Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers have managed to resolve their differences. For now.
Our long national nightmare is over. For now.
But let's not pretend that the last five months didn't happen. Don't try to sell that "nothing to see here" narrative with me. No one wants to go to war with a first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback (and this isn't even Green Bay's first rodeo when it comes to that caliber of player), and this was very messy and very dragged out for a reason.
Sure, the sides found enough financial and contractual common ground to facilitate a temporary arrangement that really serves as an exit portal for the player. They got that much done. But Rodgers isn't going to forget the long list of gripes and grievances that led to this saga in the first place, and the real end game of this revamped contract is it allows the QB an opportunity to help determine where he ends his career.
Does he have written guarantees that he will be traded as soon as January? No. But neither side wants to go through this again. The Packers are very clear on what Rodgers desires, he will relish being one of the most talked about players in the NFL every week in this 'Last Dance' scenario, and then he will go from his MJ moment to his LeBron moment as we all eagerly await 'The Decision' in early 2022 with Rodgers steering himself to a new team (and another new contract!) via trade (maybe Tom Brady could loan A-Rod his buddy Jim Gray?). No trade will be made without more years on the deal, Rodgers can always play the retirement card if need be and the Packers aren't going to be able to just force him to play for the lowly Texans or something like that.
That's not how it's going to work.
But it does beg the question of which teams make the most sense for 2022. Which franchises could potentially possess what Rodgers desires, and also be in a position to consummate such a trade? Where are the most likely landing spots? Never too soon to consider! Rule out the NFC North for obvious reasons, and rule out teams that might need a QB badly but aren't close to competing (Houston, etc.) and rule out teams that have recently drafted or acquired whom they believe to be the QB of the present and the future, and this is how I would size up the field, with roughly one third of the NFL at least worth mentioning:
They have to be the leader in the clubhouse, right? Rodgers is cool with Colorado. They have a legit defense and some interesting pieces on offense. It worked for Peyton Manning near the end. John Elway can facilitate. It hasn't been just all smoke between these sides this offseason. That seems like a great fit from a lifestyle and football standpoint and the QB of the future is not on this roster now.
New Orleans Saints
Man oh man. Rodgers and Sean Payton would be something, wouldn't it? They have look-see QBs for now, but having Rodgers come in a year after Drew Brees retires with a veteran team and taking them to the Promised Land? A-Rod at Jazz Fest? That seems like a decent fit, too. Great OL. Can run the heck out of the ball. Play a lot of games in great weather or a dome. Same division as Tom Brady. Hmm.
Big Ben is doing his 'Last Dance' thing in Pittsburgh while Rodgers does his in Green Bay. But do you believe Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins is going to prove to be the long-term answer? Do you believe a franchise that hasn't finished below .500 in forever is going to do a full-scale rebuild with a rookie passer when they are probably picking around 18-20 in the first round (no man's land for top QBs). Can they afford to keep trading top picks in a way that franchise historically never does to move up and get one? Or is Rodgers plug-and-play with that defense and what they think will be a reborn run game? Could you imagine starting playoff games for these two iconic franchises?
I think Tua Tagovailoa is gonna be okay. But clearly the Dolphins have had a wandering eye even after using their first pick two years ago on one of the more accomplished college QBs in recent years. South Beach would be quite a departure from Green Bay. Ownership has generally failed to woo players and/or coaches of this magnitude to Miami, but Steve Ross would try like heck. Loaded with draft capital and could also flip Tua to recoup some.
What if Russell Wilson and the Seahawks have a split as well after quite a tumultuous offseason this year? Could the timing work out? Seahawks GM John Schneider has deep ties to Green Bay and is Rodgers' kind of guy. Seattle is also his kind of city. They are used to paying a big-money QB and could get a massive haul for Wilson that would trump what they have to give up for Rodgers. Pete Carroll looks like he is 45 but is the oldest coach in the league and restarting with a kid QB couldn't be his first choice if they did opt to take an epic return from a Wilson trade.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady continues to send signals that is playing way beyond 2021. Like, definitely more than one year. But injuries happen and things can change and if Brady moved on a year from now this team would still be built to win right bleeping now with an older coach in Bruce Arians in tow. How about that for a transition – Brady to Rodgers? Again, it would take mitigating circumstances, but if Tampa Bay found itself in need of a QB this would be an obvious fit.
Las Vegas Raiders
Jon Gruden has already stuck with Derek Carr longer than many expected. But people in that organization were watching the Wilson thing very closely and Las Vegas is a superstar kind of town seeking marquee attractions. If they can make some strides with the roster and the defense this year perhaps they could be positions to at least try to woo Rodgers.
This Sam Darnold thing could be a flop. Either way this owner would pounce on someone like Rodgers if given the chance. They have some blue chip players, it's not a huge media market, and money wouldn't be an object for someone like David Tepper. He wouldn't fret too much about future draft picks, either.
Super aggressive front office and owner, but they may end up landing Deshaun Watson before Rodgers becomes available. I'm not sure Philly would be Rodgers' kind of locale and it would probably take a helluva sales pitch to make it happen, but this team clearly is eyeing big-time QBs while seeing what it has in Jalen Hurts,
Washington Football Team
For starters, they may have a new nickname by the time the Rodgers Sweepstakes begins. Looks like a top five defense to me, and they clearly are year-to-year at the QB spot. Not sure it's somewhere he sees himself living, and can't see him clicking with owner Dan Snyder (though he may still be on his quasi-suspension by the league as all of this plays out). I could see him clicking with team president Jason Wright, who might be able at least to get an audience with Rodgers should they go as expected.
New York Giants
This is make-or-break time for Daniel Jones. And if it goes the way I suspect it will, they will be very much in the market for a new QB in 2022. And going with another 21 year old might be a tough sell. So, too, could be Joe Judge as the head coach for that matter … but let's just say this could be a once-storied franchise that needs to be willing to move and do whatever it takes to at least get in the Rodgers derby.