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An Exposition: Why did the Packers take Jordan Love?

“We haven’t drafted a skill position player in the first round of the NFL Draft since myself, I think it would be cool if we got one and I think we just might. Whoever the pick is, I will track down his phone number and welcome him to the team”. 

This is a quote from Aaron Rodgers on the Pat McAfee show, 5 hours before the NFL Draft – and the Packers did draft a skill position play, just not what Aaron was thinking.

During the 2020 NFL Draft, I sat there watching the latter half of the first round unfold when the Packers traded up to 26th overall, giving up their 4th rounder in the process. Everyone and their mother was expecting a solid WR2 for Rodgers to throw to like Baylor’s Denzel Mims, Tee Higgins from Clemson or Colorado’s shifty Laviska Shenault. To say I was shocked when the pick was Jordan Love would be an understatement. Now after processing the pick, I have tried to understand the thought process behind it. 

Let’s discuss Love firstly. Jordan Love is a dynamic, true dual-threat quarterback with insane MVP potential (click here for my full scouting report of him). Putting him behind a Hall of Famer like Aaron Rodgers might just be the best case scenario for him to hopefully develop and hit his ceiling. As far as where he stands now though, he is a raw, scrappy project quarterback with very questionable decision-making, but his arm talent and mobility are the traits you just can’t coach and makes him a very promising prospect. It is clear that Green Bay envisions him eventually taking over as the franchise QB at some point in the future and I’m sure they have a plan of how that would work. So let’s look at some possible scenarios for him. Love seeing the field will all depend on when the Packers move on from Rodgers, to explore that, let’s break down Aaron Rodgers’ contract:

On August 29th 2018, Rodgers signed a 4 year, $134 million contract extension with the Packers. The deal included $79 million due at signing and $98 million in total guarantees. This means that Rodgers is under contract through the 2023 season or 4 more seasons. 

The idea of cutting or trading him before the 2021 season is probably not worth entertaining as it is extremely unlikely to happen. The Packers would have a dead cap hit of $51.1 million if they cut him right now and $31.6 million after this season. What this means is that barring some massive change of events, Rodgers will be the Packers starter for at least the next 2 seasons. This leads us to the potential out that the Packers have after the 2021 season with a $17.2 million dollar dead cap hit. This is the first year, in my opinion, that it would be feasible to see him cut or traded. $17.2 million is a lot of money but it is somewhat manageable especially if the Packers perform worse then we expect and begin to rebuild for the future around Love. 

Moving onto after the 2022 season, Rodgers would be 39 with one year left on his deal and the dead cap hit is only $2.9 million dollars – a very reasonable number – which is why I believe the most likely scenario is that he is traded with one year left on his deal for picks. Needless to say, this is all speculation for what will happen in three whole years from now and depends on how Rodgers plays and Love develops.

Of course, we’ve seen this story before in Green Bay – in 2005, the Packers selected Rodgers with the 24th selection overall when Favre (the only player ever to win MVP 3 consecutive times, a 11 (!!) time pro bowler, Super Bowl Champion and 6 time all-pro) was 36, just like Rodgers is now. Rodgers would sit for 3 years behind Favre and learn through Mike McCarthy’s “Quarterback school” which improved Rodgers’ hand-eye coordination, release point and mechanics. McCarthy commented that “He’s getting better” and that “You’re looking at a guy who’s going to mature. He’s got athletic ability that people still haven’t seen.” Perhaps, Love is now the one that will be developed by a young head coach behind a Hall of Famer to one day become one himself.

Another possible explanation for this pick is to continue the MVP-level of quarterback play in Green Bay with seamless transitions as we saw with Favre to Rodgers. The stability at the signal caller position over the last 3 decades has also for the most part, kept the front office’s jobs stable. Green Bay is a small-market city, and when Rodgers eventually moves on to another team or hangs up the cleats, finding a new quarterback through free agency could prove challenging. If the Packers were really in love with Love (no pun intended), maybe they believe this was the time to strike to prepare for the future.

For my thoughts on this matter, as a believer in Love, I think this might be the perfect landing spot for him, but looking at it from the team’s perspective, I just can’t get behind this pick. Rodgers is a one of the NFL’s elite talents, as of right now I consider him to be a top 5 quarterback in the league. How well that commentary will age remains to be seen but Rodgers is one of those guys that just finds a way to win the game for his team. He is a Super Bowl Champ, Super Bowl MVP, 2 time League MVP, 8-time pro bowler, 3-time All Pro and will undoubtedly be a Hall of Famer – put simply as far as talent alone, he is one of the best to ever play the game. And if I’m the Packers, I want Rodgers starting in Green Bay for as long as possible; betting on anyone to become the next Rodgers is simply unfair. Lightning has struck twice in Green Bay and spending this much draft capital hoping it’ll strike again is not how a team this talented should be drafting.

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