The Green Bay Packers were unwilling to trade Aaron Rodgers when he expressed his unhappiness last offseason, so why was it different when Davante Adams wanted out?
Some of it came down to the disparity between an MVP quarterback and an All-Pro receiver, and some of it came down to finances.
And it turned out that their futures weren’t tied together after all.
“Those are kind of two separate situations,” Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst told reporters on Monday at the NFL owners meetings in Palm Beach, Florida.
“There were some dominoes that were important to us, that if we continued down the road we were, it was gonna be difficult to put the team we wanted to put around Aaron and everybody, so I think [they were] two different situations. But we wish him the best and his family the best and ultimately this is what he wanted.”
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It was the first time Gutekunst — or any member of the Packers’ coaching staff or personnel department — held a press briefing since Rodgers announced on March 8 that he would return to the team and since Adams was traded on March 17 to the Raiders for their first- and second-round picks in next month’s draft.
Rodgers signed what amounted to a new three-year, $150 million contract. The deal technically runs through the 2026 season, although the final two years would be either voided or renegotiated if Rodgers continued to play.
Either way, the contract increased the chances that Rodgers would retire with the team that drafted him in 2005.
“We’d certainly like to,” Gutekunst said when asked if the Packers think this contract means Rodgers would retire with the team. “I think that’s certainly one of the goals. … I don’t want to speak for him, but I think that was kind of part of the scenario we thought when we went through this process.”
Gutekunst has about $15 million in salary-cap space available, but half of that will be needed to sign the draft class. That’s likely where Gutekunst will look to fill the void left by Adams and fellow receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who signed a three-year, $30 million deal with the Kansas City Chiefs.
While Gutekunst didn’t rule out still being able to add a free agent — “I think we have some flexibility that if the right player was there, we could acquire him” — the bulk is likely to come from the draft. With the Raiders’ first- and second-round picks, Gutekunst has four picks in the top 60 — Nos. 22, 28, 53 and 59.
“You never really replace a guy like Davante Adams,” Gutekunst said. “It’s gonna be more cumulative and how the whole team steps up and plays and what we can add to that. So getting the two picks and having four picks in the top 59 I think gives us a little bit of ammunition to try to make a difference there a little bit.”
What’s more, he believes he has perhaps the best defense he’s had during his tenure as GM, which dates to 2018. He re-signed free-agent linebacker De’Vondre Campbell (five years, $50 million) and cornerback Rasul Douglas (three years, $21 million) while adding veteran defensive tackle Jarran Reed (one year, $3.255 million). He released outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith, but the Packers played almost all of last season without him anyway due to a back injury. They’ll also have back All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander, who missed most of last season because of a shoulder injury.
“I think you guys saw last year as we grew as a defense, we had some really good moments where we made it really difficult on our opponents,” Gutekunst said. “I think as a group, even with some of the injuries we had with Z and Jaire, they were really able to hold their end of the bargain up.
“Look at that playoff game [a 13-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round], that was one of the better performances defensively that we’ve had in the playoffs in a long time. I’m excited about that group, seeing what [coordinator] Joe [Barry] can do with them in the second year, especially with some healthy pieces that weren’t there last year. It will be interesting what we can add between now and September, but I like the group we have coming back.”
ESPN’s Kevin Seifert contributed to this report.