GREEN BAY – Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst said Thursday night he's "optimistic" Aaron Rodgers will remain Green Bay's quarterback and he has no desire to trade him.
News broke a few hours before the first round of the NFL Draft that Rodgers wanted out of Green Bay, and Gutekunst addressed it with the media shortly after selecting Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes in the first round with the 29th overall pick.
Gutekunst did not get into any specifics regarding Rodgers, but he emphasized he wants to continue competing for a championship with the three-time MVP quarterback.
"We've been working through this for a little while now. I just think it may take some time," Gutekunst said, explaining the team has talked with Rodgers, presumably about his contract, over the past couple of months, and the lines of communication remain open. He did confirm the two sides spoke Thursday as well.
"I do think he'll play for us again. We're going to work towards that and we've been working towards that on a number of different fronts.
"The value that he adds to our football is really immeasurable, you know what I mean? He brings so much to the table not only as a player but as a leader. He's so important to his teammates, to his coaches, so yeah, that's the goal."
After the Packers traded up to draft his potential successor, QB Jordan Love, in the first round last year, Rodgers said he had come to peace with the idea he may not play his entire career in Green Bay. He then he went out and won his third league MVP, leading the Packers within a game of the Super Bowl for the second straight year.
Rodgers hasn't spoken publicly about his current feelings, but regarding last year's draft, Gutekunst said Thursday he wishes he had handled the communication better about the interest in and potential selection of Love.
Gutekunst did not comment on whether he expected Rodgers to attend voluntary offseason workouts when they begin in Green Bay next month.
"You've got to keep your mind on how much we want Aaron to be here and how important he is to our organization," Gutekunst said. "I'm optimistic and we'll see how it unfolds."
He added his approach Thursday amidst the news bombshell with the draft looming was to stay "steady" and "focus on the task at hand."
That led to the selection of Stokes, a 6-1, 195-pound speedster of a cover man who could become a long-term pairing with rising star Jaire Alexander at corner.
Gutekunst pondered offers to trade both up and down but ultimately didn't want to pass on a top prospect at a crucial position of need, with the defense's second and third corners, Kevin King and Chandon Sullivan, playing on one-year deals in 2021.
In studying Stokes, Gutekunst saw a player who showed steady growth in the SEC, particularly against the highly touted receivers at national powers Alabama and LSU. Those two schools had three receivers taken in the top 10 Thursday night (Ja'Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith), with fellow SEC program Florida producing another receiver chosen in the top 20 (Kadarius Toney).
With that growth came confidence, which is combined with an athletic profile Gutekunst rated a standout combination of speed, strength and explosiveness. Stokes ran a pair of 40-yard dashes in sub-4.3 seconds at Georgia's pro day while displaying a physical game at the line of scrimmage on film.
All those traits make him a candidate to see the field right away as a rookie, though Gutekunst said it'll be up to the coaches to sort out how he fits amongst Alexander, King and Sullivan.
"I do think Eric's a pretty quick study, and I think he'll get in that mix somehow, some way, eventually … hopefully this season," Gutekunst said. "He's kind of a rare-talent athlete, and I think the mental part of our defense, once he masters that, I think he'll be able to contribute."
After choosing three defensive players in the first round of his first two drafts as GM in 2018 and '19, Gutekunst went back to defense in the first round this year to both add to a strong group and plan for the future.
"I think we're at the tipping point of being a dominant, dominant defense," he said.