Packers puzzled as talks with QB Rodgers 'never transpired'

PHOENIX -- If Aaron Rodgers wanted direct conversations with the Green Bay Packers about their direction and his future, then one high-level team executive believes the quarterback should have responded to their attempts to reach him this offseason.

General manager Brian Gutekunst said Monday at the NFL's annual league meetings that he tried unsuccessfully to reach Rodgers "many times" since their final meeting in January, shortly after last season.

This after Rodgers said less than two weeks ago on "The Pat McAfee Show" that the Packers were not direct with him about their intentions and how he fit into their plans for the 2023 season.

"I was really looking forward to the conversations with Aaron to see how he fit into that," Gutekunst said Monday. "Those never transpired. So there came a time where we had to make some decisions, so we went through his representatives to try to talk to him [about] where were we going with our team. At that point, they informed us that he would like to be traded to the Jets."

Gutekunst said he was under the impression that after the end-of-season meetings were concluded they would talk again, when both sides had a chance to assess the situation.

"Our inability to reach him or for him to respond in any way," Gutekunst said, "I think at that point, I had to do my job and kind of reach out [to other teams] and understand that a trade could be possible and see who was interested."

During his most recent appearance on McAfee's show, Rodgers said that when he left Green Bay for the offseason, he was under the impression that he was welcome back for a 19th season but that something changed by the time he emerged from his darkness retreat in late February.

"I wish that in the beginning of the offseason that had been the conversation, because I love direct communication," Rodgers said March 15. "If they had just said, 'Listen, we think it's time to move in a different direction. We love you. You're going to be a Packer Hall of Famer. You're going to go into the Hall as a Packer. We're going to retire your number; whatever it might be, but it's time to move on,' I would've said, 'Thank you so much. Just for telling me that. I really, really appreciate that. That means the world to me that you would tell me that.' Because I really believe that's the sentiment, and that's fine. It really is. It's totally fine. This is an incredible profession, but it's a tough business, for sure."

It's not clear why Rodgers didn't tell McAfee about Gutekunst's attempts to reach him.

"You'd love to have those conversations about where our team's going and how he might fit into that," Gutekunst said. "We were unable to have those, so it is what it is. At the same time, Aaron's been a great player for us. He means a lot to the organization. There's a lot of gratitude there, but those conversations would've been nice."

Speaking to reporters for the first time since Rodgers made it known he wanted to play for the Jets, Gutekunst said he and Jets general manager Joe Douglas have been in regular contact -- and even talked briefly here at the meetings in Phoenix -- but that no deadline has been set to execute a trade. Gutekunst wouldn't rule out that it could take into the summer to finalize a deal; waiting until after June 1 would allow the Packers to spread some of the salary cap hit onto their books for 2024, but it would mean no compensation in terms of 2023 draft help.

The Jets have reportedly been unwilling to deal their first-round pick this year (No. 13 overall), but Gutekunst said there are ways to do the trade without that pick.

"That's not a necessity," Gutekunst said. "I think fair value for the player is important. There's risks to all this. But again, I'm hopeful, I'm confident that we'll be able to reach a conclusion at some point."

Gutekunst wouldn't speculate on what might happen if Green Bay isn't able to consummate a trade with the Jets, but at this point, the Packers expect to move forward with Jordan Love at quarterback.

"We'll figure those things out as they come, but right now, I think we're just focused on facilitating a trade with the player and the Jets and what we want," Gutekunst said. "I think that would be best for everybody, but we'll see how that goes."

Gutekunst has until May to pick up the fifth-year option for the 2024 season on Love's rookie contract, and while Gutekunst didn't say when or if the Packers will, he made it clear that moving on from Rodgers is in part due to his confidence in Love.

"I think it's really a credit to Jordan how he's handled that and how professional he's been through this, him and his representatives," Gutekunst said. "We've been in kind of constant communication with them and him, and I think he's got a really good outlook on this. He understands there's so much out of his control, but I know he's really preparing, and I think he's really excited for this opportunity, and we are, as well."