Did Aaron Rodgers open the door for the Jordan Love era in Green Bay?

Remember when the Green Bay Packers shocked the football universe by selecting Utah State quarterback Jordan Love with the 26th overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft? As if the pick wasn’t crazy enough, the fact that Green Bay traded up for Love suggested he was not only a player they viewed as value late in Round 1, but also a player they absolutely had to have.

Most NFL analysts thought that the Packers would add a wide receiver in the first two rounds of the 2020 draft in an effort to give Aaron Rodgers another weapon or two as he entered the final lap of his career in Title Town. Instead, Green Bay picked none — at all — and left fans scratching their heads at what the organization’s future plans with Rodgers were.

In typical Rodgers fashion, he responded in 2020 by posting the best year of his career (48 touchdowns to just five interceptions) and is expected to be named the league’s MVP. But after Green Bay’s NFC Championship loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, Rodgers hinted at a fresh start for him, and Green Bay, in 2021.

Georgia RB James Cook declares for 2022 NFL Draft

“I’m going to have to take some time away, for sure, clear my head and kind of see what’s going on with everything,” Rodgers told the media.

Rodgers certainly didn’t sound like a guy who intends on maintaining the status quo. There’s no doubt he’s looked around the league and can see how many teams are in need of a new quarterback. He knows there’d be a massive market for his services and he’d likely be able to squeeze out even more money for his retirement along the way.

Imagine Rodgers aligning with Bill Belichick in New England for the final lap of his career? Maybe he’ll follow his predecessor Brett Favre‘s path and end up with the New York Jets. Any trade by the Packers would be costly, however. Green Bay would be on the hook for more than $30 million in salary-cap charges if they trade Rodgers before June 1.

Regardless, Rodgers threw the first punch in what feels like could be a long offseason fight with the Packers.

2022 NFL Draft: Updated first-round order entering Divisional Round

Maybe Green Bay knew something like this was coming. Maybe the writing was on the wall with Rodgers last offseason and it prompted GM Brian Gutekunst to get aggressive and land his potential successor in the 2020 draft. It certainly feels that way right now, and it makes the selection of Love more logical if not brilliant.

Love didn’t have the benefit of a preseason in his rookie year because of COVID-19, so no one knows how or even if his skill set will translate to the NFL. His arm talent is undeniable, but there were concerns about his decision-making and consistency with ball placement during his final season at Utah State. Time will tell if those issues plague his pro career.

You have to feel for Packers fans, who are still reeling from Sunday’s defeat. Rodgers’ apparent disinterest in returning to Green Bay is like a massive dose of salt in the wound, which may not heal for a very, very long time.

And maybe it won’t heal until Love conquers all, including Lambeau Field.

Bryan Perez

Bryan is the founder of Pro Football Draft. His work has been featured on The Draft Network, NBC Sports and USA Today. Former CFL scout.

Follow him on Twitter: @BryanPerezNFL