So, um, who's getting Aaron Rodgers? Where's he gonna end up?
It's the game show sweeping the nation, the question being asked the most by football fans. If he's not going back to Green Bay – and the future Hall of Fame quarterback continues to give off no signals that is happening anytime soon – then where will he land? Which teams make the most sense? Who could actually pull it off?
At this point we are still pretty early in the process. The regular season is four months away, the Packers continue to cling to the concept that this relationship could be salvaged, there is not a real deadline of any sort in sight and all parties can stew in their juices and vow not to blink or flinch … because we are still in the depths off the offseason and there aren't any pressure points on the horizon. No mandatory work. No real practices. Nothing going on in Green Bay (or anywhere else) except for rookies congregating.
This won't be an hour-by-hour or day-by-day stare down. A player of this magnitude being this deep at odds with the only franchise he has ever known – especially a player this strong-willed and a franchise this iconic with a unique (backwards?) hierarchy – virtually ensures this tete-a-tete bleeds into the summer. And the contract ramifications – with the cap hit from a Rodgers trade being more manageable (but still painful) in June – are a factor as well.
But if you are of the mind that this is ending in a messy divorce and a blockbuster trade, then at this point it makes some sense to sort out who makes the most sense. Take out teams that have already conceded they failed to really ask (Giants) and a slew of teams that just made bold trades to draft quarterbacks and the entire NFC North (that's not happening) and teams that have QBs who have no-trade clauses of their own (Russell Wilson and Ciara are not going to Wisconsin in a QB-for-QB mega-swap), and things get a little clearer.
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Take out teams like the 49ers, who have already been rebuffed and moved on, or teams like the Colts, who'd be at the top of this list had they not done the Carson Wentz thing already, and places that could use him but that Rodgers probably would not likely fancy (New England, after that fallout with Tom Brady), and teams that are already on the hook for an aging and expensive QB (Pittsburgh) and the field does get whittled down a bit. Make no mistake, three-quarters of the league could use him and would get a massive boost but those with young franchise QBs aren't going to call, and I keep coming back to the same six teams. For various reasons, they stick out to me, and here's why:
We've all heard the rumblings going back to before the draft. They have the defense, Rodgers is down with playing in the Mile High City and they have interesting pieces on offense. They have a caretaker QB on the roster who isn't being paid big money, and John Elway has only Peyton Manning to hang his hat on at this position. They won it all with a late-30s QB not long ago, Elway has the personality and mentality to appeal to Rodgers, and at this point trading a bunch of future draft picks, or even picks and (gulp) Bradley Chubb, has to merit consideration. Without a QB like Rodgers, getting past Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes in K.C. might be folly.
Don't get caught up in what they are paying Sam Darnold; they just spent a ton just to move Teddy Bridgewater's contract. David Tepper ain't crying about $20M here or there. Darnold is still a big gamble; Rodgers provides 3-4 years of certainty. They are already loaded on offense and could part with a big piece or two on defense (Brian Burns, Jeremy Chinn), or a kid or two they took in the 2021 draft. Plus future picks. I don't think many would be more motivated than Tepper. His new GM was a part of a Seattle front office that made a bunch of huge trades and Tepper was all about landing Deshaun Watson before his legal problems surfaced. Keep an eye on the Panthers.
There isn't anything that goes on in this league that Sean Payton isn't aware of. And he is very unsettled at QB – for the short and long term. He hasn't been in this position in forever. And he has shown in the past he will move a lot of draft capital for a player (Marcus Davenport trade, anyone?). He's shopped guys like Michael Thomas before, and does Marcus Lattimore definitely have a long-term future there? Need an offensive lineman? He's got plenty. Payton avoided taking a QB high in this draft. He has a roster still built to win right now.
Rodgers seems to be intrigued by the Raiders. That should be more than enough to have Jon Gruden's wheels turning. The defense is going to stink again, but they have pieces on offense and might have to try to win 50-47, anyway. Being patient is not something Gruden is particularly famous for. And this regime has done a very poor job drafting, anyway, so it's not like they are getting bang for the buck from the selections they make, and sending off draft picks for an MVP QB might be the best way to spend them. They were watching the Wilson stuff in Seattle very, very closely, so I have every reason to believe same goes with Rodgers and the Packers. Gruden was once a Packers assistant. He'll have the lay of the land.
Super progressive front office that loves to make trades and has some pieces that might interest the Packers. GM Howie Roseman also has at least two first-round picks next year already (three if Wentz plays enough Colts snaps) and an improved roster on offense that could give Rodgers what he needs. Yeah, they are rebuilding … but landing this kind of QB would expedite things and make parting with future draft stock tenable. They were watching the Watson thing closely. I never rule them out of anything this significant, especially given how little football Jalen Hurts has played to this point.
They love to make moves, too, even if they don't always make sense. Trading picks is a fetish of sorts for them. They still have an abundance in the next few years. Want Tua Tagovailoa as part of the deal? He'd be far more equipped to play Week 1 than Jordan Love. After cutting/trading/giving away so many players a year after signing or acquiring them, and doing one about-face after the next, I'd certainly give them a call if I was in Green Bay. That owner would be all over it, they would sell a ton of jerseys and there are worse places to have to try to recruit Rodgers to than South Beach.