GREEN BAY, Wis. — Three of Aaron Rodgers’ quarterback contemporaries made major news this offseason: Tom Brady bolted the Patriots for the Buccaneers, Philip Rivers found a new home with the Colts and Drew Brees stayed with the Saints.
Rodgers not only took notice, but it sounds as if it served as another reality check.
Not that he needed one.
His entrance into the NFL has long served as the only reminder that he should ever need when it comes to how careers can end.
“Of course, you look at what Tom’s doing and still able to play at his age and play at a high level and obviously what Drew has done and Phil getting an opportunity to keep rolling in Indy,” Rodgers said recently during a lengthy and wide-ranging interview on The Pat McAfee Show.
And here’s where things got interesting.
“My thing is, legacy is really important,” Rodgers continued. “Having an opportunity to do it all in Green Bay would mean a lot to me.”
When Rodgers signed his most recent contract — a $134 million extension that runs through the 2023 season — it contained $98.2 million in guaranteed money but no guarantee how things would end. The Packers could actually get out of the deal starting this year and save salary-cap space with that total increasing each year. There’s no reason to think they would do so anytime soon, but it’s always an option.
“I’d like to make that decision easy for them,” Rodgers told McAfee and former teammate A.J. Hawk. “The only way to do that is to keep playing at a high level and give them no choice but to keep bringing you back because you’re the best option and give them the best chance to win. That’s my goal.
“I’ve got four years left on my deal. I’d like to play four at a really, really high level, and if I feel like keep on keeping on from that point, to do it. I feel confident right now. I’m going to be 40 when the deal ends. I feel like I can keep going after that the way things have been going.”
The Packers hold 10 picks in the April 23-25 draft — assuming it happens then — beginning with the 30th overall selection. It’s another top-heavy quarterback draft. Todd McShay has four quarterbacks in the first nine picks in his latest projection.
What if one of them went on a slide the way Rodgers did in the 2005 draft, when he fell to the Packers at No. 24? Or what if general manager Brian Gutekunst wanted one of the quarterbacks from the next tier of likely second-day quarterbacks and felt it was worth the 30th pick? The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported this week that the Packers were planning to host some of the top quarterbacks in the draft before the NFL called off pre-draft visits because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In December, Rodgers turned 36 — a year older than Brett Favre was when the Packers drafted Rodgers in 2005. Favre, of course, did not take it well when the Packers used their first-round pick on a player who wouldn’t help him get to another Super Bowl. That Packers team, coming off a 10-6 season and a wild-card playoff loss, went 4-12 the next year. This team was 13-3 and made it all the way to the NFC Championship Game, after which Rodgers said he still believed their Super Bowl window was open.
“Aaron wants to win,” Gutekunst said in February. “I think that’s the most important thing to him so he knows we’re trying to make the best decision for the football team moving forward. So I’m not worried about [upsetting Rodgers]. With all players, you can’t control that. Players get happy and sad about all kinds of things. I’m not too concerned with that.”
Perhaps Gutekunst will forgo the first-round quarterback this year and instead take one on the second or third day of the draft. There’s a local prospect, James Morgan of Florida International, who grew up in the shadow of Lambeau Field and has been viewed as one of the best developmental quarterbacks in the draft. If Rodgers can indeed continue to play well for several more years, then there’s time to use a high pick on a quarterback if the developmental one doesn’t pan out.
Rodgers claimed in another recent interview, this one on ESPN Wisconsin, that he wouldn’t be bothered if Gutekunst picked a quarterback in the first round this year.
“Well, look, I’m realistic; I know where we’re at as an organization and where I’m at in my career,” Rodgers said on ESPN Milwaukee. “I still feel like I have a ton of years left playing at a high level. I’m confident enough. I’ve always felt like it doesn’t matter who you bring in, they’re not going to be able to beat me out any time soon. I feel really confident about my abilities and my play.
“We’ve drafted guys over the years. I think my first year starting we drafted two quarterbacks [Brian Brohm in the second round, Matt Flynn in the seventh] in 2008. We’ve drafted various guys over the years. I understand the business and the nature of it, obviously love to bring guys in that are going to be able to play and compete the right away. I understand it’s a business. I wouldn’t have a problem.”