Brian Gutekunst says Aaron Rodgers will be missed, but time to see what Jordan Love can do
GREEN BAY – Brian Gutekunst declined to share details, with one of the biggest trades in Green Bay Packers history yet to be finalized, but there was no masking his relief as he stepped to the podium inside Lambeau Field on Monday afternoon.
The long stalemate between the Packers general manager, the New York Jets and Aaron Rodgers is done. Finally.
“We’ll talk more about it as we go through the weekend,” Gutekunst said, “but I think hopefully there’s some finality for everybody in it.”
Gutekunst said the only holdup with the trade at this point is paperwork. The expectation, he said, is the trade will be finalized Tuesday.
When the agreed details process through the NFL office, the Packers will have swapped their 15th overall pick in Thursday night’s first round of the draft for the Jets’ 13th pick, a source confirmed to PackersNews. The Packers are also receiving the Jets’ 42nd overall pick in Friday night’s second round, which will go nicely with their 45th overall selection in the second round. The Packers also are giving the Jets a fifth-round pick (No. 170) for the Jets’ No. 207 overall pick in the sixth round.
The biggest piece in the trade is a 2024 conditional second-round pick from the Jets that becomes a first-round pick if Rodgers plays 65% of the snaps this fall. There is no protection for the pick if Rodgers retires after the 2023 season, a source confirmed. Given Rodgers’ place atop the Jets depth chart ahead of new backup Zach Wilson, the second overall pick in the 2021 draft, it’s likely to become a first-round pick if the quarterback stays healthy in his age-40 season.
It’s apparent Gutekunst dug his heels in for at least a swap of first-round picks in this week’s draft, and likely no conditions tied to Rodgers’ future for a 2024 pick. The Packers gain 100 points in draft value moving up those two slots, according to the draft value chart created by former Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson and used widely throughout the league. Those two positions are equivalent to the 100th overall pick in the draft on the value chart, which comes late in the third round.
“If you look at the trade charts,” Gutekunst said, “that’ll tell you what that’s worth. Really, I have no idea until I know who’s on the clock when we’re picking. So we’ll see. If I we're to do that, I would be doing that because I thought it was important.”
When the trade is final, Gutekunst will also be ending one of the greatest chapters in the Packers’ storied history. The Packers are moving on from a four-time MVP and future first-ballot Hall of Famer, a quarterback who led their franchise to a Super Bowl XLV championship after the 2010 season. Gutekunst said he still hasn’t spoken with Rodgers since shortly before the season ended. With his attention squarely on building a roster around first-time starter Jordan Love, he doesn’t know when their next conversation will come.
Gutekunst said he had “quite a bit” of communication with David Dunn, who represents Rodgers. He said more conversations with the quarterback would have been preferred, but the lack of dialogue made it clear which direction he needed to take for the Packers’ future.
“I think where our team is at,” Gutekunst said, “obviously Aaron is up there in age. And however many years he has, I think he’s got some really good football left in him. I think for us, as we got through the offseason and started talking about where we wanted to go, this made a little bit of sense for us. We wanted to get his input, like I told you guys in the past. I would’ve loved to have had that and kind of seen where he sat with that. That didn’t happen, and that was a little bit unfortunate and disappointing for me.
“At the same time, I just think as we move forward, we’re really excited with where Jordan can go. He needs to play. Having him sit another year, I think, would’ve really delayed where we’re going.”
Gutekunst said the lack of communication at the end brought no animosity from him. Throughout the process, the Packers have been determined not to repeat the turbulent divorce of 2008, when the franchise traded Brett Favre to the Jets. With Rodgers’ future with the team uncertain the past two offseasons, Gutekunst said he was prepared this is how the end come with Rodgers’ time in Green Bay.
Three days from the draft, Gutekunst acknowledged it was difficult to put Rodgers’ career in proper perspective, but the GM said he appreciated what his longtime quarterback meant to the franchise that drafted him in 2005.
“I have so much respect for Aaron and the person and player that he is,” Gutekunst said. “There’s so much gratitude for what he’s done for this organization. It would have been nice to have those conversations, but at the same time over the last few years, I kind of understood that may not happen. So it’s different, and it will probably hit me a little bit at some other juncture when I don’t have a lot on my plate, but I know this: He’ll always be a Packer. He’ll be one of the best to have ever done it around here, and I have a lot of respect for how he went about it.
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“He’ll be missed, no doubt about it. Players like that don’t come around very often, but at the same time I’m really excited where we’re headed and what we’re going to do, and I wish him nothing but the best.”
With the trade nearing completion, Gutekunst said, his attention is squarely on this week’s draft. Gutekunst surely knew how important it was to complete the trade before he prepared for an upcoming season with a first-time starter at the game’s most important position. The Packers have more ammunition now to build around Love.
There is no time to rest, but Gutekunst finally found a bit of relief.
“I think whenever you’ve worked on something as long as we have here,” Gutekunst said, “you’re just hopeful it can get done, and everything can get squared away. And then I’m sure there will be feelings after that. This draft thing is so consuming in some ways, it’s obviously my favorite part of this, but it’s very consuming. So right now, just go through it and continue to accomplish the task we need to accomplish.”