Packers GM: Never promised trade to Rodgers

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GREEN BAY, Wis. – When Aaron Rodgers returned to the Green Bay Packers in July last year from his off-season break, both sides made it easier to separate this offseason based on adjustments to his contract. General manager Brian Gutekunst said on Wednesday that he never promised Rodgers he would trade him after the 2021 season.

So what will the Packers do if Rodgers decides he still wants to play in 2022, but not for Green Bay?

“These are some hypothetical conditions that I do not think we’re going to go down those roads right now,” Gutekunst said during a news conference scheduled to preview next week’s NFL scout combination.

It has been widely believed that Rodgers and Packers had a handshake agreement that if the reigning MVP still wanted out after the 2021 season, they would swap him.

“It was not something I told him,” Gutekunst, who has full control over roster movements, said in a separate Wednesday session with writers covering the team. “Again, I think the whole conversation with Aaron last season before he came back was that whatever the end of this last season, we would sit down as a group and we would find out on a otherwise. “

It’s unlikely the Packers would play hardball and force Rodgers to play exclusively for them – and they certainly will not release him and let him go free – but Gutekunst said he is not tempted to take a drag on Rodgers’ draft. and / or recipient Davante Adams, who is scheduled to become a free agent next month.

“Because I think we have as good a chance as everyone else to win a Super Bowl next year,” Gutekunst said when asked why he would not trade Rodgers. “He’s the league’s MVP. That’s our goal. I think we have an opportunity to do that right now. That’s why.

While Gutekunst said the Packers “in a way wasted that opportunity” as the No. 1 seed in the NFC, he would not put the division round loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Rodgers’ performance. Instead, GM pointed to the inability of other facets of the team to pick up for a substandard performance of another unit – in this case special teams.

It marked the second season in a row that the Packers failed to reach the Super Bowl as the No. 1 seed.

“We are disappointed that we have not finished it in the last two years, but there is no reason to believe that we can not come right back and knock on the door and get there,” Gutekunst said. “So, yes, I think we’re at the forefront.”

On Tuesday, Rodgers told The Pat McAfee Show that he still has things to think about before making a decision on an 18th season. Gutekunst, who gave no hint as to whether he knew which way Rodgers was leaning, said he thinks “we know soon” and that the team will not pressure him to make that decision.

“That’s not a question I can answer for you,” Gutekunst said. “Obviously he’s going through his process. I think the one thing I know for sure is that Aaron takes this very seriously. His performance and what he brings to our football team on so many different levels, he puts a lot into it and he knows how much work it takes during the off-season to prepare to give our team what he does.I do not think it’s easy what he does to prepare for a season. “

Meanwhile, the Packers are in something of a team pattern while they wait.

“It’s clear that everything around here is centered around the quarterback,” Gutekunst said. “It’s a big piece and a domino that in a way has to fall before we go down the other roads. So it’s important when we go through this and the puzzle pieces that we have to try to make fit. is the first to go. “

They began the process of solving their salary cap problem by restructuring the contract with defensive tackle Kenny Clark. The Packers created $ 10.892 million in attic space by converting a portion of Clark’s salary and his entire list bonus into a signature bonus and then adding invalid years, a source told ESPN’s Field Yates. Even with this move, the Packers were still about $ 38 million above the 2022 ceiling.

And that does not include Adams. The All-Pro recipient is a candidate for the franchise brand, which can be used between now and March 8, but Gutekunst said he sees it as a “last resort” and that both sides prefer to have a long-term contract made.

Gutekunst also said the future of All-Pro outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith, who missed most of last season due to back surgery, is among the team’s “difficult choices to make as we move forward.”

Smith has a salary cap of $ 28.13 million – the second highest on the team after Rodgers.

Gutekunst said he is optimistic about the health of All-Pro left-back David Bakhtiari if his return from ACL surgery was complicated and eventually stopped in the playoffs. “In the long run, we feel really good about him as our left tackle,” Gutekunst said.

Veteran kicker Mason Crosby, who missed nine field goals and two extra points last season but has a year left on his contract, may still be in the Packers’ plans, especially if Rodgers returns, Gutekunst said.

“For where our football team is, it’s important to have some kind of kicker in the championship, a guy who can compete at that level,” Gutekunst said.

The Packers have two other kickers – JJ Molson and the newly signed Dominik Eberle – on the list.

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