Packers look like big winners in new agreement with Aaron Rodgers

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The analysis of who won any given situation is often reflected in leverage.

This idea looks especially true in the new agreement between quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

Rodgers, the league MVP, wasn’t without leverage in his conflict with the Packers, but he was severely handcuffed by a contract and the team’s insistence on not trading him. His options were limited. And so his winnings were also limited.

Rodgers isn’t coming back to Green Bay empty-handed. According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Rodgers got a void year in 2023, which cuts a year off his deal, and the team is putting in “mechanisms” to fix some of the major issues he has with the way the organization is run. The two sides also agreed to review the situation following the season, opening the door for an exit via trade in 2022 if Rodgers isn’t happy.

But these concessions from the Packers aren’t much when compared with what the team kept intact in the agreement.

The Packers get Rodgers back for the 2021 season. More cap space this year through a simple contract alteration. Another year to evaluate the development of Jordan Love. The ability to trade Rodgers after the season. And time to mend the fences and heal wounds, potentially setting up a contract extension following 2021.

Really, all options for the Packers are still on the table. The NFL MVP is back for one more run with a mostly intact roster from last year, and there’s no solid commitment to Rodgers past 2021, allowing the team a chance to transition to Love – and get significant assets back from trading Rodgers – if the timing is right. And if everything really goes right, and everything suddenly clicks between the team and quarterback in 2021, the possibility opens up for Rodgers to sign a new deal and eventually retire having only played for the Green Bay Packers.

However, it can’t be overlooked that it’s possible Rodgers, after months and months of trying to get out, finally settled on a reasonable way to get his eventual exit from Green Bay. It’d be hard to consider the Packers an obvious winner here if a future Hall of Fame player at the game’s most important position actively worked to create a path away from the organization, especially if the Packers were willing to commit to him as the quarterback long-term.

Maybe both sides can be considered winners.

Rodgers is putting the heat on the organization to change in meaningful ways while also giving himself a year to evaluate the progress before deciding his football future. And he gets to play for a team that gives him a legitimate shot at playing for a title with teammates and coaches he likes and respects. Even if getting out now was his top option, this still isn’t a terrible consolation prize.

The Packers had a nightmare summer on a public relations front, but the team escaped without having to trade away the league’s MVP or giving up the ability to transition following the 2021 season. Love, the team’s 2020 first-round pick, wasn’t cast away. He’s still very much in the picture. Buying themselves a year to figure everything out was a major win.

There are potential red flags here as well.

Rodgers is clearly upset on multiple fronts, and there’s still a good chance he’s a lame duck quarterback in 2021. Having a disgruntled player in this situation could be a gasoline-and-fire scenario, especially if things don’t go right (see: losing). The margin for winning and losing in the NFL is so small. Any kind of dysfunction can turn even a talented football team on its head.

The “mechanisms” being put in place could also be a tricky situation. Does Rodgers get more say on personnel? There are already reports of Rodgers wanting Randall Cobb back in Green Bay. How much say will he actually have, and how far will the Packers bend to keep the quarterback happy? Rodgers is a terrific player but he could do lasting damage to the franchise with moves he wants or demands.

“The Last Dance” analogy is a tired one here, but the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls do highlight two things: just how combustible a situation like this one could be, but also how it could work out to the team’s benefit in the short-term. A title in 2021 is an excellent outcome regardless of what comes next. With Rodgers back, the Packers will be one of a few favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl this year.

The idea of leverage is certainly an interesting one to consider now that this whole thing is reaching a conclusion. Rodgers earned back some leverage after winning the MVP in 2020, but he was boxed in by several factors. With more leverage in his corner, he probably could have forced his way out of Green Bay without many concessions on his part. But he just didn’t have it, so the Packers are mostly getting what they want out of a tricky situation.

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