Aaron Rodgers is still the Packers quarterback.
For now, anyway. Did Green Bay do enough with their first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft to squash a pre-draft social media storm involving the three-time NFL MVP? That’s the big question after the Packers selected Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes with the 29th first-round pick on Thursday night.
MORE: Why Does Aaron Rodgers Want Out?
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Thursday that Rodgers’ desire to part ways with the franchise after 16 seasons is real, and several factors are at play. Rodgers and the Packers disagree on whether the veteran’s contract should be extended or restructured. Green Bay is in a salary cap crisis. There is a “last dance” feeling after back-to-back NFC championship failures with coach Matt LaFleur.
Current MVP Aaron Rodgers is so unhappy with the Green Bay Packers that he has told some within the organization that he does not want to return to the team, league and team sources told ESPN on Thursday.
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– Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 29, 2021
And of course there’s Jordan Love, the first-round quarterback the Packers traded for in 2020.
MORE: Love’s Choice Wasn’t Motivation for Rodgers MVP Season, Says Adams
The stage was set for a possible surprise on draft day that would have made Brett Favre look like a second-rate comedy for the Jets.
Did Green Bay General Manager Brian Gutekunst delay the drama? The Packers reportedly turned down an offer from the 49ers, who selected quarterback Trey Lance with the No. 3 pick. Two other suitors did not accept a quarterback.
The No. 9 Broncos passed Ohio State’s Justin Fields and Alabama’s Mac Jones to take on Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain Jr. The Raiders selected Alabama offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood, and Las Vegas coach, Jon Gruden spoke about Rodgers dating back to his days on the “Monday Night Football” post. Rodgers would fill both franchises’ need for a quarterback.
What is the Packers’ first day response enough? Stokes isn’t a flashy pick, but he addresses an area of need that arose in the NFC championship game loss to the Buccaneers. The Packers needed a cornerback upgrade against Jaire Alexander despite re-signing Kevin King. Stokes is an athletic player who ran 4.25 40-yard runs per day.
But it is not a receiver. The Ravens drafted Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman at No. 27 and Ole Miss’s Elijah Moore is still on the board heading into Day 2. Stokes’s pick ticks a box and is now as nuclear as Love’s pick, but still thus it was a lukewarm decision that does not answer a burning question.
Will Rodgers really leave Green Bay before the season starts? That answer will not be determined by the draft.
The Broncos and Raiders are still worth watching, given Rodgers’ roots in the Bay Area, and the Seahawks are also worth monitoring. A successful trade involving Russell Wilson would make more sense than getting a handful of future picks from another business partner.
The uncertainty with Rodgers is anything but a “beautiful mystery.” It is increasingly likely that he will not finish his career at Green Bay, and the timing of his departure has been pushed to an awkward point. The lack of free agent activity this offseason, the deadlock in the contract and the public disconnect between Rodgers and the Packers have made the situation ugly. The deadline for a move appears to be the end of the 2021 season, especially if Green Bay does not make the Super Bowl.
Recruiting Stokes isn’t going to change that sentiment, but honestly, what player would have? Bateman? Moors? No, the damage of the choice of love is done. Remember when Mike McCarthy said: “The train has left the station” in 2008?
It feels like that again with Rodgers.
That feeling isn’t going to go away anytime soon either.