By that point, Love would be at the end of his rookie contract, unless the Packers decide to pick up the fifth-year option for 2024.
Love has played exactly six quarters of meaningful professional football. His only NFL start was the 13-7 loss at the Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 7 when Rodgers was out because of COVID-19, and his only lengthy time as a backup was the second half of the regular-season finale at Detroit (a 37-30 loss after the Packers had already clinched the NFC’s No. 1 seed).
He did little to impress. Against the Chiefs, he completed 19 of 34 passes for 190 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Against the Lions, he was 10-of-17 for 135 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. His two preseason starts last summer looked much the same.
That’s all the rest of the NFL would have to go on when evaluating – and possibly deciding whether to trade for – Love.
“I don’t know how they feel about things,” Gutekunst said this offseason when asked if his opinion of Love differs from the rest of the league’s view. “But I see him work every day and the things we’re asking him to do, and getting better with the little things, and things like that, and the opportunities he did get, understanding the situations he was put in, and the preparation that we had for him.
“I’m not too concerned with outside evaluations of him, but like all players, there will come a time when they’ve got to go out there and do it. For Jordan, he hasn’t had a lot of those times yet. At some point, he’s going to have to go out there and do it.”
Gutekunst might be more concerned if, say, Love believes he will never get a shot to start in Green Bay and wants out – or if Gutekunst decides for whatever reason to try to trade him.
While opinions about Love’s value vary, this much is clear: There’s no way that at this point the Packers can recoup what they invested in him – a first-round pick and the fourth-rounder they used to trade up four spots to draft him at No. 26 overall.
Several high-ranking scouts earlier this month at the scouting combine estimated Love’s trade value in the third-to-fifth-round pick range, although Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy, who is well connected in the scouting world, tweeted that he asked “a few NFL scouts” about the asking price for Love and most thought the Packers could get a second-round pick for him.
The best-case scenario if the Packers want to move on from Love might be holding onto him for another year with the hope that he flashes in the preseason this summer, when Rodgers is unlikely to play in any of the three exhibition games, and then he either doesn’t have to play at all in the regular season or if he does, it goes much better than last year.
“I feel really good about his ability to grow, and he’s going to have to do it,” Gutekunst said. “I don’t think you ever really know that until you put him out there in 16-some games or whatever. You look at a lot of the really good quarterbacks in this league, and it’s usually midway through their second year where all of a sudden, you may see it but they’re not winning, then all of a sudden they start to win.”
The Packers lured quarterbacks coach Tom Clements out of retirement in large part as a way to convince Rodgers to return, but it could benefit Love, too. Rodgers has long raved about Clements’ importance to his development early in his career.
Love likely will get the benefit of handling most of the starting quarterback duties in the offseason, assuming Rodgers is excused from or skips the OTAs this spring. Like Brett Favre did late in his career, Rodgers has downplayed the importance of his participation in the offseason program. Also, Rodgers’ new contract includes only annual offseason workout bonuses of $50,000 – down from $500,000 in his previous deal.
“Jordan’s come a long way,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “I still think, with any young player that hasn’t gotten maybe the experience up to this point, there’s still a lot of room for growth. So I think it’s going to be an important offseason, that when he does come back, it’s making sure that his footwork is sharp, that he’s on the details of what we’re trying to accomplish on each and every play and all the concepts, really a mastery of the offense, and just the command that he has. I know he takes that to heart and he takes it very personally and he’ll do whatever he can to be his best.”