Coming off their second consecutive NFC Championship Game appearance, the Green Bay Packers entered the 2021 NFL offseason with plenty of confidence. Thanks to the Aaron Rodgers saga and new contract problems with Davante Adams, the organization enters a new season with a lot of questions.
Green Bay’s issues first became public hours before the 2021 NFL Draft. Word broke that Rodgers wanted out, frustrated after years of the front office ignoring his input and mistreating veteran players. While general manager Brian Gutekunst and head coach Matt LaFleur expressed a strong desire for the reigning NFL MVP to return, CEO Mark Murphy took some shots at the face of the franchise.
Using remarks made in private by the late general manager Ted Thompson, Murphy took a subtle shot hinting at the difficulties of working with Rodgers. That came after he used a column to suggest the future Hall of Fame quarterback was dividing the fan base.
While things eventually worked out, after Murphy faded into the background, there might be some unresolved issues in Green Bay. Rodgers didn’t hold back his criticism in his first press conference. Many around the NFL took notice.
The Athletic’s Ben Standig spoke to multiple agents about a variety of topics, including the NFL offseason. The Packers received the second-most votes (three) for having the worst offseason, and there was some pointed criticism related to Rodgers and other issues.
“You could argue Green Bay, even with Rodgers back, considering how it played out. Now there’s a Davante Adams problem. There’s something going on there. It’s always been an antiquated place.”
The situation with Adams is another looming problem awaiting the Packers front office in 2022. The All-Pro wide receiver became frustrated with contract negotiations, and the two sides were in a bad place. Even now, talks are stalled.
It’s worth noting, some of Rodgers’ concerns with the organization are shared by teammates. Green Bay’s front office has stuck by its same approach for decades, even as the game evolves and marquee players obtain more authority and power.
It’s why, as part of The Athletic’s survey of NFL agents, many had strong reactions to how the Packers have handled the relationship.
“The organization has shot themselves in the foot many times with him for seemingly stupid (reasons). But they’ll probably go deep in the playoffs and be just fine.”
All of this started because of a few decisions made by Gutekunst. After Rodgers heaped praise on wide receiver Jake Kumerow, the Packers released him. Fast-forward to August 2021, and he is one of the stars of the Buffalo Bills’ training camp.
While some viewed the selection of Jordan Love as the final straw in this deteriorating relationship, the issue likely wasn’t the selection. Unlike many other NFL teams, such as the Kansas City Chiefs with Alex Smith and the San Francisco 49ers with Jimmy Garoppolo, Green Bay never told Rodgers it planned to draft his successor.
As one agent described, star players are gaining more leverage every year and teams need to realize their best players are what attract so much interest and revenue.
“It’s not just about Rodgers but what it means for the entire league. So many players around the league go through these situations. It’s a talent-driven league. The players ultimately have the leverage. Remember the replacement players? Owners won’t do that again. Rodgers showed at the end of the day the players control the situation. Without these elite talents, fans wouldn’t be as connected to the league. Now, the Packers are one of the better teams with extensions and contracts, but Aaron put them under the spotlight.”
Rodgers saw how the Packers parted ways with iconic veterans like Jordy Nelson, Charles Woodson, John Kuhn, Micah Hyde and Julius Peppers without much respect for the contributions they made. After realizing that’s how the organization treats every player, it became apparent that something needed to change.
The Packers will have their legendary quarterback under center this season, and that makes them a Super Bowl contender. But once he leaves, likely next offseason, Green Bay’s future looks increasingly grim thanks to the cap situation and antiquated approach with players.