Is it the end of the road for Aaron Rodgers? This question surrounded the Green Bay Packers this offseason especially after selecting quarterback Jordan Love in the first round. Rodgers, 36, will try to build upon his 13-3 season from a year ago.
A team that needs receiver help did not make much of a splash in the draft or through free agency. Although signing 6-foot-4 wide receiver Devin Funchess would have helped Rodgers, Funchess’ decision to sit out the 2020 season will hurt them instead. Despite the fact that this Packers team did not improve a ton this offseason, having a quarterback like Rodgers, anything is possible in Green Bay.
Round 1, pick 26: Jordan Love (QB) Utah State
Round 2, pick 62: AJ Dillon (RB) Boston College
Round 3, pick 94: Josiah Deguara (TE) Cincinnati
Round 5, pick 175: Kamal Martin (LB) Minnesota
Round 6, pick 192: Jon Runyan (G) Michigan
Round 6, pick 208: Jake Hanson (C) Oregon
Round 6, pick 209: Simon Stepaniak (OT) Indiana
Round 7, pick 236: Vernon Scott (S) TCU
Round 7, pick 242: Jonathan Garvin (DE) Miami
Draft Grade: C
Coming into the 2020 season, most of the Packers’ team needs came from wide receiver, tight end and defensive end. When the Packers selected Jordan Love 26th in the first round, the twitter world started questioning if Rodgers’ time was up in Green Bay, is it the end of the road for Aaron Rodgers? Even though the majority of football fans think this pick was wasted, the Jordan Love pick was a logical one.
When looking at the last time the Packers selected a quarterback in the first round, one has to go way back to the 2005 NFL draft when Green Bay selected Aaron Rodgers 24th overall. At the time Brett Favre, 35, was the quarterback for the Packers and some would say at his prime in Green Bay. Now fast forward to the 2020 draft, Green Bay drafted Jordan Love in the first round when Rodgers is 36. The way Green Bay’s organization likes to operate is to develop rookie/young quarterbacks behind greats, so when the time comes for retirement, the young quarterback has fully developed. In this instance when Rodgers retires in a couple of years, Love will be ready to take full responsibility in the Packer offense.
Overall in four to five years, this pick will be seen as a smart one. Love did not disappoint at Utah State. In his most recent year, Love threw for 3,402 yards and 20 touchdowns while rushing for another 175 yards. Although his 17 interceptions are worrisome, his supporting cast at Utah State wasn’t the best. Love’s arm strength can’t be denied. He can launch balls on the run farther than 50+ yards. Look for Love to make a lot of deep throws for touchdowns in his career.
As mentioned earlier, Green Bay did not acquire many new pieces to their team this offseason. Funchess would have been a great piece for Rodgers. Funchess at 6-foot-4 is tall and lengthy enough to make one on one catches over smaller cornerbacks. For a guy as tall as Funchess, he also has solid route-running skills. His numbers in Carolina in 2017 showed just that. Funchess caught 63 passes for 840 yards and eight touchdowns.
Packers GM Brian Gutekunst was asked what he values more, size or speed? “You’d love to have a 6-4, 225-pound guy that can do it all,” said Gutekunst. “I do like tall, long athletes…”
When Funchess made his announcement that he will opt out of the 2020 season due to the Covid-19, this was a huge blow for the Packers.
The biggest signing for the Packers who will play this upcoming season is linebacker Christian Kirksey. Kirksey provides exceptional talent at the linebacker position and is excellent at open-field tackling. The one problem with Kirksey’s game is his injury problems the past two seasons in Cleveland. In 2018, Kirksey played only seven games due to a hamstring injury and only two games last season due to a torn pectoral.
However, when Kirksey plays, he is a solid addition to the defensive side of the ball. In his last two seasons in which he played all 16 games, Kirkey finished with 135+ tackles in both seasons. In 2016, he finished with 148 tackles and seven quarterback hits and in 2017 finished with 138 tackles and six quarterback hits. If Kirksey can stay healthy, he can be a dangerous piece for the Packer defense.
Other Key Additions: Rick Wagner (OT), Treyvon Hester (DT), and Gerald Willis (DT)
While the Packers signed Kirksey to a two-year, $16 million deal, that was only after the Packers starting linebacker, Blake Martinez, left for free agency. Martinez signed a three-year, $30 million contract with the New York Giants.
Martinez was nothing short of spectacular for the Green Bay Packers over the last three years. After he was selected in the fourth round in the 2016 draft, he wanted to prove everyone wrong and did just that.
Martinez has been outstanding for the Packers in the run game. In his first full season starting all 16 games, Martinez led the league in tackles (144), finished with eight passes deflected and two forced fumbles. In 2018, Martinez stayed consistent and produced another 144 tackles with five sacks. His best season yet came when he was hitting free agency. Due to Bobby Wagner’s phenomenal year, Martinez did not finish first in tackles, but finished second with 155 tackles, his most tackles in a season yet.
It’s going to hurt the Packers losing a consistent tackler who created over 140+ tackles each of the last three seasons. However, hopefully, for Green Bay’s sake, Kirkey can be as productive as Martinez was in this Packers 3-4 defense.
Other Key Losses: Bryan Bulaga (OT), Kyler Fackrell (OLB), B.J. Goodson (ILB), Tramon Williams (CB) and Jimmy Graham (TE)
No, it is not the end of the road for Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is still elite and can make those spectacular throws unlike anyone else. Rodgers still has the pieces around him with Davante Adams and Aaron Jones. Not only did the Packers not sign any superstars this offseason, they also did not let go of any either. Green Bay keeps the majority of its starters from a year ago, which is why this team comes out on top in the NFC North once again.
Featured Image Courtesy of ESPN