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GREEN BAY, Wis. — The foreseeable future could now be defined as 2021 and beyond after Packers president Mark Murphy said the team is committed to quarterback Aaron Rodgers for more than just next season.
None of that may matter if Rodgers follows through on what he has told some in and out of the organization, that he will not return to the Packers, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Thursday.
Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst previously had said Rodgers would be the team’s quarterback for the “foreseeable future.” Coach Matt LaFleur has not addressed reporters since March but is expected to do so at the conclusion of the NFL draft on Saturday.
“Thursday was definitely a day filled with more intrigue than usual,” Murphy wrote in a column posted Saturday on the team’s website. “The day started with the report that Aaron Rodgers is upset with the Packers and doesn’t want to return to the team. When a report like that involves the reigning MVP, it is obviously a huge story, and it dominated the sports news for most of the day.
“This is an issue that we have been working on for several months. Brian Gutekunst, Matt LaFleur and I have flown out on a number of occasions to meet with Aaron. We are very much aware of Aaron’s concerns and have been working with him (and his agent Dave Dunn) to resolve them. We remain committed to Aaron in 2021 and beyond.”
Gutekunst said Thursday that he would not trade Rodgers and urged patience.
“We’ve been working through this for a little while now, and I just think it may take some time,” Gutekunst said hours after Schefter’s report. “But he’s a guy that kind of makes this thing go. He gives us the best chance to win, and we’re going to work toward that end.”
According to sources close to Rodgers, however, nothing has changed on his part since Thursday’s report.
Murphy lauded Rodgers as a “true leader” for the Packers.
“The relationship that Aaron has forged with Matt and the other offensive coaches has propelled us to the brink of the Super Bowl in two straight years,” Murphy wrote. “We look forward to competing for another Super Bowl championship with Aaron as our leader.”
Rodgers is under contract with the Packers through the 2023 season with a base salary of $14.7 million in 2021. He had a $6.8 million roster bonus due in March that was “vested as scheduled,” a source said at the time. Rodgers would need to attend a large portion of the offseason program to earn a $500,000 workout bonus, and sources said that so far he has not participated in the early portion, which has been virtual.
June could be a critical point in how the process plays out. That’s when the Packers have their only mandatory offseason event — a three-day minicamp. If Rodgers does not report, he would be subject to fines. The same would apply if he does not report for training camp starting in late July.
June 1 also is significant for the salary cap. If the Packers traded Rodgers after that date, they would gain more than $22 million in salary-cap space. Doing so before then would net them only $5.646 million in cap savings.
Rodgers’ unhappiness stems from — but is not exclusive to — the Packers’ decision to trade up and pick quarterback Jordan Love in the first round of last year’s draft. The pick was Gutekunst’s call, but given the Packers’ structure, Murphy, who is Gutekunst’s boss, could have vetoed the pick if he thought it was not in the organization’s best interest.
LaFleur is in a difficult position because his job is to win now, and he and his coaching staff still believe Rodgers gives them the best chance. They also must develop Love, who was the third-string quarterback last season and was expected to be the top backup this year after the Packers let Tim Boyle leave for the Detroit Lions in free agency.
Rodgers has not spoken publicly about the situation since an appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show” nearly a month ago, when he said his future remains uncertain.
“All I can do is play my best, and I feel like last year I did do that,” Rodgers said April 5. “That may have thrown a wrench into some timelines that may have been thought about or desired, but ultimately things haven’t really changed on that front. I meant what I said last year about really being at peace with the whole thing, and that hasn’t changed. I feel good about the way I played, feel good about the way I led. … Everything else is kind of for speculation, and I’m sure there will be plenty of it.”
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