Aaron Rodgers famously said the 49ers would regret not selecting him in the 2005 NFL Draft.
Sixteen years later, could the 49ers put that regret behind them during Rodgers' twilight years?
The Green Bay Packers quarterback sounded, at best, noncommittal about his future at Lambeau Field following his team's NFC Championship Game loss to Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Green Bay traded up to select Jordan Love as Rodgers' successor in the first round of last year's NFL draft, leading to questions about where Rodgers will play next after the Packers were eliminated from the playoffs Sunday.
"There's a lot of unknowns going into this offseason now," Rodgers said in a postgame video conference with reporters, shortly after calling his own future "uncertain."
"I'm gonna have to take some time away for sure, and clear my head and just kind of see what's going on with everything. But it's pretty tough right now, especially thinking about the guys that may or may not be here next year. There's always change, that's the only constant in this business. ... It's a grind just to get to this point, and that makes the finality of it all kind of hit you like a ton of bricks. That's why it's a gutting feeling in your stomach."
After letting out a large sigh, Rodgers thanked reporters in the video conference for their coverage of the team. To Packers beat reporter Matt Schneideman of The Athletic and WAUK-AM's Jason Wilde, Rodgers' entire press conference was telling.
Packers coach Matt LaFleur, for his part, believes Rodgers will be back in Green Bay in 2021.
Rodgers, 37, is under contract for three more seasons. So, too, is Love, whom the Packers will be able to lock up on a fifth-year option (or a long-term contract extension) after the 2022 season. Love's price would rise dramatically in either context, and Green Bay trading up to select the former Utah State signal-caller indicates the franchise is preparing for a future without Rodgers.
If that future is now, you can probably expect the 49ers to have some interest. They can trade or cut Jimmy Garoppolo with minimal financial penalty this offseason, and Matt Maiocco wrote Saturday that the 49ers are expected to be interested in acquiring Matt Stafford if he and the Detroit Lions ultimately part ways. Rodgers just had a much better season than his longtime NFC North foe. Rodgers is older, signed for longer and to a higher salary-cap hit than Stafford, but quarterbacks of his caliber don't become available very often.
Rodgers would have to officially be made available first, though, and it doesn't sound like a decision is imminent. The Packers would also carry nearly $33 million in dead money if Rodgers is traded or cut before June 1, which would hamper their ability to build around Love in his first season as the starter.
Green Bay will have to truly choose Love over Rodgers at some point, though, and the 49ers might not be able to afford passing up on acquiring Rodgers a second time.