Amid reports about the Green Bay Packers front office considering a trade of 39-year-old quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the four-time NFL MVP had an empathetic reaction when asked about it on "The Pat McAfee Show." That tone is stark contrast to his public feud with the team's management prior to the 2020 season, after the team traded up to draft quarterback Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
"It's taboo to talk about some of these ideas but to be open to the possibility that, if I want to keep playing, that it might be somewhere else, I understand that," Rodgers said Tuesday. "I understand they might want to move on and go younger at a number of different positions. That's a part of it."
"I have nothing but love for the fans and the amazing people I've met over the years at different events. It's a beautiful, beautiful town. So, I think there's been a lot of fun dreaming about retiring as a Packer because there's something really special about that. But if the competitive hole still needs to be satiated and it's time to move on, then I hope everybody would look at that with a lot of gratitude and not any resentment."
"Or, even on the flip side, 'Let's f---ing get rid of this old guy. It's time to move on.' I hope there's some gratitude on both sides if that happens."
Rodgers signed a three-year, $150M extension with the Packers last March and is due close to $60 million in 2023. He also went out of his way in his first end-of-season comments to clarify Green Bay as his preferred location. Love, who briefly replaced Rodgers due to injury this season, is entering his fourth NFL season after the Packers moved up to make him their first-round draft pick in 2020. The team will also soon have to decide about whether or not to pick up his fully-guaranteed fifth-year option. The front office could be looking to bolster its draft resources and salary cap space after an underwhelming 8-9 finish in 2022 that resulted in the first year without postseason football under head coach Matt LaFleur.
"I've been there 18 years, I have lifelong friends in that organization," Rodgers said. "I have lifelong memories. I made some of my closest friends in my life because I was drafted by the Green Bay Packers and they paid me multiple contracts. Had amazing success, I met some really special, special people. So, why would I have animosity toward that? And, on the flip side, hopefully there won't be any animosity if that was the decision at some point."
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However, Rodgers hasn't formed anything close to a wish list of other teams should the front office decide to trade him because he said he's never had to consider life outside of being a Green Bay Packer before.
"I've never been a free agent, which is pretty wild," he said. "I've never gotten to the end of my contract, so to even think about being in another uniform never really crossed my mind...each successive contract was with at least a year remaining on my current deal. There was never time where I was thinking 'oh I might be in another uniform.' I have just never thought that way. Even when Jordan [Love] was drafted, I thought that might be a possibility that I might not finish in Green Bay, but then I won two MVPs and obviously seemed a lot less likely. You never know."
If it's the team's preference to go with Love and begin a rebuild instead of a reload with Rodgers given that his performance this past season wasn't close to what it was during his MVP seasons of 2020 and 2021, Rodgers said he won't burn any bridges in Green Bay or the state of Wisconsin.
"If they feel like it was in the best interests of the team to move forward, so be it," Rodgers said. "Again, that wouldn't offend me and it wouldn't make me feel like a victim. I wouldn't have any animosity towards the team. I love the organization, I love the city, I love the region. I'm a minority owner in the Bucks. I'm going to be a part of the region long after I'm done playing. I have a lot of love for what's gone on in Green Bay. And I'd love to finish there, I would. I might have finished there. Who knows?"
Ultimately, all talk of Rodgers being traded is hypothetical until he announces his decision about whether or not he wants to play a 19th NFL season. The quarterback noted that he's taking a pragmatic approach to the decision and taking some time to mull all angles over since Green Bay hasn't put him on a hard timetable.
"Anytime you make a decision, you have to try and take the emotion out of it," Rodgers said. "There's emotions with the end of the season, with the end of certain runs with certain teams, with the end of specific teammates who might be moving on or end of contract. The way the season ends on the field is also emotional, so it's always important to take time and get away from it. If there was a timetable where I was told I had to make up my mind in two weeks, I would've came to a decision. It would've been much more difficult for sure... I've been playing a little bit less time [than Tom Brady], I think five or six years [five seasons fewer], still think that should warrant some time to make this decision and to weigh all the options.... I need time to decompress and let the offseason sink in and then make that decision. All the other ideas about trade and whatnot is all conjecture until I decide what to do moving forward for myself.
Should the Packers and Rodgers look to part ways after 18 seasons together, a number of AFC teams would likely make a play for the four-time NFL MVP. The Jets, Raiders, Titans and Patriots stand out as logical suitors: New York is positioned for a playoff run but has a pledged need for veteran QB help; Las Vegas is set to trade Derek Carr and last year acquired Rodgers' top target Davante Adams; Tennessee could move on from Ryan Tannehill; New England is restructuring its offensive staff.