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So now we know where it’s all eventually going to end for Aaron Rodgers.
The past two offseasons have been filled with drama between Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. There’s been disagreements between the starting quarterback and management. There’s been retirement talk and contract negotiations to prioritize. But amid all this Rodgers ultimately returned to Green Bay rather than go to another team.
That’s over. Rodgers, armed with a three-year contract extension that is really a series of one-year deals, on Tuesday said for the first time that whatever happens going forward, he’s never leaving the Packers for another team.
Oh, he might leave because retirement has been a real consideration the past two years, but short of that, he vows he’ll end his career where it began in 2005.
In Green Bay.
“Yes, definitely,” Rodgers told reporters gathered around his locker stall.
That’s great for the Packers. But it doesn’t mean the future is set and secure for one of the best quarterbacks of his generation. Not even close.
Because Rodgers has this offseason made sure things are going to be a little harder on him come the winter by the way he’s handled this spring.
Rodgers, you’ll recall, is the highest-paid player in the NFL, earning an average of $50 million per season on his new contract. But after signing that lucrative contract, Rodgers didn’t show up to the voluntary offseason program until the start of Green Bay’s mandatory minicamp on Tuesday.
So in an offseason the focus of the Green Bay offense is changing direction because receiver Davante Adams has been traded and a bunch of new guys were added, Rodgers was in California working out to his own regimen.
It’s clear Rodgers didn’t embrace the idea of being around the team through the voluntary offseason workouts and didn’t even love the idea of being there Tuesday for the start of the mandatory minicamp.
“I’m just here so I won’t get fined,” Rodgers joked, taking a page from Marshawn Lynch’s infamous approach to interviews during Super Bowl week some years ago.
So Rodgers hasn’t been with his team until this week and it’s clear his thoughts have been on life after football as much as on the game itself.
We know this because after playing a much-heralded round of golf with fellow quarterbacks Josh Allen, Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes, in the sixth installment of Capital One’s “The Match” golf event last week, Rodgers, talked about a variety of topics with TNT’s Ernie Johnson and retirement was atop the list.
“I think about it all the time,” Rodgers told Johnson. “When you commit, you’re 100 percent. But the older you get, the interests change, and the grind, I think, wears on you a little more.”
Even on Tuesday Rodgers couldn’t escape the topic.
“If you say I’m for sure playing two more, three years and then you have a magical season that ends with a championship and think that that might be the best way to ride off, I don’t want to commit to something,” Rodgers said. “You say, I’m only playing one more year and you have a bitter taste in your mouth and still got the drive and the passion to play one or two more years, I just don’t want to get pigeonholed into it.
“So I’m focused on this season. I’m never gonna drag it out in the offseason. The conversations I’ve had with [general manager] Brian [Gutenkunst] have been very honest and direct, and that’s not going to change, and we’ll sit down after the season, hopefully after a championship and figure out what the next step is.”
So why does all this matter?
Because Aaron Rodgers has done precious little to get the Packers to a championship in recent postseasons. And the less he does with the team in the offseason, the more he seems distracted by football and attracted to golf or retirement or merely being away from his team, the more it raises eyebrows if the postseason failures continue.
Rodgers, of course, doesn’t see it this way. He thinks his time away to work out wherever he wants to attend to other business is a smart investment.
“They’ve been great about me taking care of myself the way I best need to,” Rodgers said. “Obviously it’s worked out the last couple years by my play, and I expect nothing less.”
That’s debatable if one understands what the goal in Green Bay should be with Rodgers and the roster of talent he’s had around him.
The Packers have indeed been a dominant regular-season team the past three years. They’ve won 13 games and have dominated their division, winning three titles in a row. And Rodgers has been the focal point of that regular-season success, averaging 37 TD passes per season.
But that all should feel kind of empty when compared to what has happened in the postseason.
In each postseason following those memorable regular seasons, the Packers have been bounced from the playoffs in an unceremonious fashion, including in consecutive home losses in the 2021 and 2022 postseason.
And Rodgers, remarkable in the regular season, has been much less impressive in the postseason — including in last season’s loss to San Francisco in which he passed for only 225 yards without a touchdown.
So how does that departing bitter taste of last season, losing his best weapon in Adams, and getting a huge contract lead to so much talk about retirement and staying away from the team most of the offseason?
It feels like Rodgers is walking two paths that should not be intersecting.
The Packers are obviously good with Rodgers handling this offseason whatever way he wants now. They don’t really have a choice.
But with the offense in transition is Rodgers’ approach going to pay dividends in the playoffs? Does it matter?
Maybe not. But Rodgers has opened the door to make it seem like it might.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero