Did the Packers back out of trading Aaron Rodgers to the Broncos?

Heading into training camp for the 2021 NFL season, Aaron Rodgers’ unhappiness with the Green Bay Packers is dominating headlines. On their weekly Twitch show, Wingo and Stink, Pro Football Network’s Chief NFL Analyst, Trey Wingo, and former NFL guard Mark Schlereth gave their thoughts on the situation surrounding Rodgers, the Packers, and that rumored trade to the Denver Broncos.

Aaron Rodgers’ contract extension offer being leaked benefits the Green Bay Packers

The situation between Rodgers and the Packers took another turn when ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Rodgers had turned down a massive extension from the Packers. The reported extension would have made Rodgers the highest-paid player and kept him in Green Bay for five more years. On the show, Wingo discussed why that news was leaked and who benefitted from it.

“You have to say to yourself when that story is leaked, who does it benefit? And in the public opinion of a lot of people, I am sure that would benefit the Green Bay Packers. And they would say, ‘Well, what does Aaron Rodgers want because, listen, they just committed to him for another three years and make him the highest-paid player in the league. What the hell more does he want?’

“Which tells you two things. Number one, a Packers source put that out there, and they put it out there for the reason that I just stated. For people to say, ‘Well my god, what more does Aaron Rodgers want?’… So then it leads to the other part of this… none of this, zero, zip, zilch, nada, has been about the money. It has never been about the money. It has been about what he perceives, whether he is right or wrong is indifferent, what he perceives as a lack of respect towards him from the organization.”

The reported extension is not all that it seems at first viewing

The lack of specifics around the contract extension is somewhat telling. As Schlereth discussed, the headline statement of “highest-paid QB and player” could largely have just been a PR move from the Packers.

“I liken this to what happened with Dak Prescott for two years. They wanted to negotiate a contract. Prescott keeps turning the contract down, and the organization keeps leaking the parameters of the contract and saying, ‘Well hey, we are making him the highest-paid this and the highest-paid this.’

“Ultimately, it is to create public pressure on the player, a narrative, that is essentially greasing the skids for his exit. ‘What more can we do as an organization? We offered him the highest contract ever.’ And ultimately, oftentimes what teams do, the money is fungible, you can put it anywhere you want, so they tack on two years, they backload two years.

“Rodgers can say, ‘Hey man, I felt disrespected about the Jordan Love thing. The fact that you guys lied to the local media and said I knew it was going on when I didn’t. You’ve never drafted a first-round talent for me on the offensive side of the ball. The fact that I asked you to keep my best friend in the Packers’ organization, Corey Linsley, and you just let him go to the Chargers. The fact that I loved Jake Kumerow last year in camp, and the day after I say I love this kid, he’s really good, you cut him.

“There is a litany of things that pissed me off. And then you say you are going to renegotiate and backload a contract you can still get out of next year, and I’ll never see any of that money.’

“I mean I get pissed off just talking about it. You know who released it because they want the public on their side.”

The Denver Broncos never denied that they were in discussions to trade for Rodgers

On Day 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft, Schlereth reported on his radio show that the Broncos, Packers, and Rodgers were in discussion about a potential trade. On their show, Schlereth discussed how that report came about.

“When the draft was rolling around, I got some news that Rodgers and the Broncos were hammering out a deal. This was close. So I go on my radio station, I’m just excited. I’m not Adam Schefter, I’m not verifying the story, I just think this is great, I want Aaron Rodgers here. So I say, this thing is close, they’re working on a deal. And then it falls apart. They backed out.

“Here’s the interesting point, that night I am on the radio, Aaron Rodgers is hitting me up on Direct Message on Twitter. He’s asking me, ‘How did you hear this, what’s going on, what are you hearing’ and so on. So we go back and forth, and I go to break, and my phone rings. Do you know who it is? It’s the Broncos.

“So I answer, and not one time did they say, ‘this is false, this is not happening, we haven’t talked to Rodgers or anything.’ And they say, and I quote, ‘Where did you get this information from? How do you know this? Are you talking to Aaron Rodgers? I know you are friends with Rodgers, did he call you?’ But they never denied it. They never one time denied that they were talking and negotiating with Rodgers.”

*To hear Wingo and Stink’s thoughts on this, view their show (powered by PFN) at the 15:17 mark on Twitch here.*

What does this mean for Rodgers and the Packers in 2021?

Over the last few days and weeks, there has been growing optimism that Rodgers will be at training camp for the Packers when it opens next week. However, Wingo is less sure that that will be the case.

“The Packers told him [Rodgers] that they were going to trade him, and then they changed their mind. You know what Aaron said? No, it doesn’t work that way. You told me you were going to trade me, so trade me.

