Life comes at you fast. One day you’re wondering whether your favorite team’s Super Bowl aspirations will be in the hands of a young man who’s never taken one snap as an NFL quarterback. The next day, your favorite team welcomes back its Hall of Fame QB and likely one of his all time favorite targets to boot.
Welcome back, NFL. For some of us, the Bucks magical journey through the NBA playoffs en route to their first title in 50 years took us to the brink of training camp. Others have been sweating out the Rodgers saga, with little else to serve as a distraction.
We end up in the best possible place we could have envisioned. We get Rodgers back for likely one more run at a Super Bowl in Titletown. When Brian Gutekunst traded up for Jordan Love in 2020, he did so believing he would keep Rodgers for two more seasons, with Love getting the keys to lead the team in 2022.
Seeing Rodgers’ mastery of Matt LaFleur’s offense in 2020 makes we want him to lead this team until his arm falls off. That scenario could still play itself out: if the Packers win the Super Bowl and/or if he sees a change within the organization, one that gets him more involved in shaping the roster and one where he ultimately just feels comfortable with the front office. The two sides have around six months to decide whether to recommit or break up.
As I write this, multiple reports are hitting Twitter that the Packers have brought back Randall Cobb via trade, something that was rumored to be important to Rodgers. At a salary of more than $8 million, I have to think his deal would need to be massively down-sized. On the field, it’s a no brainer. Even on the wrong side of 30, Cobb would have a key role in this offense, and he would be the perfect mentor for his ’22 replacement, rookie Amari Rodgers. The rookie will still have a role this season, as a returner and situational Swiss army piece, a la Tyler Ervin. And Rodgers has known Cobb forever. His dad, Tee Martin, coached him at Kentucky. Can’t imagine a better way to learn what it takes to be an NFL receiver.
So Rodgers and Cobb appear to be back for The Last Dance. It’s going to be a bittersweet year in that way; knowing that Rodgers and the organization are likely to part. The unknown at this point is what concessions did the Packers make to Rodgers when it comes to that departure. Will he have a say in where the Packers trade him? Will the Pack cut him loose and let him go wherever he chooses (if they do, clean house in the front office). I’d be okay in taking slightly less in a trade to get him to an organization he prefers. He’s earned that–nothing more.
The “Rodgers Returns” story will burn out quickly and we can get on to the fun stuff, like what the ’21 Packers look like and whether they can get over the NFC title game hump. As you know, they pretty much brought the band back together, with the exceptions of Corey Linsley and Jamaal Williams.
Here’s what I’m looking forward to watching: David Bakhtiari’s progress and whether it’s reasonable to think he can be ready by Week 1; the competition along the offensive line, suddenly a deep group, with six draft picks over the last two seasons. Could Royce Newman step in and win the right tackle job, bumping Billy Turner inside? Can Josh Myers step seamlessly into Linsley’s shoes? AJ Dillon in his new expanded role: will the Pack have a true thunder and lightning backfield?
On the defensive side, will rookie corner Eric Stokes beat out Kevin King as a starter on the outside? Will rookie Shemar Jean-Charles beat out Chandon Sullivan as the slot corner? Will Darnell Savage and Rashan Gary make third year jumps and become impact players? Will a slimmed down Preston Smith, feeling the heat from Gary and in a contract year, play like he did in 2019, as opposed to last year? Will someone step up next to Kenny Clark on the line and provide some inside pass rush? Who will take over in the middle of the defense among former Gophers Kamal Martin and De’Vondre Campbell and last year’s surprise Krys Barnes?
After three months of drama spun deftly by Rodgers through his agency, which also represents mouthpiece Adam Schefter, we get to think about football stuff again. The Pack will enter the season as a top five Super Bowl contender, Lambeau will be rocking with fans again.
Aaron is back, once again with a chip on his shoulder. He just won a ring as a minority owner of the Bucks. Let’s see if he can add to his collection in six months or so. At least now, with him back, it’s still on the table.