PHOENIX — As the Green Bay Packers and New York Jets hammer out the final sticking points in a trade for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, there is a pressure point looming in talks — and it’s coming fast.
Mark April 17 on your calendars.
That’s the date Green Bay kicks off its offseason workout program. And if Rodgers is still on the Packers roster, the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and NFL Players Association dictates the Packers aren’t allowed to keep him away from the team facility once workouts begin. Which means if Rodgers wants to make things extremely awkward as trade talks drag on — and he’s not on great terms with Green Bay’s front office at the moment — he could simply choose to show up.
That possibility raises two questions: Would Rodgers actually make such an aggressive move to apply that kind of pressure on talks; and would the Packers ever let talks drag on long enough to give him the opportunity? There’s a chance we could find out, although at the annual NFL owners meetings this week, Packers head coach Matt LaFleur danced around the question of Rodgers’ potential workout attendance if a trade isn’t completed by April 17.
“That’s all between [Jets general manager Joe Douglas] and [Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst],” LaFluer said. “I’m going to leave that one to them. We’ll coach whoever is on our roster.”
Individuals involved with the trade talks were a little less opaque about what the workout program means, though, with one source calling the April 17 workout start date “an artificial deadline,” with the next key moment after that coming the week before the NFL Draft.
“The [Packers] workouts beginning could certainly make it awkward if it gets to that point,” the source said. “And it might. We’ll see.”
As of Tuesday, there was some optimism that a deal was inching closer between the two sides. A second source in the talks said a window of “the next week or so” was a realistic timeframe to square away a deal. The latest terms being discussed involved the Jets sending a pair of second-round picks in the 2023 and 2024 drafts to the Packers in exchange for Rodgers. The 2024 pick would include a team performance escalator applying to the Jets that could elevate that pick to a first-rounder. However, the sticking point in the deal, as of Tuesday, was the Jets requiring some kind of draft pick “give back” in 2025 if Rodgers declines to play beyond the 2023 season.
The wrangling over that aspect has created a drag on the trade discussions, which are now entering their third week and sliding into more prickly territory publicly. The latest turn came this week, when Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst responded to Rodgers’ claim earlier this month that the Packers began shopping him for a trade while he was taking part in a darkness retreat. Gutekunst suggested there was more to that story, alleging that Rodgers didn’t respond to overtures from Green Bay’s front office to have a discussion about his future plans and the direction of the franchise. Rodgers also asserted earlier this month on “The Pat McAfee Show” that the Packers initially told him to take as much time as he needed to make a decision about his future.
This “he said/they said” volley about who failed in communications and created an impasse is part of what weighs on the coming days and the possibility that Rodgers could up the ante by attending workouts. But while that situation represents a crossroads, it’s not unprecedented in recent history. The San Francisco 49ers and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo came to an agreement last offseason that effectively kept him out of the team’s facility while the two sides attempted to find a trade partner last offseason. That trade suitor never materialized, resulting in Garoppolo taking a pay cut to remain with San Francisco in 2022 and then returning to the team in training camp.
Right now, there’s no indication Rodgers and the Packers have talked about that kind of deal. That means that as the trade clock ticks down, so too does the calendar on offseason workouts — leaving Green Bay to face that this whole affair could get far messier in just a matter of weeks.