GREEN BAY (AP) — Jordan Love's ability to lead the NFL's youngest team to the divisional playoffs in his first year as a starter has the Green Bay Packers eager to work out a long-term extension with him.
After the Packers traded four-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers to the New York Jets, Love agreed to terms on a one-year extension that made his deal run through 2024. Love becomes eligible for another extension in May.
"I think we will go down that road," Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said Thursday in his season-ending news conference. "Certainly I think that will be important for our football team to have some stability there. Jordan and his representation, they're really good people, so we will start working toward that sometime in the next couple months."
Gutekunst also said he anticipates having 29-year-old running back Aaron Jones back next season. Jones had restructured his contract a year ago and had taken a pay cut for the 2023 season to remain with the Packers.
"He's such an influential leader in our locker room," Gutekunst said. "He's just really the heartbeat of our team. That's certainly the anticipation, that he'll be back."
Love and Jones led the Packers on a surprising playoff run with their late-season surges.
Jones rushed for at least 100 yards in each of Green Bay's last five games.
Love threw 21 touchdown passes with only one interception during a nine-game stretch that culminated with a 48-32 wild-card upset of the Dallas Cowboys, though he was picked off twice when the Packers lost 24-21 to the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round.
"We are really excited to build around him," Gutekunst said.
Gutekunst also said he hadn't given any consideration to trading cornerback Jaire Alexander, who served a one-game suspension late in the season for conduct detrimental to the team.
Gutekunst was more circumspect regarding the future of left tackle David Bakhtiari, who played just one game this season because of a knee issue that has required five separate surgeries. The Packers got solid performances from first-year starters Rasheed Walker at left tackle and Zach Tom at right tackle.
"Obviously David has been through a really rough stretch with the injury stuff, and he's going through a very major surgery trying to get back to be able to play," Gutekunst said. "We're monitoring that, and I know he's working his tail off and once we get down the road and see where he's at health-wise, we will kind of make those decisions."
The Packers went 10-9 this season with seven wins in their last 10 games. They now should go into this offseason with more flexibility after salary cap concerns prevented them from doing much on the free-agent market the past few years.
"I think we're getting to a little bit better spot than we have been in the past," Gutekunst said. "It's never perfect, but I do feel that whatever opportunities are out there to improve our team in free agency, that we'll be able to do that."
The Packers also will have five picks in the first three rounds of the draft.
Gutekunst spoke to reporters one day after the Packers announced the hire of former Boston College head coach Jeff Hafley as defensive coordinator.
Gutekunst said he didn't expect the coordinator change to have a major impact on how the Packers determine what players best fit their defense.
"It'll have some, but … it's not going to be like a wholesale change — hey we've got to ship (these guys) off and bring a bunch of new guys in — it's not going to be like that," Gutekunst said. "I think as we get into the nuances of what Jeff wants to do, certainly with our current players, there may be conversations about where they play and how they fit. But one thing I think we've prided ourselves here on both sides of the ball is versatility and bringing in guys that can be versatile."
Hafley replaces Joe Barry, who was fired after three seasons as defensive coordinator. Green Bay's defense gave up 29.3 points per game during a 1-2 stretch just before Christmas before improving at the end of the season.
"I thought we played pretty consistent football in the front seven," Gutekunst said. "I think the back end is probably where we weren't as consistent as we needed to be, and I'd like that to be shored up. There will probably be some moving pieces there going into next year. But it's kind of like it always is. I want a fast physical, aggressive defense that plays sound."