Green Bay Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst has admitted that he has not talked to four-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers since trading the team’s former franchise QB to the New York Jets.
“I have not talked to Aaron,” Gutekunst revealed in his pre-NFL draft press conference after the trade compensation was finalised on Monday.
“I have talked to Dave Dunn (Rodgers’ agent) quite a bit, but I have not talked to Aaron.”
“I think where our team is at, obviously, Aaron’s up there in age, and although he’s got some really good football in him, I think for us, as we got through the offseason, a trade made a little better sense for us.”
Gutekunst made headlines by drafting Jordan Love, Rodgers’ replacement, in the 2020 first round, just 18 months after signing him to a four-year extension. Green Bay was then put in a difficult situation, with the 39-year-old subsequently winning two MVPs.
One contract extension later, a decision was finally made to move on this offseason. By trading Rodgers to New York, the Packers have moved up two spots in Thursday night’s 2023 first round, where they’ll look to surround their new quarterback with more talent.
Also in the package was a 2023 second-round pick, and a future second-rounder that can become a first-round pick, should Rodgers play in 65% of games for the Jets in 2023.
Love has made one start since joining the Packers after Rodgers missed a trip to Arrowhead due to testing positive for COVID-19, but there was enough optimism in the organisation for them to move on from their long-time QB.
“I think as we move forward we’re really excited for where Jordan could go, he needs to play, and having him sit another year would’ve really delayed where we’re going and what we’re trying to build.”
“I have so much respect for Aaron, and not only the person, but also the player that he is, and I have so much gratitude for what he’s done for this organisation.
“He’ll always be a Packer, he’ll be one of the best to have ever done it around here, and he will be missed there’s no doubt about it, players like that do not come around very often.
“At the same time, we are really excited about where we are headed and wish him nothing but the best”: Gutekunst said.
Gutekunst also responded to qualms about whether his young quarterback was ready: “We’ve seen steady growth through his first three years here, especially with the challenges of having no pre-season in his rookie year.
“The biggest thing was last year in practice a number of times, because of Aaron’s injuries, he took over a lot of time with the 1’s, and I just think we saw him grow and grow.
“He didn’t get nearly as many opportunities as we’d have liked last season during games, but when he did he was ready to answer the bell.”
Gutekunst then added: “I think it’s natural maturation as a person too.”
“What’s put on the plate of a starting quarterback in the NFL is significant, and there’s a lot to that, with challenges on and off the field, I think we started to see him grow into that role and feel more confident.”
Rodgers isn’t the first superstar player to be traded in Gutekunst’s tenure as GM, All-Pro Wide Receiver Davantae Adams became a Las Vegas Raider last offseason.
On whether trading away two potential future hall of famers was a risk, he responded: “There’s certainly an element of risk, but that’s part of the job right?
“Aaron was coming into the time of his career where it was ending and we had to prepare for the future and to move forward.
“It’s always risky, I mean we were 8-9 last year, we’re always trying to be better.”
With the draft on the horizon, Gutekunst was quizzed on his strategy: “You’d love to say that every pick is the best player available because you truly don’t know what your needs will be until you get to the season.
“At the same time, it’s hard not to let those subconscious thoughts into your mind about what your roster looks like.
“We evaluate for our football team, rather than for the league, so subconsciously if you have a need it’s going to factor in.
“If we can, the best practice is the best player available because by the time we get to September, October, November what our needs are could be everything.”
He prefixed that by saying: “It’s a good draft overall, it’s one that we’re certainly excited about and one that we really believe that we’re going to be able to add to our football team and help us for 2023 and beyond.
“I think it is a good edge class this year, there’s a lot deeper of a class than there has been in recent years, tight end is another one that I think I’ve mentioned earlier.” Green Bay lost tight end Robert Tonyan to Chicago in free agency.
Gutekunst was then asked whether TE was a more premium position than 15 years ago, to which he replied: “I don’t think so.
“There was already so much demand on the tight ends, with not only the entire passing trees but also the run and pass blocking.
“It’s a very demanding position, obviously with the way Matt (La Fleur) uses multiple TE’s they’re very important to our offense, sometimes it can be scheme related, but for us, it’s a very important position.”
You can watch the 2023 NFL Draft on Sky Sports, with coverage of the first round beginning at 9 PM on Thursday night.