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NFL insider notes: Aaron Rodgers content with sitting out for now, big things on horizon for Rams’ duo

Aaron Rodgers is not in Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers was never going to be in Green Bay this week. I thought that was pretty clear.

The idea that “mandatory” minicamp was going to have any bearing on this stalemate between all-time great quarterback and iconic franchise was always laughable. Honestly, I am a bit flabbergasted that Rodgers’s attendance was somehow a thing. Like, that there were people who had paid any attention to this showdown at all who thought that maybe he was going interrupt his life to show up for some quasi-practices?

Trust me, Mark Murphy and the powers that be in Green Bay aren’t surprised in the least. They’ve known for months. They have been told, by Rodgers and others close to him, that the QB is done with them. That he’ll never wear that jersey again. Sorry, there was never a chance that Rodgers was going to let this thing go, arbitrarily, in the middle of June, to accommodate the team’s offseason schedule.

To reiterate for the, I don’t know, maybe 645th time: Rodgers has told those he trusts that he is done with the Packers, won’t play for them again, has no intention of showing up for any of their football activities – voluntary or mandatory. Could that change by, say, August? Perhaps. Rodgers himself won’t know exactly what he is feeling about sitting out training camp until he actually does it.

But, as we have also documented many times before, this is an individual who can be very headstrong and when he gets something in his head, and makes a stand, he can be relentless and unwavering. I wouldn’t bet on him showing up for the first day of camp at this point. No way.

Maybe the Packers can find a creative solution. Maybe they can find a favorable third party to mediate a bit, intervene on their behalf. But having Murphy and Brian Gutekunst and the boys – the very people Rodgers believes blindsided him and deceived him about the Jordan Love situation – take turns trying to pitch him on more money and revisionist history about what went on in the spring of 2020 isn’t going to change much. I don’t see that approach being any more fruitful than it has already been.

Perhaps there is a solution and a way to get Rodgers to reinvest in the only franchise he has ever known. But simply promising to trade him in 2022 ain’t even in the ballpark – that was the front office’s plan all along; or at least the way the rest of the league, and Rodgers himself, was reading it when they moved up to draft Love. That’s not even a compromise. And money alone ain’t the answer, either.

Rodgers has his foot on their collective neck. Their season is sunk without him. Rodgers knows it and the Packers brass knows it. Despite whatever you might read or hear elsewhere, trust me, he has all the leverage. Any fines or paychecks he misses out on will all come back to him – and then some – whenever he decides to show up (if he ever decides to show up).

By late July, maybe things will have cooled down. Maybe he’ll wake up one morning and decide to go back to work for these guys. In the meantime, I continue to believe he is very content to watch them squirm.  

Signing James a smart move for Ravens

Very smart move by the Ravens to effectively spend $500,000 for the right to control up to two years of Ja’Wuan James’ career. They bought low on the tackle and just might reap real rewards from it.

James can take all of 2021 to recover from his torn Achilles. This transaction isn’t even really about that. It’s about maximum flexibility in 2022. Baltimore has All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley coming off a major season-ending surgery, and traded Orlando Brown Jr. to the Chiefs when he requested a trade somewhere where he could stay at left tackle after starring as Stanley’s replacement for half of 2021.

They didn’t really address tackle in the draft and waited for the offensive line market to thin out and then essentially signed Alejandro Villanueva for $8M this season to move to the right side, with the contract including what is essentially a team option for 2022 at $8M. And now they have James at a base salary of $2.5M for 2022 with the chance to make another $5M in incentives based on how much he plays.

At that rate, it’s worth it to keep him even as just a potential replacement swing tackle should injury arise (the cap is going to skyrocket next year, too, remember). If Villanueva is aging or struggles to switch the right side, you can swap James in a year from now and pocket cash and cap savings that can be spent elsewhere. If Stanley’s health is a concern and his ankle procedures lead to more problems (worst-case scenario), well, you have Villanueva at a very reasonable $8M who has played on the left side for a long time, and James can step in at right tackle.

James can get the job done – health has always been his issue. He will have plenty of time to get right. And even if he doesn’t, for just half a million, it’s not really even a gamble at all.

Stafford and McVay are a perfect fit 

I am expecting big things from Matthew Stafford and Sean McVay this season. Very big things.

As we know, McVay can get pretty worked up and enthusiastic talking about anything football related. When I spoke to him recently on my radio show about Stafford, he did not disappoint. And this isn’t hyperbole. Stafford is a truly elite quarterback who will, for the first time in his career, be put in the best position possible to succeed with the Rams.

“The more that you study him closely, because it’s one thing to admire him from afar,” McVay told me. “… But when you really study the intricacies of playing the position – playing in time, in rhythm, pocket movement,  eyes down the field, to be able to move and manipulate defenders in the rhythm and timing of the play, I mean this guy is outstanding.

“He can make every single throw, obviously, and he’s well known for just the ability he has as a passer. But his ownership, his toughness. You know one of my favorite things that I’ve gotten to know about him is just listening to what his teammates and what guys who have been around him say. I can’t tell you the amount of calls that I got immediately after the trade went through from former teammates or coaches who have been with him who can’t say enough good things about him. And then you get around him and you say, ‘You know what, it sure seems like everything I’ve heard; he keeps checking all the boxes without a doubt.'”

These two are going to wreak havoc. And if the offensive line can hold up a little bit, the sky is the limit.