How will the Aaron Rodgers-Green Bay Packers drama play out?
By Martin Rogers
FOX Sports Columnist
The National Football League, especially at this time of year, is like one of the storybook compendiums you probably read as a kid. Lurking behind that iconic shield are all kinds of bedtime tales, and they run the gamut.
Draft weekend brought us heartwarming stories galore, and every now and then, the league throws up quirky nuggets, such as players getting paid in Bitcoin or trying bizarre diets or flossing their teeth during games (here’s to you, Cam Newton).
Then there are the blockbusters, the mega moves, when big names grab the leverage conferred by their stardom and take it for a spin, up against the monumental might of the multibillion-dollar franchises that they previously tried to win for.
Right now, there is a unicorn in the room, and it all orbits around Aaron Rodgers. It is, simply put, every type of story you could wish for.
Rodgers’ rumblings with the Green Bay Packers have all the clickbait quirk and fascinating weirdness imaginable. How’s "NFL star uses TV game show to strengthen his negotiating force" for an eye-popping headline? And yeah, it is also a heavyweight monster featuring an all-time great bristling with indignant fury.
I can’t tell you how it will end. I’d love to, believe me, because I’m desperate to know myself.
But I do know that this is a drama of epic proportions, and I can offer only one piece of advice: Believe that it’s real, this strange, old saga, every bit of it.
Rodgers is mad. He wants everyone to know he’s mad. He’s mad at the Packers, and as the league’s reigning MVP, he’s poised to become one of the most sought-after players in the sport. That’s if you — and a couple of enterprising GMs — can get your head around the thought that he might have played his final game for Green Bay, and indeed, it is time to begin making that mental connection.
For Rodgers, who previously wanted a contract extension but now seems intent on a move, has leverage. Believe it or not, much of it comes from the potential that he could give up his football career to stand before the "Jeopardy!' cameras as host, with his head topped by some expensively slick hair product instead of a cheese-colored helmet.
Last week’s flurry of news and speculation hit during the early part of the draft, and the discussion surrounding it won’t end anytime soon. Rodgers, it seems, is so frustrated with how things are in Green Bay that he no longer wants to be part of the franchise he joined in 2005.
"Aaron told the Packers he doesn’t want to return," according to FOX Sports’ Jay Glazer. "It’s more than a contract deal. I think he’s pretty strongly convicted that he doesn’t want to go back to the Packers."
Per Trey Wingo, host of FOX Sports’ NFL Draft Watch Party, Packers officials told Rodgers that they would trade him in the offseason but then reversed on that.
"It’s been a bleep show between them ever since," Wingo tweeted.
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Speaking of shows, there is the remarkable oddity of how the "Jeopardy!" piece has become part of this plot. Honestly, it feels strange to even write about how it is connected, but it is.
With two years remaining on his deal, Rodgers’ only real shot at getting the Packers to move him to one of his preferred destinations (all West Coast-based, according to multiple reports) would be if he could convince them that he will otherwise retire and leave them with no return on their prime asset.
If Rodgers were to step away from the gridiron, he would have to hand back $11.5 million to the team and another $11.5 million if he were still retired a year later. Never going to happen, right? Unless … retirement comes with the "Jeopardy!" gig and the option to still make a ton of money while doing something he clearly loves. Alex Trebek made $10 million per year and asked the questions (actually, the answers) for nearly four decades.
Although Rodgers previously desired an extension that would keep him playing in Green Bay well into his 40s, now he has options and — if he wants to borrow from Tom Brady and seek success elsewhere — the potential for opportunity.
There is still a lot to unpack, despite the fact that the Rodgers-Packers affair has been a bona fide talking point for a long time. You have to feel for Jordan Love, whose 2020 drafting, through no fault of his own, is mentioned every time as the cause of the widening of the rift.
You have to wonder about the Packers’ decision-making, all the way from their decade-long refusal to draft first-round offensive help to the Love pick to Brian Gutekunst’s GM strategizing to head coach Matt LaFleur's not going for it on fourth down in the NFC Championship and never seeing the ball again.
"This is the Packers in a nutshell: Their complete and utter lack of urgency on that fourth down mirrors their complete and utter lack of urgency in roster construction," The Ringer’s Danny Heifetz wrote. "And their complete and utter lack of communication with Rodgers in that moment mirrors their complete and utter lack of communication with him about plans for the future."
Now, we must consider, comes the chance for a different kind of future.
Would it be beyond the realm of possibility for Rodgers to work things out with the Packers and stick around, and for the organization to come to its senses? Of course not. But a lot of other things are in play, including the wildest one of all.
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"It’s an eccentric twist," the Wall Street Journal’s Jason Gay wrote. "An NFL player possibly walking away at the height of his powers to tell a panel of borderline geniuses they have their Roman history and Nordic geography tangled. It would make Aaron Rodgers unlike any other quarterback to ever play the game. Of course, he’s pretty much that already, which is why this is such a thing."
Rodgers’ ongoing biopic is a different kind of story, truly unique and laced with drama. Until it all plays out and probably even afterward, it is one heck of a game and, in its own right, one heck of a show.
Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider Newsletter. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.