Future of several Packers players may hinge on Rodgers returning

Several veteran players may not return for the 2022 season if Aaron Rodgers is not under center for Green Bay.

The Packers face an unenviable list of brutal questions that need answering this offseason, regarding who stays in Green Bay and who is moved on.

Brian Gutekunst will need to make these tough choices with his head, not his heart.

However, Aaron Rodgers must also make a big decision on his own future, and if he does indeed return to the Packers, it could force Gutekunst into personnel moves which are made because of sentiment, not sense.

Randall Cobb

Cobb is the most obvious player who is likely to be impacted by Rodgers’ decision to return to Green Bay, as the wide receiver wouldn’t have been on the Packers roster last year unless his old friend demanded it.

According to Spotrac, Cobb is set to make $9,641,666 in 2022, and the Packers can save almost $7million by cutting him (this rises to more than $8million with a post-June 1st designation).

The sensible move would be to release Cobb, who had only 375 receiving yards in 2021, matching the lowest total of his career, which came in his rookie year.

Then again, the sensible financial move last summer would have been to not trade for Cobb and take on more than $2.5million against their salary cap, which was already stretched thin.

But Gutekunst had to do this because reportedly, Rodgers would not have returned to the team otherwise.

The Packers drafted Amari Rodgers last year with the idea he would be the team’s designated slot receiver, and there’s little doubt if Aaron Rodgers opts to retire or play his football elsewhere, Cobb will be released.

But if 12 does come back, Gutekunst may be forced into keeping Cobb on the roster to placate his likely back-to-back MVP.

At this point of his career, Cobb may agree to restructuring his contract so it is essentially a veteran minimum deal, but regardless, his future as a Packer is inextricably linked to Rodgers’ pending decision.

Mason Crosby

It’s difficult to remember a time when Crosby wasn’t the Packers kicker. The 37-year-old has been a steady and reliable presence for the Packers for 15 years.

However, it appears the time may be coming for Green Bay to move on.

While the special teams as a whole was a straight up nightmare for the Packers in 2021, and Crosby was often not given the chance to get a kick through the uprights due to poor protection or a sub-par snap and hold, he also must take his share of the blame for a miserable year.

Crosby almost cost Green Bay a game on the road in Cincinnati with several botched kicks before finally converting the game-winner, and on top of his field goal and PAT woes, it has been obvious for some time that Crosby doesn’t have the leg to boot the ball through the end zone from kick off.

Considering the issues the Packers have had covering kicks, that is a less than ideal combination.

The grass isn’t always greener, and few players know how to kick in the treacherous conditions at Lambeau Field better than Crosby, but the Packers protected practice squad kicker J.J. Molson all last season, so clearly Gutekunst has at least considered a succession plan.

Green Bay could also save almost $3.5million by cutting Crosby after June 1st.

However, releasing Crosby would likely not go down well with Rodgers, who defended the veteran kicker on multiple occasions last year and was quick to point the finger at the operation as the reason for the misfires.

Many Packers fans wanted Crosby cut midway through the 2021 season, but that was never going to be on the table as there was no guarantee it would’ve fixed anything, and it wouldn’t have been well received by Green Bay’s veteran players.

If Rodgers departs and the Packers enter a mini rebuild, it’s likely Crosby won’t be part of it, but if 12 stays, Crosby may also stick around for another year.

Marcedes Lewis

The man they call Big Dog is in a different situation to the other two players on this list, because it will probably be up to him to decide if he wants to play in Green Bay in 2022, or indeed play at all.

Lewis has spoken publicly about believing he can play at a high level for at least three more years, and he could certainly provide value to the Packers offense in 2022.

The skillset which Lewis brings at the tight end position is extremely unique and would be difficult to find from another player. His blocking prowess is key to Green Bay’s running game and he has still shown enough ability as a pass catcher to justify his place on the field.

With Robert Tonyan set to hit free agency, the Packers tight end room is in flux, and if Lewis was to exit, it would leave only Josiah Deguara, Dominique Dafney and Tyler Davis.

Green Bay also has a new tight ends coach in John Dunn after Justin Outten left to become Nathaniel Hackett’s offensive co-ordinator in Denver.

The Packers could use a modicum of continuity at tight end and Lewis could provide that steady hand. He is also under contract for 2022, with a modest cap hit of just under $2.5million.

With all that in mind, Green Bay may not have any ideas of cutting Lewis, but the big question is whether he wants to carry on.

