INDIANAPOLIS – New Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst doesn’t want to wait much longer to get franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers signed to a contract extension.
“We’d certainly like to get it done sooner rather than later,” Gutekunst said on Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine. “When you have the best player in the National Football League, it’s not going to be inexpensive. Obviously Aaron is a high priority, he’s a great player, and that should take care of itself at some point.”
Negotiations have begun with Rodgers, who has two years left on his current contract. This is the point at which the Packers extended Rodgers’ contract last time, in 2013, and Gutekunst confirmed the Packers are aiming to do so again.
How soon the deal will get finalized is an open question. San Francisco just signed Jimmy Garoppolo to a mega-deal, and Kirk Cousins is slated to hit free agency next month as the top QB on the market.
Rodgers might want to wait to see what Cousins gets before committing to any new deal with the Packers, but Gutekunst didn’t seem overly stressed about a timeline.
He didn’t indicate Rodgers’ deal would impact any other pursuits in free agency, just as the loss of a grievance against tight end Martellus Bennett – whose pro-rated signing bonus will not be recouped or credited back to Green Bay’s cap – wasn’t going to change his thought process, either.
“We’d like to be really aggressive and see if we can be in every conversation,” Gutekunst said regarding free agency. “Now, whether that leads to us ending up signing a bunch or not, we’ll see. There’s limitations there. But we’d like to be as aggressive as we can to try to improve our football team.”
Other issues that may or may not need to be sorted out are the high salary-cap numbers in 2018 for receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, and for linebacker Clay Matthews.
Gutekunst acknowledged the financial picture is tricky and something might have to be done, but he doesn’t want to see any of the accomplished veterans leave Green Bay.
“It’s a big puzzle, and as the information comes in, as we get closer to the free-agent time period and get through the combine and get a better feel for the draft, some of those things will come into play,” he said.
“But I’ll say this: We have some really good players, and we don’t want to let them walk out the door. It’s hard enough in this league to find them, so we certainly wouldn’t want to let them walk out the door. There are restraints, and every decision affects something else, but we want to let all the information come in before we get to that point.”
As for the rest of combine week, his first as a GM, Gutekunst said getting to know the college prospects through the interview process is a key component.
The Packers’ personnel staff also has had meetings with new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and his staff about the types of players they’re looking to add to Green Bay’s defense through the draft.
“It’s to get on the same page with them as far as exactly how they want to play,” Gutekunst said. “That’s really helpful.”
Picking 14th in every round, as opposed to the late 20s as a perennial playoff team, and having 12 total picks should help, too, for a team Gutekunst characterizes as not being “very far off” despite all the front-office and coaching changes.
None of that alters the Packers’ evaluation process in general as they set their draft board, because building that board as thoroughly as possible is the priority.
“The most important part, specifically in the beginning, is to try to get the value of the player right,” Gutekunst said. “As we get further on down, we’ll start to look at scenarios and possibilities for us at each pick, but right now, it’s just about getting the value and trying to get to know these guys as much as possible so we don’t make any mistakes.”