By passing on his option to declare independence from the Packers, Aaron Rodgers is taking the NFL’s most dramatic offseason showdown into crunch time.
It was no surprise when the league’s reigning MVP failed to report for Green Bay’s mandatory minicamp in early June and officially became a holdout. There was a bit of suspense Friday, the NFL’s deadline for players to opt out of the 2021 season for COVID-19 reasons, and Rodgers had millions of financial reasons to do so.
Though the 37-year-old quarterback declined to opt out, it does not mean he’s all in on a return to the Packers. What it means is Rodgers has one fewer card to play as the game of chicken — or double jeopardy — continues.
“Rodgers is probably staying put,” DraftKings sportsbook director John Avello said. “If he leaves, the team is going to be a disaster. The Packers are going to keep him and try to keep him happy.”
As the sports world turns, you can bet on it. The team Rodgers plays for this season is a prop bet at Circa Sports, where oddsmakers favor his return to the Packers. For which team will Rodgers play his next regular-season snap? Green Bay is the -140 favorite, with the Denver Broncos as the 7-2 second choice.
Nevada gaming regulators were reluctant to approve the Rodgers prop, an information-based wager that’s vulnerable to breaking news and inside info, but it was cleared for action for Circa’s sportsbook in Colorado.
On April 29, the first day of the NFL draft, reports surfaced about Rodgers’ displeasure with the Packers and his wish to be traded. Rumors swirled about a potential deal that would send Rodgers to Denver. More than two months later, the situation still is ripe for rampant speculation.
Circa Sports operations manager Jeff Benson said the Broncos had attracted the most money on the prop, largely due to home-team bias in Colorado.
“Denver would seem to be the logical choice if he doesn’t go back to Green Bay, and that’s where we’ve seen a lot of the betting interest so far,” Benson said.
DraftKings opened a similar prop May 3, posting the Packers as -125 favorites to retain Rodgers, but recently took it off the board to avoid exposure.
“If something is going to happen, we’re probably going to get caught blindsided,” Avello said.
The Broncos make sense as a landing spot for Rodgers because Denver has no established starting quarterback, and the Packers, who compete in the NFC North, would probably prefer to send Rodgers to an AFC team.
Two teams in the NFC West, the 49ers and Rams, reportedly inquired about Rodgers’ availability before the draft but were rebuffed. The Rams later traded with Detroit for veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford. The 49ers retained Jimmy Garoppolo and made North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance the No. 3 pick of the draft.
Green Bay team President Mark Murphy and general manager Brian Gutekunst continue to say they have no intention of trading Rodgers.
“Why would you want to do that? You hold all the cards,” said VSiN analyst Michael Lombardi, a former NFL executive. “Rodgers holds no cards.”
Lombardi’s viewpoint is understandable because he’s a former GM who would not want to give in to a star player’s demand. It’s my opinion the Packers should seriously consider trading Rodgers, who’s at the tail end of his career. Why not deal him for two first-round picks or more in an effort to get as much as possible in return? Green Bay management traded up to draft Jordan Love in the 2020 first round for a reason, so it might be time to roll with Love. Crunch time for the decision could be mid-August.
A COVID-19 opt-out was a card for Rodgers. That move would have allowed Rodgers to keep $11.5 million in signing-bonus money and a $6.8 million roster bonus, so he could have bailed on Green Bay without forfeiting $18.3 million. He can continue to push for a trade or eventually kiss and make up with management. Rodgers does not face stiffer financial penalties in the form of fines until July 27, when training camp kicks off.
Tom Brady was a free agent last year when he left New England for Tampa Bay. Rodgers and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who reportedly wanted out of Seattle this year, are under contract and unable to dictate their next moves.
“They all want to be James Harden, and this isn’t the NBA,” Lombardi said in reference to Harden essentially forcing a trade from Houston to Brooklyn in January.
“At (his age), does Rodgers really want to waste a year? I would suspect he comes back. He’ll spin it, and the media is stupid enough to let him spin it.”
Some books are not offering NFC North odds while Rodgers is in limbo. At books that are posting division odds, look to play the Minnesota Vikings at 5-2 or 3-1. DraftKings opened the Packers’ season win total at 10.5 before pulling it off the board.
Green Bay went 13-3 last season and lost to Brady and the Buccaneers in the NFC title game. Rodgers completed a league-high 70.7% of his passes for 4,299 yards and 48 touchdowns with five interceptions.
If the Packers go into the 2021 season without Rodgers and start Love, who did not play as a rookie, Lombardi said he would make Green Bay’s win total 6.5 or 7 for the new 17-game schedule.
On the Circa prop board below the Packers and Broncos, five teams — the Colts, Dolphins, 49ers, Raiders and Saints — are listed at 12-1 odds. Washington is 15-1 and New England 26-1, but the reality is Rodgers playing anywhere other than Green Bay or Denver is a long shot.
“When you look at it, obviously the Packers have been adamant they are not going to trade Rodgers,” Benson said. “It makes sense for Green Bay to be the short favorite, and maybe you have a discounted price on the favorite. There’s a very good chance he goes back there.”