Gutekunst: What the Packers are trying to accomplish can’t be done without Aaron Rodgers

If Aaron Rodgers had any doubt about how the decision makers at 1265 Lombardi Ave. felt about him, two of them went out of their way Monday to show how important the future Hall of Fame quarterback is to their plans in 2021 and beyond.

“What we’re trying to do as an organization, and what we’re trying to accomplish here, we can’t do without Aaron Rodgers right now,” general manager Brian Gutekunst said. “He’s such a part of what we’ve done. He’s such a part of what we’re doing right now and certainly in the future.”

Rodgers, Green Bay’s starting quarterback since 2005, has said countless times since the Packers drafted Jordan Love last April that his future was not in his hands. He called it a “beautiful mystery” prior to the NFC Championship Game and then reiterated after the loss to Tampa Bay that he was among several players with uncertain futures this offseason. Rodgers went on The Pat McAfee Show days later and said he didn’t think there was any reason why he wouldn’t be back, he’s under contract through 2023, but that there are no absolutes in the NFL. While that may be true, the Packers are saying if it’s up to them Rodgers returning is absolutely happening.

“There’s no doubt about it,” coach Matt LaFleur said. “You’re talking about the guy that is going to win the MVP of the league. We’re not in this position without him. I couldn’t be happier, not only with his performance but how he led our football team. All the little things he does within that locker room to ensure that everybody is locked in, focused, ready to go. So, absolutely he’ll be here, for a long time.”

A long time is not specific and the Packers could, if they wanted to, part ways with Rodgers after the 2021 season as his contract because more favorable in terms of money saved. Gutekunst was asked if he needs to assure Rodgers that they wouldn’t be moving on after next season.

“I don’t think I have to do a lot of assuring him because obviously his play speaks for itself,” Gutekunst said. “I will say this: We’re really excited not only for next year but the years to come. He’s playing at such a high level that he always has. I think this year was a special year. It didn’t finish like we wanted to finish, but I think everybody is purely motivated to get back. I don’t think there is anything we have to do. He’s our quarterback and he’s our leader.”

That doesn’t mean a contract restructure would be out of the question. Due to the pandemic and the loss of revenue for the league this year, the salary cap is projected to go down. Even if it stayed the same as the 2020 cap ($198 million), the Packers are roughly $10 million over that right now heading into 2021. Though he wouldn’t address Rodgers specifically, Gutekunst admitted financial moves will be made to deal with the cap.

“He’s an exceptionally big part of what we’re doing and what we’re trying to do in the future,” Gutekunst said. “As we attack the salary cap that we’re going to have to attack this season, there’s a lot of players’ contractual situations we’re going to have to address. With Aaron, I think he’s arguably the best player I’ve ever seen or been around. The chances he gives us week-in and week-out are significant. He’s going to be a part of our future.”

A report from the Los Angeles Times on Sunday said the Rams considered making a hard run for Rodgers before they ended up trading for Detroit’s Matthew Stafford. The report said the Packers were adamant about not trading Rodgers, though when asked about the report, Gutekunst said there was no truth to any of it. Still, pressed one more time about the potential of moving Rodgers this offseason, Gutekunst made clear it’s not going to happen.

“Absolutely not. No,” Gutekunst said. “Like I said, he’s such an important part of what we’re doing. He’s the leader of our football team and (getting rid of him is) not part of our plans.”