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Why Did Aaron Rodgers Leave Green Bay? He ‘Still Has That Fire’ For Football

Packers GM Brian Gutekunst said that “there were a number of reasons.”
Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers. Getty Images

He’s been their franchise quarterback for his entire NFL career—a total of 18 seasons—but the reason why Aaron Rodgers is leaving the Green Bay Packers is a simple example of how all good things must come to an end.

Rodgers began his football career at Butte College in 2002 before transferring to the University of California for the Golden Bears. He would set several career records during that time, including the lowest single-season and career interception rates. In 2005, he was drafted to play in the National Football League by the Green Bay Packers as a backup for Brett Favre for his first three years. In 2008, he was Green Bay’s starting quarterback and by 2010, he’d led them to a Super Bowl Victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was awarded league MPV and named Associated Press’ Athlete of the Year in 2011.

But the Packer’s 2022/2023 wasn’t all that stellar and football pundits (unfairly sometimes) tend to blame the quarterback when the team’s performance deteriorates. Here’s why Aaron Rodgers is leaving the Packers and where he’s re-signed.

Why is Aaron Rodgers leaving the Green Bay Packers?

Why is Aaron Rodgers leaving the Green Bay Packers? On April 24, 2023, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that the New York Jets agreed to trade Rodgers with the Green Bay Packers. The deal goes a as Aaron Rodgers is traded with their first-round pick (No. 15) and a 2023 fifth-round pick (No. 170) to the Jets for New York’s 2023 first-round pick (No. 13), a 2023 second-round pick (No. 42), a 2023 sixth-round pick (No. 207) and a conditional 2024 second-round pick that becomes a first if Rodgers plays 65% of the plays this season.

Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst commented on the trade saying, “It wouldn’t have been the end of the world. But at the same time, I think it would have certainly changed things quite a bit. So, getting it done was important. I just think certainly the capital for this year was very important, certainly more valuable than future stuff, for our football team. So, there were a number of reasons, but that’s why.”

During a regular appearance on The Pat McAfee Show, the four-time leave MVP said his intention is to continue playing NFL but that “the Packers would like to move on. They’ve let me know that in so many words. They’ve let other people know that in direct words.” He continued: “And because I still have that fire and I want to play and I would like to play in New York, it’s just a matter of getting that done at this point.”

Aaron Rodgers, Packers
Image: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images.

He mentioned he had no hard feelings towards his former team, saying, “[From] my side – love, appreciation and gratitude for everything that Green Bay has done for me. So much love and gratitude and just heart open for Packers fans and what it meant to be their quarterback.” He also touched on why he considered with the New York Jets. “Because I still have that fire and I want to play and I would like to play in New York, it’s just a matter of getting that done at this point.”

Trading Rodgers to the Jets wasn’t as simple as it sounded, though. Apparently, this team wants a lot for him—more than the Jets are prepared to pay. Multiple sources told ProFootballTalk that the Packers want more than a first-round pick as part of the base deal. “They want protection in 2025, in the event Rodgers plays in 2024. And that’s more than the Jets believe they should surrender for a player the Packers no longer want,” the site speculated. “If the Jets are willing to offer something like a conditional package that would entail as much as a second-round pick this year and up to a second-round pick next year, the Packers would be nuts to not take it.”

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on Thursday, March 16, 2023, that the two sides were “not close” on agreeing on the trade as of the night before. “All I can tell you is that Green Bay believes it’s right, the Jets believe they’re right and now we wait to see how the two sides can find a way to somehow meet in the middle and come up with a simple solution,” Schefter said.

“That’s where the two sides are right now, far apart… More complicated is the fact that the Jets and the Green Bay Packers have to figure out compensation on what it would take to acquire Aaron Rodgers—and my understanding is that within the Packers organization they felt that he was worth a package that was similar to the one that the Rams once got for Matthew Stafford,” Schefter said, adding that the Jets “have to figure out what they’re willing to pay.”

Rodgers accused the Packers of “digging their heels in” and holding up his trade to the New York team. “I haven’t been holding anything up. At this point, it’s been compensation that the Packers are trying to get for me, kind of digging their heels in. It is interesting at this point to step back and take a look at the whole picture,” Rodgers told McAffe.

In 2022, the Packers signed Rodgers to a three-year extension deal worth $150 million; it’s the highest in terms of annual average income. He was set to bring in another $59.4 million guaranteed salary next season, the highest-ever salary doled out to an NFL player for a single season, which means the Packers need to find a team willing to absorb the cap hit from Rodgers’ $58.3 million option bonus for the 2023 season.

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Image: Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images.

Rodgers made headlines in July 2021 after he declined an extension contract from the Packers. According to ESPN, the five-year deal would have made him the highest-paid quarterback—and player overall—in the sport. Football fans and commentators took to social media in droves following the report, with many trying to make sense of Rodgers’ decision. Among them was sports personality and host of ESPN’s First Take, Stephan A. Smith, who described his “disgust” with “all of these NFL aficionados” that “don’t understand” Rodgers’ frustrations during a segment of the show.

In the clip, which later landed on Twitter, Smith defended Rodgers’ choice. “This is proof of what I’ve been talking about for months. It’s not about football. It’s not just about the money,” he said. “This is about the way the Green Bay Packers have treated their star player. They have disregarded him, they have dismissed him, they have minimized him, they’ve disrespected him. And he said, ‘Bump y’all, enough is enough.’”

News of his potential exit first broke in May, when ESPN senior NFL analyst Adam Schefter claimed on Twitter that Rodgers was “disgruntled” with his team. “Reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers is so disgruntled with the Green Bay Packers that he has told some within the organization that he does not want to return to the team, league, and team sources told ESPN on Thursday,” Schefter’s tweet read at the time.

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