GREEN BAY – There was no recruiting pitch. No last-ditch pleading. Before the trade that shook the Green Bay Packers’ foundation this spring, the trade that fundamentally changed coach Matt LaFleur’s offense, Aaron Rodgers spoke “almost every single day” to his all-time favorite receiver.
Never did the MVP quarterback try to persuade Davante Adams to change his mind. Adams’ heart was set on the Las Vegas Raiders, his childhood team quarterbacked by his best friend, a destination that would bring Adams’ family closer to home. The decision was final.
Rodgers knew before the trade there was no changing Adams’ path.
“If I feel like I’ve got to recruit a guy like that back to the Packers,” Rodgers said, “I’ve already lost.”
It wasn’t a decision reached overnight. Those daily conversations went back and forth both ways, Adams asking his longtime quarterback as many questions as he provided answers. At the crux of the biggest Packers trade in recent memory was Adams’ desire to bring wife Devanne and daughter Deija to a familiar region. Closer to where he grew up, with college quarterback Derek Carr throwing spirals, the ink on a record five-year, $140 million still drying.
There was also the unknown of how much longer Adams’ historic connection with Rodgers would last if he committed to five more years with the Packers instead. Yes, Rodgers signed his own record extension this offseason, linking him to team through 2026, but the quarterback made clear Tuesday he expects his future with the team to be a year-to-year decision.
“I understand how the deal is portrayed,” Rodgers said. “To me, it was like a one-year, plus a two, plus a one. So there will be decisions after this year for sure.”
Adams undoubtedly heard the same from Rodgers this offseason. A one-year commitment. Plus a two. Plus a one. Entering his age-30 season, on the precipice of the second half of a potential Hall of Fame career, Rodgers’ admitted indecision had sway.
All those factors – the personal, the professional, an aging quarterback – culminated in the bombshell St. Patrick’s Day trade. The Packers, after initially stalling in extension talks with Adams last offseason, finally offered a deal at least as lucrative as what it took for the Raiders to land the two-time All-Pro receiver. By then, it was too late.
“We had some really honest conversations about my future here,” Rodgers said, “and how long I wanted to play, and his own thoughts about his future and where he wanted to play, live and raise his family. The team obviously stepped up and made a competitive, or an even more compelling, offer. Ultimately, Davante thought it was best for him and his family to be in Vegas, so that was tough for sure, but I love Tae and love our connection. I’m a little biased, but it’s hard to think of a better player I played with.
“He had a chance to be the all-time record in a lot of categories at receiver for us. I thought that might be a little nugget that would kind of keep him here, but Tae made a decision that he thought was the best decision for him and his family, and I can’t fault him for that at all.”
There’s no underestimating the void Adams’ departure leaves in the Packers offense. On Tuesday’s opening day of minicamp, Rodgers found himself surrounded by rookie receivers Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs and former practice-squad tight end Tyler Davis to start one team drill. Other reps, the Packers split running back Aaron Jones around the formation, with AJ Dillon behind Rodgers in the backfield.
Eventually, veteran Allen Lazard will rejoin the offense, once he signs the second-round tender placed on him this spring. Lazard has not been at organized team activities and was the lone Packers player absent from mandatory minicamp as he waits to sign his deal, hoping for a long-term extension instead. Still, this will be a different year for Rodgers, one drenched in an uncommon lack of familiarity.
Rodgers acknowledged Watson, especially, will have expectations as a rookie after the Packers traded a pair of second-round picks to move up to the start of the draft’s second day to select him. The quarterback was adamant training camp will be enough time to develop the chemistry necessary for his new pass catchers to acclimate, but his presence at this week’s minicamp is an important springboard.
“That’s a byproduct of just all the little things he does on the field,” LaFleur said. “All the little, whether it’s giving the guys a signal or changing something up. That is going to be, I guess, kind of an unknown right now to see how these guys potentially respond in those situations. Not just the young guys. It’s guys he doesn’t have a lot of time with like Sammy Watkins, who that’s really their first time together out on the field as well.”
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A lot has changed for Rodgers in one year. Adams’ absence from the offense is only part of the new reality he faces entering his age-39 season. There is cohesion with the front office, last summer’s conflict with general manager Brian Gutekunst resolved. Even if Rodgers views his extension that will guarantee $150 million over the next three years as an annual will-he-or-won’t-he-retire decision, the quarterback is confident his career will end with the team that drafted him almost two decades ago.
Rodgers’ presence at minicamp signified change as much as Adams’ absence. A year ago, Rodgers missed the Packers’ entire offseason program, refusing to participate even in mandatory workouts until his “war of silence” with the team ended.
The uncertainty of last offseason is now in the past. Asked if he plans to finish his career with the Packers, Rodgers answered with just two words: “Yes. Definitely.” Still, the question of when remains unanswered.
“Playing is easy,” Rodgers said. “It’s the other part that’s a grind. You wear a lot of hats as a quarterback, and it’s more than just playing on Sundays. I think at some point, the grind gets to all of us. I think every year it feels like a slightly bigger commitment to commit to being the guy again for the whole season. It just comes down to where I’m at.
“I want the team to be successful. Obviously, I don’t want to be a bum standing back there, playing like crap and not able to move around. So if the talent goes, it’s a no-brainer, but it’s a little harder when you still can really play, and the mental part is difficult.”
The grind isn’t about to get any easier without Adams. By next spring, Rodgers will have plenty of new factors to consider before committing to his 19th season.