Now that Aaron Rodgers is sticking around, what should the Packers do with Jordan Love?

Pete Dougherty
Packers News

GREEN BAY - Jordan Love was a good first-round draft pick even though he has done next to nothing on the field, and even if he never plays another snap for the Green Bay Packers.

In the two seasons since general manager Brian Gutekunst stunned the NFL by trading up to select Love in the first round of the 2020 draft, Aaron Rodgers has returned to MVP form and now is on the verge of signing a contract extension with the Packers.

How many first-round picks can say they’ve had that kind of impact on their team? Because to think the Love pick had nothing to do with Rodgers’ play ignores basic human nature. Rodgers wanted to put himself back in the driver’s seat and stick it to Gutekunst from the moment the GM drafted Love. The only way to do that was to play great football.

This was Tom Brady-Jimmy Garoppolo all over again.

“As for the narrative Love was a wasted a pick, I disagree,” a former GM in the league said Tuesday, speaking to USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity for competitive reasons. “That pick totally refocused and refreshed Rodgers as a player and as a competitor.”

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DETROIT, MICHIGAN - JANUARY 09: Jordan Love #10 of the Green Bay Packers reacts against the Detroit Lions during the second half at Ford Field on January 09, 2022 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)

So now with Rodgers coming back, the Packers must decide what to do with Love. They can trade him for immediate draft capital in what should be a seller’s market because of a weak quarterback draft class. Or they can hold onto him because there’s no telling what the future holds.

From where I sit, unless they recoup a first-round pick, which it’s hard to imagine any team even considering based on Love’s NFL game tape, the Packers should just sit tight with their backup quarterback.

For starters, even with a weak quarterback draft class, chances are Love won’t garner enough on the trade market to make it worth moving him. I asked two NFL scouts what the Packers could get; one predicted a third-rounder, maybe a second best case, the other said a fifth.

My guess is even a second-rounder is too optimistic. Jim Nagy, the executive director of the Senior Bowl, tweeted that he consulted several scouts who speculated a second-rounder, so maybe I’m wrong. But I’ll believe it when I see it.

“Not sure he’s shown that yet,” said the scout, speaking on condition of anonymity for competitive reasons and who guessed a fifth-rounder.

Really, barring a first-rounder, the Packers should hold tight anyway. There will always be quarterback-needy teams, and Love could drive up the price with a good preseason.

More important is the uncertainty of Rodgers’ future regardless of his new contract. Yes, his reported four-year extension has huge guarantees, but much depends on the deal’s structure, which won’t become public knowledge for a few days.

The Packers have never guaranteed pay beyond the first year of a deal, but it’s almost a given they are with Rodgers to lower his 2022 cap number as much as possible. Assuming that’s the case, it will give both sides an out if either wants a trade next offseason. If Rodgers is moved next year at this time, then another team, not the Packers, will pay those future guarantees.

Or what if the Packers win the Super Bowl this season? Rodgers has talked enough about retirement that it wouldn’t be a shock if he then walked away.

Not saying it’s likely Rodgers returns for only one season, but who knows? And if so, Love would still be on the path Rodgers took, sitting for three years before getting his shot as the starter.

“To me, Aaron is still year to year, so not sure why they’d move (Love) anyway,” one of the scouts said. 

There’s also the chance Rodgers gets injured and misses several games, maybe even half a season, in ‘22. Making or missing the playoffs then could ride on winning enough of those games to stay afloat. Love, in his third year in the Packers’ offense, would give them a better shot than some bargain-basement veteran backup, which is about all the Packers could afford with their cap issues.

Keeping Love also makes financial sense because he’s cheap – his salary is $1.735 million this season. With signing-bonus acceleration, trading him now would save only $94,230 on the team’s cap.

“I would hang on to him,” said a scout, speaking on condition of anonymity for competitive reasons, about getting a second-rounder in return. “No rush to move on, and his money is affordable.”

Going forward it’s worth looking back, and if there’s one thing the drafting of Love proves, it’s that everything is fluid in the NFL.

Remember the people after the Love pick who insisted, absolutely insisted, the Packers’ plan was to move on from Rodgers after one season? Or two? That teams don’t draft first-round quarterbacks to sit them, and they certainly don’t sit them for three years anymore?

Well, teams didn’t sit first-round quarterbacks for three years back when Ted Thompson drafted Rodgers, either. Yet, the Packers did.

The moment Gutekunst selected Love, he surely knew there was at least a chance that things might go this way. Love was simply an expensive hedge at the game’s critical position.

Rodgers is on his way to sending Love packing before ever getting a shot in Green Bay. Rodgers’ contract extension now makes that look more likely than not.

But circumstances change fast in the NFL. There’s no knowing what things will look like next year at this time. That’s why holding onto Love is the smart play.