By STEVE MEGARGEE, AP Sports Reporter
Aaron Rodgers says he doesn’t want to be part of a rebuilding project.
Apparently, neither does his current coach.
“There’s no plan for a rebuild,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said Monday, two days after the Packers ended their season with a 13-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. “You’re so close, you obviously win a lot of football games, and we know for there not to be that he has to be part of this thing. I don’t think that’s the intention of who whether it be.”
The Packers are about $40 million over the salary cap according to overthecap.com and have numerous players whose contracts are expiring, including two-time All-Pro receiver Davante Adams.
That could impact the 38-year-old Rodgers’ return to Green Bay, where the 2005 first-round pick has spent his entire career. Rodgers said after the 49ers game that he didn’t want to be part of a rebuild.
“There are obviously a lot of decisions to be made,” the quarterback said. “There are a lot of players whose future is uncertain, so it will certainly be interesting to see which direction some of these decisions go. But I will have some conversations with (general manager) Brian (Gutekunst) in the next week. and I’ll have a little more clarity and I’ll think about my own future and how long I want to keep doing this.
Rodgers earned All-Pro honors and is a top contender for his fourth MVP award, and second in a row. But his playoff results haven’t matched his extraordinary regular season performances. Rodgers led Green Bay to a Super Bowl title in the 2010 season, but the Packers have gone just 7-9 in his 16 playoff starts since.
Even so, the Packers clearly want him back.
“This guy has done so much for so long for this organization, for this city, for this team,” LaFleur said. “And so, I want to be respectful of his process. No matter what he has to go through to make the best decision for himself, and we sure would like him to be a Packer and be a Packer until the day he decides to retire.
LaFleur said Gutekunst, executive vice president/chief football operations officer Russ Ball and chairman/CEO Mark Murphy share that view.
While he recognizes the organization has tough choices to make, LaFleur said he’s confident the Packers will have a roster capable of winning a title.
“There are ways to move money around and make sure we get the bulk of our top contributors back,” LaFleur said. “Are there absolutely going to be tough decisions? No doubt about it. But I’m really confident in the ability of Russ and the ability of Gutey and us collectively to find a way to do this thing.
Rodgers said after Saturday’s game that he would try to make a decision before free agency begins and did not rule out retirement, as well as asking for a trade or returning to Green Bay. Rodgers’ situation remained uncertain heading into this season until he reported for training camp.
“Hopefully it won’t drag on that long,” LaFleur said. “And we will make the necessary decisions once we somehow find out where he is.”
LaFleur said he would promote from the inside if offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett got a head coaching job. He wouldn’t speculate on any other personnel changes following this exit from the playoffs earlier than expected.
“We have to look at everything,” LaFleur said. “And if we feel that we can improve in certain areas, we will make difficult decisions. But we’re not even close, remotely close, to getting into it at this point.
LaFleur recognized the need to look for ways to improve the Packers’ special teams. LaFleur fired special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga after the 2020 season and promoted Maurice Drayton, but the unit got even worse this season and hit a nadir in the playoff loss.
The Packers had a field goal attempt and a blocked punt. The field goal would have put the Packers ahead 10-0 at halftime. The 49ers scored an even touchdown on the blocked punt with 4:41 left.
Green Bay had just 10 men on the field when Robbie Gould netted his game-winning field goal from 45 yards as time expired
“We can do a much better job, starting with myself, focusing on special teams, maybe allowing some of our starters to play more phases of that,” LaFleur said.
The Packers discovered one of the downsides of playing regulars on special teams on Saturday when running back AJ Dillon fractured a rib in a pile-up while blocking on a kick return mail. The injury sidelined him for most of the second half
Dillon said he probably wouldn’t have been available if the Packers made it to the NFC Championship Game, but he figured he could have made it back in time for the Super Bowl.
Center Josh Myers said the injury that caused him to miss 10 games was a torn medial collateral ligament and a fractured tibial plateau. He returned for the regular season finale and played on Saturday.
Joining Adams as potential free agents are All-Pro linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, cornerback Rasul Douglas, tight end Robert Tonyan, wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling and offensive lineman Lucas Patrick, among others. Wide receiver Allen Lazard is a restricted free agent.
“I still have unfinished business, I feel like I have to take care of it,” Douglas said. “Of course I want to be here. But I don’t think that’s all my decision to make.
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