could be a multi-week timeline, as Rodgers views the March free agency period as the moment the Packers need some ending in 2023. Whatever that stretch looks like, it first starts with whether Rodgers feels like he’s done. . Until that is answered, nothing else really fits.
As Rodgers said on Sunday, “At some point the carousel stops and it’s time to get off. And I think you kind of know when that happens.”
When he leaves for the off-season, that decision doesn’t seem so certain. But the clock is ticking and the central questions are fairly clear. Soon enough, the answers will fall into place – and the next step (or final step) of Rodgers’ career is just around the corner.
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