The Green Bay Packers entered this postseason as favorites to win Super Bowl 56 on the NFL odds but fell flat on their faces in a shocking 13-10 upset home loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the Divisional Round despite not allowing an offensive touchdown. If Aaron Rodgers returns to Green Bay next season, the Packers will be among the Super Bowl favorites again but it’s quite possible his time there is up.
What will become of Aaron Rodgers’ future?
In what could be considered his greatest playoff failure, the likely season MVP failed to lead the Packers to a single postseason victory even though their regular-season work put them in catbird seat as the top seed. Rodgers, who fell to 0-4 against the 49ers in the playoffs, failed to throw a touchdown pass in a postseason game for the first time since the 2010 NFC Championship Game against the Chicago Bears. Rodgers’ playoff record since his lone Super Bowl dropped to 7-9. He won a Super Bowl with the Packers 11 years ago but hasn’t played in one since.
“I did not think we’d be talking about this after this game, but I’m gonna take some time and have conversations with the folks around here and then take some time away and make a decision obviously before free agency or anything kind of gets going on that front,” Rodgers said. “But it’s fresh right now. It’s a little shocking for sure.”
When asked if the disappointing final result would influence his decision-making this offseason, Rodgers was clear: “Of course it does. But you know there are a lot of decisions to be made, a lot of players whose futures are up in the air. Definitely will be interesting to see which way some of those decisions go.”
Rodgers has said he has no interest in a rebuild and coach Matt LaFleur said there are “no plans for a rebuild” for the team in 2022, either.
“You get this close, obviously win a lot of football games, and we know in order for there not to be that, he’s gotta be a part of this thing,” LaFleur said. “I don’t think that’s anybody’s intention.”
That said, the Packers are projected to be nearly $45 million over the salary cap and are going to have to get creative financially they’re going to keep Rodgers and star receiver Davante Adams, an unrestricted free agent. The team’s dire salary cap situation could prevent them from using the franchise tag to keep Adams around for one more season. Rodgers said he expects to make a decision on his future “well before” free agency. A return to the Packers would almost certainly require a contract restructuring or extension for Rodgers to reduce his cap number.
Rodgers’ current contract was structured so that the Packers would save nearly $20 million against the cap if Rodgers is traded before June 2022. Based on that language, many have speculated that he will seek a trade.
“To stretch it out past free agency would be disrespectful to the organization,” Rodgers added, “and that 100% will not happen.” He pointed to the organization’s window for franchise-tagging Adams in February as his own personal timeline.
It’s incredibly unlikely that Rodgers retires but could force a trade and the Packers have said they would honor is wishes if he wanted out. The Denver Broncos make a ton of sense because they might be just a quarterback away from AFC contention. The Broncos have two strong young receivers in Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton, to go along with a stout defense that includes young cornerback Patrick Surtain II. They could also install a coach familiar with Rodgers — Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has been linked to the head coaching job.
The Miami Dolphins, Las Vegas Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Football team also would make some sense. The Steelers have to replace their own retiring Hall of Famer in Ben Roethlisberger, the guy Rodgers beat in his lone Super Bowl victory more than a decade ago. Pittsburgh’s current quarterbacks – Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins and Joshua Dobbs –aren’t the long-term answer.