Will Aaron Rodgers Still Be a Green Bay Packer This Time Next Year?
The Packers opted not to improve their receiving corps in the 2020 draft. But they did draft a QB.
Over the next six weeks, we’ll be preparing for the kickoff of the 2020 NFL season on September 10 by attempting to answer the most important question facing all 32 of the league’s franchises in order of their 2019 finish, from worst to first. Today’s team: the Packers.
No. 4: Green Bay Packers
2019 Record: 13-3
Points For: 376 – Points Against: 313
Projected 2020 Over/Under Win Total: 9
In the first two rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft, approximately 20 percent of the players that were picked — 13 out of 64 — were wide receivers. The Green Bay Packers, who did not have a 1,000-yard receiver in 2020 and only had one with more than 35 catches on the season, did not pick any of them.
The Packers and head coach Matt LaFleur also did not take a wide receiver in any of the subsequent five rounds of the draft, instead opting to augment their already competent running game by selecting running back A.J. Dillon in the second round and tight end/H-back Josiah Deguara in the third.
Which brings us back to the first round and the player the Packers — who were a game away from making the Super Bowl last season — decided to take.
Prior to the draft, Aaron Rodgers said he was hoping Green Bay would use their first-round pick to select a skill position player, something the team hadn’t done since they drafted him in 2005. “We haven’t picked a skill player in the first round in 15 years, so that would be kind of cool,” he said.
As it turns out, the team did take a skill player: quarterback Jordan Love out of Utah State.
By going with Love instead of a receiver and then following that selection up with Dillon and Deguara, the Packers have left their two-time MVP with a top-tier receiver in three-time Pro Bowler Davante Adams, and then a stable of mediocre-to-poor pass catchers with very cool names behind him: Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown and Jake Kumerow at wide receiver; Marcedes Lewis and Jace Sternberger at tight end. (The team signed WR Devin Funchess this offseason, but he has since opted out of the season due to COVID-19 concerns.)
Green Bay seemingly selecting their franchise quarterback’s long-term replacement instead of picking a wide receiver who could help him in 2020 had many comparing the situation to when the Packers took Rodgers when they still had Brett Favre on the roster. But there is one major difference, according to one of the involved parties.
“There are a lot of similarities, but there is a very big difference,” Favre told InsideHook last month. “We were coming off of a bad year when we drafted Aaron. They’re coming off of a play or two from being in the Super Bowl and needed some players to help now. I thought they would draft an immediate-need player. That’s a real big difference. They had a hell of a year, but it did seem like they needed help on offense, maybe a receiver or some type of slot guy to come in and help take some pressure off Davante Adams. I’m sure all the defensive coordinators that have to face them were licking their chops when they saw that they didn’t draft that.”
As Favre pointed out, the pressure on Adams — who caught 83 passes for 997 yards and five touchdowns over 12 games during the 2019 regular season and added 17 catches for 287 yards and two touchdowns over two playoff games — to get open is immense. And there’s even greater pressure on Rodgers, who turns 37 in December and is entering his 16th season with the Packers, to get him the ball.
While having Love on the roster doesn’t necessarily make the pressure on the Rodgers to deliver in 2020 any greater, the rookie’s presence should serve as a reminder that the two-time MVP’s days in Green Bay will soon be numbered.
To his credit, Rodgers hasn’t shied away from talking about how his time with the team might end, possibly because he saw how things finished for Favre, who spent 16 years with the Packers following a trade from the Falcons, in Green Bay.
“If I retire on the team’s timeline, then all is well,” Rodgers said last month. “But if they’re looking to move on before I’m ready to be done playing, there’s an impasse at that point … That’s what I said to you guys day one when we [first] talked about it. I savor every moment, every season. I don’t know what the future holds. I know I can control this year and my play and my approach and my attitude.”
What Rodgers can’t control is who the Packers draft to assist him. And based on who they used their picks on this year and have for most of his tenure, getting him help doesn’t seem like a top priority, for whatever reason.
Barring an injury to Rodgers, Love likely won’t see the field in 2020 outside of mop-up duty or perhaps some sort of wildcat package. In 2021, that may not necessarily be the case, and in 2022, it almost certainly will not be.
Because of how good he is, the window for Rodgers to win another championship remains open. But based on what Green Bay is doing, it is closing faster than it probably should be. As happened with Favre and later, Peyton Manning, the end result may be Rodgers having to go somewhere else to re-open it.
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