Crime and punishment. Cause and effect. The scientific assessment noting a relationship between actions or events such that one or more are the results of the other or others. You speed in a school zone. You get caught. You pay a fine. You spend Friday night snuggled up with a bottle of Jack Daniels, you wake up the next morning cuddling a massive migraine. You take your kid to Target to get milk, you end up leaving with a meaningless $7-12 toy (we call that the Target Tax in my house). Or, if you are Green Bay Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst, you push out about a quarter of a billion (yes, billion with a b) dollars worth of contracts into the increasingly murky near future knowing that one day that bill(ion!) is going to come due. Bills always come due. The Packers spent the first two days of this week spending like a college freshman who just got approved for their first credit card. And, like most college freshmen, an epic hangover is right around the corner. This week has been the cause. And we won’t see the true effect of the Packers going all in for the 2022 season for at least another two or three years.
The white smoke finally plumed out from 1265 Lombardi Avenue early Tuesday morning confirming that yes, noted beanie cap enthusiast Aaron Rodgers had officially signed his long gestating three year contract, effectively confirming that he will retire a Packer and exit Green Bay as the proud owner of the Chicago Bears and probably a few islands off the coast of Bali. This blessed event capped off a truly historic 24 hours of spending, the likes of which had previously been completely alien to the Green Bay Packers modus operandi dating back to the days of Curly Lambeau. All told, Green Bay tied up nearly $300 million dollars on Monday/Tuesday alone, bringing back Rodgers, Preston Smith, and All Pro linebacker DeVondre Campbell and spreading the financial pain of this splurge over the course of five years. Mind you, this is BEFORE the Packers have added Jaire Alexander and Davante Adam’s sure to be record-bursting contracts. By the time Green Bay breaks camp this summer, their future payroll is going to rival the gross domestic product of Luxembourg. Ted Thompson is looking down with a solemn frown.
I can’t fault the Packers for this “All In” approach. They have one of the rarest opportunities in sports–a legitimate championship window. And, they just paid roughly 6000 bitcoins to keep that window pried open for at least another year or two. But, if they can actually bring the Lombardi Trophy back to it’s rightful home, the money invested in this offseason will seem like a bargain. I doubt any of the Los Angeles Ram’s front office personnel are lamenting the boat load of draft picks they traded away like Pokemon cards at grade school recess. Hell no. They are too busy picking bits of ticker tape out of their hair. Championships are a cure-all. It’s just slightly jarring to see the Packers top brass spending so recklessly. Green Bay is, at it’s core, a midwestern organization. Fiscal conservation is essentially baked into the green and gold cake. We are a carpenter’s football program, never focusing on the stair you are constructing, instead utilizing each nail hammered as a building block for the next stair you are planning to install. A fleet of reliable high mileage pick up trucks, with an unshakeable belief in routine oil changes, and steadfast maintenance. This week we just leased a handful of Bugatti’s.
While the money doled out this week is astronomical, one could argue that Aaron Rodgers contract is honestly a bit of a hometown discount. Rodgers on the open market could potentially command upwards of $60 million per year. Hell, the Indianapolis Colts would be falling all over themselves to shove a 3 year $190 million dollar contract in Aaron’s sweatpants’ pocket. Desperate men behave desperately. Cause and effect. This speaks to the reality of the current NFL landscape. It’s truly a league of have and have not’s. Either you have a top shelf quarterback or you have not a chance in hell of winning the Super Bowl. Not having a Top 10 quarterback in the NFL right now is like being a 12 year old without a slap bracelet in 1993. Or, a 7 year old without an iPad right now (my daughter’s nightmare). Great quarterbacks are rivaling gallons of gasoline and real estate in San Francisco as some of the most valuable commodities on Earth, at this current moment. And with how ludicrous the bidding is about to get for the NFL’s Sunday Ticket Package, quarterback contracts are going to creep steadily toward the nine figure range over the next several years. Aaron Rodgers $50 million per season is going to seem downright quaint in a decade or so.
This is the reality that has led Brian Gutekunst and Russ Ball, the Packers bean counting braintrust, to sin against the long-established Packer Way. Ron Wolf didn’t have to negotiate with quarterbacks in this modern NFL landscape. Brett Favre bought tractors. Aaron Rodgers buys jets. And novelty t-shirts. So many novelty t-shirts. Which leads us to the moment we find ourselves in now, clinging to the hope that Gutekunst and Company have the brass balls to back up their apparently bulletproof checkbooks. It’s all or nothing time in Eastern Wisconsin. First prize is a Cadillac El Dorado. Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired. This is high stakes poker our front office gurus find themselves playing. And, we cannot pray for miracle cards on the turn. Making bets this big and losing is the kind of wager this organization has never been willing to take. If this gamble doesn’t pay off, Gutekunst and Ball may be updating their resumes sooner rather than later. Now is the time for bold moves and creative flourishes. No more half measures. No one remembers the amuse bouche of a tasting menu–they remember the dessert. It’s why this article you are currently reading is (spoiler alert) going to end with a pithy and well-worded final paragraph (excuse me while I preemptively pat myself on the back). Let’s call it recency bias. This week was a great start. But this week’s actions will not be eligible for judgement until the second week of February, 2023. As in poker, the next move is the only move that matters.
Given the stakes for the upcoming season, all cards must be played. No holding back. If you are going all in, then go all in. Can you get a second round pick for Jordan Love? Can you turn Jordan Love and your first round pick into a bonafide dime piece on the trade market (ie–DK Metcalf, Diontae Johnson, Hunter Renfrow, etc). Any skillful veterans willing to take a significant pay cut to go ring chasing with Rodgers? Any DeVondre Campbell-esque tricks Gutekunst has hidden up his tailored sleeves? The time is now. The day is nigh. The Packers simply cannot afford to muck this hand. We cannot find ourselves sitting with the other 29 also-ran NFL teams at the casino bar come Super Bowl Sunday, drowning our sorrows yet again. We need to have a seat at that final table.
It is time to step on the gas, not stomp the brakes. The window is open. We don’t know for how long. No one looks back at the Friday nights they spent studying in college. No, generally the nights you remember fondest are the nights you can barely remember at all. The Packers got hammered this week. The hangover is inevitable. Now we need to make damn sure that the party was worth it. Told you it was going to be an awesome ending!
Timothy Preece has been a Packers fan since 1991 and currently lives in Utah because he makes bad decisions. You can follow him on twitter at @LegitimateTimP.