If Rodgers hangs up his cleats or is playing elsewhere, Lewis may simply decide to retire himself, or look for another opportunity.

Rodgers has spoken glowingly about Gutekunst recently and the way he has been accommodated in being ‘part of the conversation’ around personnel decisions. Whatever Rodgers decides for his own future will certainly have a significant impact on how the Packers roster is constructed in 2022.

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Mark Oldacres is a sports writer from Birmingham, England and a Green Bay Packers fan. You can follow him on twitter at @Marko7LW

2 points

Comments (30)

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canadapacker's picture

February 06, 2022 at 12:33 pm

Ok - this is an opinion that I am not totally in agreement with. Just to jump to Cobb is back if AR is back is a conclusion. I think that AR just wanted some input and that he thought that some guys were just summarily cut ( without looking at the big picture - such as Jordy and Charles). I think he sees the writing is on the wall for Cobb. Maybe a position in the coaching room? Same thing with Crosby - the time may have come although maybe a new special teams competition might fix some of that along with contract renegotiation. Of course AR is going to defend a kicker - he would be stupid not to - who would do that directly hang guys out to dry !!!! Big Dog is definitely back. He doesnt occupy a critical roster spot - he is an additional lineman, his skills are still there and Dafney and Davis are not there yet and Tonyon may be like Bak and not ready to start the season and also might need to take a lower salary based upon performance.
The key thing is how can the team get Adams and AR 's contracts done so that it allows room for the team to proceed. I believe it is going to be a 3 year contract ( with some sort of movement of cash out to the 5 year ) for AR and Adams a 3 year with a big bubble at the end and signing bonuses.
I think that unless MVS is willing to take less he might well leave and the team might need to use their first rounder on this position.

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jhtobias's picture

February 06, 2022 at 12:49 pm

This is a great article .. you can debate the players , but you are right Rodgers coming back will be meet with high demands from Rodgers himself.

Upper management needs to ask themselves this question : Is it really worth bringing Rodgers back a quarterback who is gonna be a 4 time MVP, costs a bundle and hasn't even gotten to a super bowl since 2010 Gonna ever get over the hump again ? If so then if he want's to come back do it .

Other way to look at it is in the NFC in the next few years do you need an mvp quarterback to get to the super bowl ? I look at san Francisco, and given a full year is Jimmy G really that much better than Jordan Love know one has the answer.

What will Rodgers bring in a trade ? I have no idea .

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TarynsEyes's picture

February 06, 2022 at 02:18 pm

Not one of the three mentioned is a NEED to have back, regardless of Rodgers being back or not. This team cannot afford to start the 'bring it back' mantra even if they were financially able to do so.

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Coldworld's picture

February 06, 2022 at 04:44 pm

Crosby and Lewis are candidates to retire anyway. If they are only coming back for Rodgers only then we need to think if that’s a good thing, especially given Crosby’s cost. Cobb probably shouldn’t be back. He’s just too fragile to tie up a roster spot unfortunately. That’s without considering his cost.

In all honesty, 2 with question marks of cost or age and one we likely shouldn’t retain for cost an availability. Hints that retaining Rodgers may be the wrong course for more reasons.

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NitschkeFan's picture

February 06, 2022 at 02:53 pm

We all have our opinion of who the team needs (and in the hard-cap NFL, it always depends on the contract being at the "right" price).

Lewis at a reasonable price, yes please.

Cobb & Crosby, if they are at a steep discount I would let them show up for camp and compete for a spot.

Not mentioned in the article:
De'Vondre Campbell, yes please.
Rasul Douglas, yes please.
Dennis Kelly, yes please.

MVS, Tonyon (yes i know he is a TE), St. Brown -- the degree of need for all these depend upon what happens with Adams. Without Adams the receiver cupboard is bare so I would expect them to spend some of the savings on these guys. If they pay top dollar for Adams, the rest of the pass catchers better expect minimum wage type of contracts.

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dblbogey's picture

February 06, 2022 at 03:12 pm

It was silly to sign Cobb just to make Aaron happy. It would be even sillier to keep him for another year just to make Aaron happy.

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stockholder's picture

February 06, 2022 at 03:58 pm

roto- world says Cobb and Lewis will be released before June 1. And maybe resigned for less. Crosby is Hall of Fame. They pay him. Turner is your right Tackle. And goes everywhere. Kelly cost us to many major penalties. Cut Kelly!.

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barutanseijin's picture

February 06, 2022 at 07:51 pm

HoF? Surely not the one in Canton.

