Aaron Rodgers blames breakdown in communication with Packers on lack of FaceTime calls
GREEN BAY – To Aaron Rodgers, the breakdown in communication between him and the Green Bay Packers this offseason was nothing more than spotty cell service.
Rodgers was introduced as the New York Jets quarterback Wednesday afternoon in New York, smiling as he held his new No. 8 jersey in Gang Green. The details of his divorce from the Packers are in the past now that he’s been traded, following Brett Favre’s path to the Jets set 15 years ago.
The four-time MVP quarterback asked midway through his introductory news conference about the Packers' assertion Rodgers essentially ghosted them this spring. His explanation was a meandering explanation of technology in 2023.
“People who know me, I’m fortunate to live in a beautiful house," he said. "The only downside is I have very limited cell service. So if you want to get ahold of me, I need to see your face. You need to FaceTime me. So the only response to the communication thing is, there’s records on your phone about who called you when, FaceTime. There wasn’t any specific FaceTimes from those numbers that I was looking at.”
General manager Brian Gutekunst last spoke with Rodgers shortly after last season ended with a home loss to the Detroit Lions. His expectation was for more conversations to follow in the weeks to come, but they never occurred. Gutekunst has said multiple times since the NFL owners meetings last month he tried “many times” to reach Rodgers, but he was unsuccessful.
“Obviously, it was a disappointing season,” Gutekunst said at the owners meetings last month in Phoenix. “You come out of the season, you have a lot of conversations not only with Aaron, but with the rest of the team, coaches and everybody. And then as you go through that process, you kind of get an idea of where you’re going to move to as a team, how you’re going to go forward. I think I was really looking forward to the conversations with Aaron to see how he’d fit into that. Those never transpired.
“So there came a time where we kind of had to make some decisions. So we went through his representatives to kind of talk to him about where we were going with our team. At that point, they informed us they would like to be traded to the Jets.”
A few hours later, Gutekunst spoke with reporters for the first time since one of the seminal trades in franchise history was executed. He was insistent on taking the high road, unwilling to answer whether he tried to FaceTime his former quarterback this offseason.
“We’re not going to get into those details,” Gutekunst said. “I understand the question, and we tried to communicate on a number of levels. Once we couldn’t, we communicated with his agents quite a bit. I’m not going to get into that. I think it’s not good for us, not good for them, and we’re going to just move forward.
“There was no lack of effort in communication on that part from us, but I think this is a good day for the Packers, a good day for the Jets.”
Brian Gutekunst touches on how negotiations went with the Jets
Gutekunst said the trade took longer to reach an agreement than he initially expected. When asked why, the general manager had no specifics. He said negotiations with Jets general manager Joe Douglas were cordial throughout, helping him believe common ground would be reached eventually. Gutekunst added it was important for the Packers to receive proper compensation for a player who he, along with many throughout the league, believes still has quality snaps left in his career.
As negotiations continued, Gutekunst implied he dropped from his original asking price for Rodgers. The second-round draft pick acquired in the trade (No. 42 overall) was important, Gutekunst said, because it gives him flexibility to move around at the top of the draft. There was “a lot of back and forth” on whether the Packers would receive a pick in 2024 or 2025, Gutekunst said. The Packers ultimately got a 2024 conditional second-round pick that will become a first-round pick if Rodgers plays 65% of snaps this season.
“Oh, I wanted a lot of things to start out,” Gutekunst said. “So, yeah, no doubt. Maybe more than that. Aaron is a great player. So if you’re going to trade a great player, you certainly want to get as much for him as you can. I think we were realistic as well, and understood where the player was at in his career. But, yeah, we wanted a lot of things.”
Prior to dealing Rodgers, the Packers renegotiated Rodgers’ contract so that the $58.3 million option bonus that needed to be executed by the first week of the season was converted to 2024 base salary.
The move was made to benefit the Jets, who were down to about $8 million in cap space and would have needed $14.575 million of room to add Rodgers under the existing contract. Now, only Rodgers’ $1.165 million base salary and $50,000 workout bonus count against the cap.
Rodgers’ base salary for next season is $107 million, so the Jets will restructure the contract in the near future.
For the Packers, nothing changes. Rodgers will still count $40.3 million against the 2023 cap. But that will be it. All the salary cap charges belonging to Rodgers will be gone after this year.
The Packers are now about $16 million under the cap. Gutekunst said the cap will be “a little tight” for 2023 and did not discount the possibility of making more moves to clear space, but the team will only take those steps if necessary.
“I think the two things,” Gutekunst said, “one was being able to get compensation for this. Obviously, if we were going to spread that hit out, it was going to be after June 1, which means these assets in this draft were not going to be available for us. And then I think we’re beyond free agency, so kind of taking it now and clearing some stuff up for next year, I just thought that was a better route for us to take.”
This wasn't a Brett Favre-style divorce, according to both Aaron Rodgers and the Packers
Rodgers declined to get into further specifics on what happened between him and the Packers this offseason. The focus Wednesday was to introduce himself to a new fan base for the first time in his career.
The quarterback said he's looking forward to another chapter in a new city, one Rodgers felt he had no other option but to pursue.
“That’s neither here nor there,” Rodgers said, “because we’re now in this position. Obviously, that’s somehow the direction they wanted to go, as far as the story they couldn’t get ahold of me and were surprised for this to be the case. My point was, if there was a change that wanted to be made, why wasn’t that told to me earlier in the offseason? Obviously, my future was undecided at that time. I didn’t know if I wanted to keep playing.
“I wanted to go into my darkness retreat and sit with it and contemplate, but when I came out, it was evident my decisions were to retire or move on to a new team.”
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There’s a sense of history repeating itself with Rodgers following Favre to New York, with one notable exception. Unlike 15 years ago, the Packers have minimal healing ahead of them with their fan base. The trade process was much smoother this time around, perhaps the sign of an organization learning from its past.
When Favre left Green Bay in the summer of 2008, there were many hurdles before he reunited with the franchise. It’s much easier now to foresee Rodgers’ return when it’s time to induct one of the greatest players in franchise history in the team’s hall of fame.
“I’m so appreciative of everything he’s given this organization,” Gutekunst said. “He’ll rightly take his place among the greats here when that time comes, and it’s well-deserved. For me, this is part of the business of the National Football League. It’s part of it, you know when you get into it. You see it all the time. So for us, it’s obviously not just another day, because of what he’s meant to the organization, but we knew this time would come at some point.
“When that time comes for him to come back here, I think it’ll be a wonderful thing.”