“Why would you expect him to be back? Mark Murphy, President of the Packers, said something last Friday… they asked him, ‘what about Aaron Rodgers?’ and he said, ‘Nothing has changed.’ That’s the thing that I think people need to understand when it comes to Aaron, nothing has changed. Don’t expect him to be walking through the door. It’s not going to happen.

“Here is the thing that people, and it’s really the Packers who have not yet come to this reality. He is not going to be there. He is going to make it uncomfortable for you guys.

“Aaron Rodgers has no bones against Jordan Love, let’s be clear about that. He has no issue with Jordan Love. He has an issue with how the team decided to draft Jordan Love, with the organization that decided to fire his quarterback coach without telling him. Rodgers has an issue with them picking the GM when he lobbied for another player (in the GM race). He has an issue with them cutting Jake Kumerow one day after he went before the start of the 2020 season saying ‘I trust this guy, he is going to be a big part of our team.’

“So this is not an Aaron Rodgers problem, it is a Packers problem. They need to understand who they are dealing with here. Again, he has divorced his family, over a perceived slight. What in God’s green earth makes you think he is going to take a season ticket base in Green Bay, Wisconsin less serious than his own DNA?”

Jordan Love’s play when he takes the field will be a huge moment for the Packers’ front office

After Love never dressed for a game as a rookie, all eyes look set to be on him in 2021. Wingo discussed how the selection of Love differs from that of Rodgers and why Love will be under huge pressure to perform.

“He [Rodgers] was just sitting there when they picked. When Rodgers was picked in 2005 when the Packers had Brett Favre coming off an incredible season, they just said, ‘We got to take him because he’s still there.’ The Packers moved up in the first round. That is so different than just saying, ‘Our guy was there.’ You made an aggressive move to make sure that your guy was there.

“You as an organization are going to have to prove that Love was worth the juice, the squeeze was worth the juice. Because he [Rodgers] is not showing up for Week 1, he’s not showing up for Week 4. Carson Palmer, when he was with the Bengals, was looking at $50 million over not wanting to play for the Bengals anymore. At the end of the day, the Bengals blinked, they traded him to the Raiders at the deadline. Nothing would surprise me if that was exactly the same scenario that played out for Rodgers and company.

“This is all on the Packers. They made the move. Which basically means, that for that pick to be justified, Love has to be the next Rodgers. There is no other way around it. If he is not the next Rodgers, they have screwed this up completely.”

Schlereth gave his thoughts on that, “I don’t think it is salvageable, so I think they have completely messed it up. But we shall see, and at some point, Love is going to get an opportunity to play. And we are going to see.”

Is a trade to the Broncos still in the cards for Rodgers?

While trade rumors appeared to have cooled, they could reignite at any time. Wingo discussed how Colorado could be a desirable location for Rodgers, or at least the people close to him.

“Let me tell you something, a lot of people don’t want to talk about this, but there are people in Aaron’s inner circle who really like Colorado. But there are people inside his very, very tight-connected people, that really enjoy the state of Colorado. And that is not something that has been talked about enough. And when it all plays out, keep that in the back of your mind.”

Could the Packers’ treatment of their QB hurt the front office relationship with the locker room?

An underreported element of this saga has been the effect it might be having on the Packers’ locker room. As a former player, Schlereth gave some insight into that element on the show.

“There is a piece of this that is just organizational arrogance… I would just say this, be very careful… players are always going to side with players in a locker room situation. And if you start to be perceived as an organization that is cheap and petty, and you are just trying to hurt his character, and you are trying to hurt him as a person, and you are trying to turn this fanbase against him, you know what happens? All of a sudden Davante Adams goes, ‘Do I want a sign a big deal here? I’d rather be a free agent. And maybe they are going to franchise me, but I can be disgruntled, just like Rodgers is disgruntled.’ You run the risk of really fracturing the people in your locker room.

“Whether it is Mark Murphy or the GM Brian Gutekunst, no one buys a ticket to come and watch you stand around your ass off on Sunday. You’re not going to make one tackle, throw one block, run one route. They are coming to watch the players, and if you create that kind of bad environment in your locker room, there is always going to be this division between upstairs and downstairs, where nobody in that locker room trusts you. If they, in fact, told Rodgers, ‘Hey, we are trading you’ and then they reneged on their deal and have gone out of their way to make him look bad. Players are not going to side with them. They will side with Aaron.”

Rodgers’ wide receivers have already demonstrated unity with their quarterback

Schlereth: “You know what was one of the funny things when Aaron Rodgers didn’t show up and all six of his receivers didn’t show up for the first minicamp. They had nets, where Love was throwing into nets. If that isn’t a signal to management how bad you screwed up, and where the players side right now.”

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Ben Rolfe is a Senior Managing Editor at Pro Football Network and is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can find him on Twitter @BenRolfePFN.

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