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BirdDogUni's picture

February 06, 2022 at 04:08 pm

If giving AR a mega deal is contingent on Crosby, Big Dog, and Cobb being on the roster next year, I still say trade his a$$ for all you can get, ride with Love, and start planning for the future.

It's probably what is best for the Packers future. Bringing back Cobb is just stupid. Crosby - We could do worse, but it's probably time to move on from him as well. Big Dog can at least block... (Even at his age...)

All that being said, I fully expect Murphy, Gutey, and Ball to acquiesce to ARs demands, since I don't think they should... SMH

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gpt999's picture

February 06, 2022 at 06:38 pm

Herein lies my biggest question - where do you draw the line with Rodgers! Yes, I agree that signing these guys JUST to appease Rodgers would be an incredibly weak justification! But the Packers are a "corporation" with politics and a board of directors so god only knows how much poor decision making abounds?

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

February 07, 2022 at 09:23 am

GPT,
Such a well thought out post!

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Roadrunner23's picture

February 06, 2022 at 04:24 pm

It was the “Last Dance” for a reason.

Rodgers and his veteran bud’s knew that nothing was a lock after this season.

Cobb, Lewis, Crosby are going to have to swallow hard and take huge pay cuts to stick around.

Also guys like Lazard, Tonyan, MVS, EQ will probably have to take less than market price to be a part of this team in 2022.

P. Smith, Amos, Turner, while all possibly extendible will again have to be willing to play for under market value.

Ditto for Campbell & Douglass

Russ Ball & Gutekunst have a Matrix to navigate this off-season.

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Gee's picture

February 10, 2022 at 10:18 am

That's what has me confused about the entire situation, both from Rodgers and the FO. Like you said it was the Last Dance for reason, and after Rodgers voided years, I thought both parties knew that. Now the one side that will be worse off in the end the FO, is now willing to abandon everything for what I can see as second tier team, going into next year run at a Super Bowl. Sure you have AR, but who else? Add to that how more years will they have to add to get Rodgers back in the first place? Cause there is no way he is coming back on a 1 year deal.

I get Rodgers hoped to play with one team his entire career, but is he coming back knowing that team, is not what it was. There is no beautiful mystery to say that him coming back, equals a loss of talent that will not be made up for in the up coming season. Ugh just look at wide out room, if he comes back. yikes

Still maybe its all a con game, by the FO to increase Rodgers value.

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BruceC1960's picture

February 06, 2022 at 04:49 pm

Doesn’t seem likely that many (or any) of these guys would take less than market value. Why would they. Maybe Big Dog or Crosby. But you’re talking about big $$. Would you do it?

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gpt999's picture

February 06, 2022 at 06:41 pm

Football positions are an opportunity - not an entitled right! If these players aren't happy with whatever the team offers them, they can look for other opportunities with other teams! If they're worth more, another team will pay them that!

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

February 06, 2022 at 05:15 pm

What I infer from reading the article is that the Packers have a lot of options. Strictly speaking, that's true, but I suspect their scope of available moves is more limited than folks believe. Almost all of these decisions boil down to releasing the player versus extending them to produce the same or more cap relief. The Packers have very few players on second contracts whose deals can remain untouched.

The Packers are going to nick either the money or the player himself.

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egbertsouse's picture

February 06, 2022 at 06:09 pm

They will all be back. Jake and Elwood are putting the band back together. It is the only thing Gute and Murphy know how to do. The future be damned!

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gpt999's picture

February 06, 2022 at 06:44 pm

I've already heard this band in concert and wouldn't go to another concert in its current form!

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gpt999's picture

February 06, 2022 at 06:29 pm

I understand what this and many articles are suggesting but it brings up 2 critical questions on the mindset of keeping Rodgers or letting him go and the player changes it would entail:

1. Rodgers has always been characterized as an intelligent, football savant individual. Whether you believe that statement or not, wouldn't Rodgers be able to read and understand the constraints of the salary cap on his wish list for GB personnel for the upcoming season? I would certainly think so if you believe he is intelligent. Therefore, he surely would be able to justify that some players - even his friends like Cobb and Lewis - might have to leave if he were to stay and maybe try to keep #17? He basically showed how important Cobb was to him in the SF game by ignoring him. Gutes gave Rodgers a show of faith in bringing back Cobb. Now Rodgers should reciprocate at the very least when it comes to Cobb and others. At the most, well...

