INDIANAPOLIS — There has been little or no conversation between the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers since their end-of-season meetings more than a month ago and until they reconvene, general manager Brian Gutekunst will be publicly noncommittal about who his quarterback will be this coming season.
While it did not necessarily represent a major shift in the organization’s thinking, Gutekunst would not go as far as he did in previous sessions with reporters when asked Tuesday at the NFL scouting combine whether he wanted Rodgers back for the 2023 season.
“He’s a great player, but until we have those conversations, I think all options are on the table right now,” Gutekunst said during a 35-minute sit-down with reporters who cover the Packers. “But we really need to have those conversations. We want what’s best for the Green Bay Packers, what’s best for Aaron. So, we’ll get to that once those conversations happen.”
Later, when addressing the national media Gutekunst said that other than a few text exchanges with Rodgers, “we haven’t had the chance to speak yet.”
His stance Tuesday was slightly different from Dec. 6, when during the Packers’ bye week, he said he wanted Rodgers back for next season. Then on Jan. 13, when discussing Rodgers’ situation after the season, Gutekunst implied that he still believed Rodgers gave the Packers a better chance to win than if Jordan Love were to take over.
If nothing else, Gutekunst has left himself with an out if the two sides decide to part ways. Rodgers is owed nearly $60 million in guaranteed money if he plays in 2023 as part of the $150 million contract extension he signed last March.
“I don’t know if things have shifted,” Gutekunst said. “I think with a player who’s played as long as Aaron has, and as we’ve gone the last few years, we realized for him it’s been a year-to-year type of proposition. I think we’ve kind of known that moving forward, that last year when we did the contract it was going to be year to year. That’s kind of where we’re at. I don’t think it really adjusted or changed too much.
“I think we’ve always kind of known it was going to be year to year with him. I will say our season last year certainly adjusted some things and our thinking a little bit. Obviously, it was a disappointing season. Not where we wanted to be. Whenever that happens, you’re going to look at a number of things that you’re going to change.”
There remains a soft deadline of March 15, when free agency starts, for Rodgers to make a decision, but the team has not pressed him on whether he plans to play in 2023 — and if so whether he wants to return to Green Bay or be traded — or retire.
“Certainly, before free agency, I think that would be good,” Gutekunst said. “I don’t know if there’s anything firm, but I think that would be helpful for our football team.
While at least one team, the New York Jets, has inquired about trading for Rodgers, according to an ESPN report from earlier in the offseason, Gutekunst said there has not been any specific trade talks regarding Rodgers.
“I have conversations with teams all the time,” he said. “I’m not getting into specifics or specific teams. This time of year, that happens a lot quite frankly. So, I’ve talked to a lot of different teams about a lot of different things but actually talking about trades, not yet . Certainly, people would be interested in Aaron Rodgers, right? If they thought he was available.”
Meanwhile, Gutekunst said that Love is “absolutely” ready to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. Gutekunst said he has been in regular communication with Love and his agents as the offseason progressed.
“He definitely needs to play,” Gutekunst said. “I think that’s the next step in his progression. I think he’s ready for that. Not every quarterback comes into this league ready to go out there and play. I think he needed a little time but over the last year and a half or so , we’ve seen that’s the next step in his progression. He needs to go out and play.”