INDIANAPOLIS – The Green Bay Packers will continue to play the waiting game with Aaron Rodgers.
They're also ready with a backup plan.
Though general manager Brian Gutekunst's first choice still appears to be bringing back the four-time league MVP and longtime face of the team, Gutekunst acknowledged the Packers are willing to go with Jordan Love — if needed.
“I think he’s ready to play. I think he’s ready to be an NFL starting quarterback,” Gutekunst said Tuesday, referring to Love. "He’s worked really hard. He’s shown a lot of progression. I know he’s really eager to have that, and I think that’s the next step in his progression, is to play.”
First, though, Rodgers must make his call.
The one-time Super Bowl champ is scheduled to cost the Packers $59.5 million, a prohibitively high number that would prevent the team from doing much in free agency.
Rodgers has already acknowledged publicly if he does return, he would likely redo his contract. He also has completed the “darkness retreat” he said would help him sort out his options.
Green Bay also must decide whether to exercise its fifth-year option on Love, their first-round pick from 2020 who has not played much as Rodgers' backup. Extending Love's contract through next season would cost the team $20.3 million in 2024.
Otherwise, the Packers next year could be facing the same dilemma the New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens now have — using franchise tags to keep their starters, Daniel Jones and Lamar Jackson — around. Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta is scheduled to speak Wednesday at the NFL's annual scouting combine.
Still, Gutekunst is willing to be patient with Rodgers and hopeful he'll have an answer before free agency begins March 15. If not, he'll be ready to go either direction.
“We’ll move forward and have conversations as we go," Gutekunst said. “There will be a point here soon where we have to make some decisions moving forward.”
It’s a familiar scenario for Packers fans who still remember when three-time MVP Brett Favre retired in 2008, handing the job to Rodgers, Green Bay’s first-round pick in 2005. When Favre later decided to return, he was eventually traded to the New York Jets.
The Jets are in the quarterback market yet again and are one of several teams now jockeying for position to answer their own quarterback questions.
While Jets GM Joe Douglas acknowledged the team remains committed to Zach Wilson, Douglas also said team officials have spoken with the recently released Derek Carr and they plan to meet again this week.
“I can say he (Carr) left a strong impression with everybody,” Douglas said. ”Obviously we’re going to be exploring the veteran quarterback market this offseason and we’ll look at every available option.”
They're not alone.
Carolina also plans to meet this week with Carr, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Tuesday. The person spoke to The AP on condition of anonymity because the team doesn’t announce its meetings with free agents.
Two other veterans also recently hit the open market. The Washington Commanders cut Carson Wentz on Monday and 2014 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota was released Tuesday by the Atlanta Falcons.
Both teams seem content to go with second-year quarterbacks Desmond Ridder and Sam Howell, at least for now.
“If you go back to his junior year, coming out, (Howell) is a guy that had some very good grades on him,” Washington coach Ron Rivera said. “I looked at our people’s grades and we had some very good grades on him, so we feel very confident in his ability. He's got a good arm."
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers also may try the young arm of Kyle Trask — if Tom Brady does not come out of retirement again. That may be out of necessity with the Buccaneers more than $57 million over the cap.
Still, coach Todd Bowles wouldn't rule out signing a veteran.
“We understand we’re over the cap,” he said. “We have a long-term plan. We don’t want to sacrifice one year for paying someone as opposed to sacrificing the future. But we’ll go out and we’ll be smart about it. It’s also a desirable place because we do have talent.”
The same is true of the Packers, who have already restructured the contract of running back Aaron Jones and expect promising second-year receivers Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs to continue improving next season — whether it's Rodgers or Love throwing passes.
“Obviously, he (Rodgers) is a big part — if he comes back,” Gutekunst said. "He's a big part of what we’re doing, but at the same time, I don’t think that will really change the roster much.”
AP Sports Writer Steve Reed in Charlotte, North Carolina, also contributed to this report.