2. Where do you draw the line with Rodgers and any personnel changes he would like to see for the coming season if he were to stay in GB? This is a HUGE question! Its become clear (to fans, at least) that Rodgers has lost a lot of political/popularity points given his over publicized opinions and dismal playoff performance this season. So where does GB management draw the line between appeasing AR versus managing this team now and into the future with the same old question marks around him outstanding?

Tough questions to answer? Hopefully, GB management knows the answers to these 2 questions? But I know I would not like to be a shareholder in a company that has to operate that way with my money - even my beloved Packers!

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Oppy's picture

February 06, 2022 at 10:14 pm

Rodgers absolutely understands the cap ramifications.

The impasse between Rodgers' concerns and the Green Bay Packers concerns is straight forward:

The Green Bay Packers will be an active participant in the NFL for decades to come, and therefore, are obligated to be concerned with the state of the Green Bay Packers for decades to come.

Aaron Rodgers will be an active participant in the NFL for maybe 5 more years, likely less (as he's already pondering retirement as an option). Aaron Rodgers doesn't have any stake in what happens to the Packers after he's done.

Rodgers understands cap ramifications, he simply doesn't care about the future, he is not a part of it.

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Handsback's picture

February 07, 2022 at 10:00 am

Oppy, do you ever wonder that maybe Rodgers will go to a team where his salary is pro-rated into ownership of the team?
That maybe his dream is to be a professional sports team owner and will leverage his last remaining playing years to do it.

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ImaPayne's picture

February 06, 2022 at 09:54 pm

time to throw the baby out with the bathwater. King, st bonehead, Lewis, Cobb, yadom, Smith, Crosby, Borsboot or whatever our punter is named, mvs all out? Adams traded for a 2 pick and a bucket of beer cheese curds. Rodgers waived and if picked up they can pick up his team killing salary too. HA! Gosh this is fun

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Tundraboy's picture

February 06, 2022 at 10:25 pm

What's the point if bringing Cobb back, Rodgers won't throw to him much anyway

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SwedeBayPacker's picture

February 06, 2022 at 11:11 pm

Several veteran players may not return for the 2022 season if Aaron Rodgers is under center for Green Bay*

Because of the cap. No matter which way you turn your ass is behind you.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

February 07, 2022 at 09:40 am

That Gutey kept J.J. Molson all season is telling. I'm assuming he is talented. I like fact he had all season and this offseason to get comfortable being in the NFL and with Packers, so 2022 isn't too big for him.

Change is inevitable but most struggle with change. Personally, I believe while the Packer organization is saying all the right things about wanting to keep Rodgers I believe the players who will be cut (guys like Crosby, Big Dog, and Cobb, etc) is their way of forcing (leveraging) Rodgers to come to decision he does not want to play with a team without his closest friends and the realization the Packers are going thru a mini-rebuild. I just don't see Rodgers wanting any part of this and will want a trade.

What is one of my most intriguing fascinations this offseason will be how Rodgers and the Packers spin why Rodgers is leaving. It is imperative for Rodgers to leave GB keeping his legacy intact. Other than winning another MVP not much about this season (on and off the field) went very well for Rodgers. While time heals things his legacy in GB will be left somewhat tarnished.

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13TimeChamps's picture

February 07, 2022 at 10:33 am

Quarterback's legacy's will always be about championships, not personal stats. Bart Starr and his 5 rings and 1 league MVP will always trump Rodgers' 1 ring and 4 league MVP's.

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Bure9620's picture

February 07, 2022 at 09:41 am

I do not see a scenario where Z Smith, Preston Smith or Randall Cobb are Green Bay Packers in 2022. Their contracts were all structured for them to not be and will all be unloaded.

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Handsback's picture

February 07, 2022 at 09:55 am

The Last Dance was exactly apropos for last year's team. There have been numerous mistakes in relationship with Rodger's contract but realistically the Packers would still be in the same spot regardless either a year earlier or later.
If FO knew the results of this year's playoffs...I'm sure they would have made the trade with Rodgers last season and started their rebuild process. Now they know that next season's team won't be a SB contender with Rodgers or not because of the quality of players they are about to lose to get under the CAP. So regardless of the PR speak, they are in a rebuild mode. I just hope that it doesn't take 12 years to get back to a SB appearance.

3 points
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PatrickGB's picture

February 07, 2022 at 10:20 am

Russ Ball, work your magic!

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TheNumber1PackerFan's picture

February 07, 2022 at 10:45 am

Trade 12 and get all you can for him. The time is now..DO IT MAN!!

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