Is the Aaron Rodgers Era Coming to an End? Packers Shock NFL by Drafting Jordan Love

The Green Bay Packers pulled off a surprise trade on Thursday night, moving up the order to select Utah State quarterback Jordan Love with the 26th overall pick of the NFL Draft.

The Packers held the 30th overall pick but traded their selection and a fourth-round pick to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for the 26th pick, which they subsequently used on Love, who was the fourth quarterback off the board in the first round after Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert.

Green Bay's decision to trade up to land a signal caller sent shockwaves through the NFL as it signals the team's intention to plan for life after Aaron Rodgers. The Packers were considered to be firmly in "win-mode" now and were expected to add a weapon to what has been a depleted offensive arsenal to ensure their veteran quarterback can mount another Super Bowl tilt before calling it a day. By selecting Love, instead, Green Bay has started the countdown to Rodgers' retirement.

The 36-year-old steered the Packers to the NFC Championship Game last season and has thrown for over 4,000 yards in the last three seasons he has completed—he played only seven games in an injury-curtailed 2017 campaign—and while no longer at his peak, he remains one of the outstanding quarterbacks in the game.

The Packers, however, obviously felt the opportunity to land Love and develop him as Rodgers' heir apparent was too good to pass. At 6-foot-5, 225-pound, the former Utah State quarterback is the prototype of the modern mobile quarterback and is blessed with great arm strength. However, his inaccuracy has raised concerns, after he threw for 20 touchdowns and 17 interceptions last year.

Green Bay has form for drafting promising young quarterbacks to spend a few seasons in the shadow of a bonafide legend and the parallels between the franchise picking Love and Rodgers's own selection 15 years ago are obvious.

In 2005, the Packers selected Rodgers with the 24th overall pick as the heir to legendary quarterback Brett Favre, who was a year older than Rodgers in his now and, like his successor, had led the Packers to one Super Bowl title.

At the same time, Favre had hinted at retirement on various occasions before the Packers drafted Rodgers and had not signed a multi-year extension, while the latter inked a four-year deal worth $134 million two years ago.

Furthermore, Rodgers was spoken of as a high first-round pick in the lead-up to the 2005 draft, while Love was far from guaranteed to be among the first 32 players selected on Thursday night.

In its own right, however, the prospect of Love playing understudy to Rodgers makes perfect sense for the Packers. The former Utah State star could hardly have picked a better quarterback to be shadowing as he takes his first steps in professional football.

"I didn't know what to expect," he said on the draft telecast. "I'm super-excited. I'm already knowing I can learn a lot from Aaron Rodgers. I'm excited to be able to come back behind him and learn as much as I can."

Speaking to ESPN's Radio Milwaukee last month, Rodgers hinted he wouldn't have had a problem with the Packers picking a quarterback.

"I know where we're at as an organization and where I'm at in my career," he said. "I still feel like I have a ton of years left playing at a high level. I'm confident enough. I've always felt like it doesn't matter who you bring in; they're not going be able to beat me out any time soon. I feel really confident about my abilities and my plays.

"We've drafted various guys over the years. I understand the business and the nature of it, obviously love to bring guys in that are going to be able to play and compete right away. I understand it's a business. I wouldn't have a problem."

At the same time, moving up four spots to pick the quarterback could see the Packers having to field a host of uncomfortable questions over Rodgers' future. The two-time MVP will not be a free agent until 2024 and because of the way his contract is structured—his dead cap hit drops from $31 million in the 2021 season to $17.2 million and $2.8 million in the following seasons—he is unlikely to be moved on before 2022, by when he will be 39.

Jordan Love, Utah State
Quarterback Jordan Love of Utah State throws a pass during the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 27 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Love was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers. Joe Robbins/Getty