The next Packer quarterback

Chris Crouse:

There have been mixed signals out of Green Bay since the team surprisingly drafted Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The Packers appear to still be committed to Aaron Rodgers, for now. After examining his contract, it’s clear that Green Bay will have a window to potentially split with him after the 2021 season.

As Spotrac details, Rodgers’ contract would leave teams a (somewhat) easier out in terms of dead cap space. The 2020 season has a cap hit that’s north of $21.6 million with a dead cap number of more than $51.1 million. That dead cap number drops to slightly more than $31.5 million in 2021, then $17.204 million and $2.852 million in 2022 and 2023.

Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio tossed out the idea that the club may actually want Rodgers to possibly “ask for a divorce” at some point in the future. He cited the front office potentially seeing themselves in a similar situation that the Packers were in with Brett Favre, writing:

Again, that’s possibly precisely what the Packers want. They knew how to get Brett Favre to retire in 2008 (i.e., ask him for a firm decision in February, when they knew he’d be inclined to walk away), and they know (or at least believe they know) how to get Rodgers to be the one to ask for a divorce.

If that happens, which team would Rodgers angle for as a next destination? Perhaps no team is more equipped to thrive with Rodgers than the Denver Broncos – assuming they have an interest in making a deal down the line.

John Elway once convinced Peyton Manning to play the second-leg of his career in Denver and it worked out. Peyton won his second Super Bowl, becoming the only quarterback in NFL history to win a ring with two separate franchises.

Denver will be set up to make a similar pitch whenever Rodgers’ tenure in Green Bay is over. One big factor at the time will obviously be money and the salary cap situation, but a lot can happen over the coming seasons.

Denver added several playmakers this offseason, which makes them an appealing option for any signal-caller (including second-year quarterback Drew Lock). Melvin Gordon was brought in to join Phillip Lindsay in the backfield, for starters. They drafted tight end Noah Fant last year, and this year, in addition to wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, the Broncos drafted K.J. Hamler as another explosive wideout to go with Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton.

“We’re going to have to score points to win in our division,” Elway said (via NBC Sports’ Peter King). “Obviously at 15 we were thrilled that Jeudy still was there. And going into round two, we were focused on Hamler. He’s explosive and really tough. It’s hard to go 80 yards in this league, and we feel like we drafted two guys who can. Kansas City has those guys, and the quarterback [Patrick Mahomes] is obviously going to be great for a long time.”

As King wrote, NFL teams didn’t have a reliable 40-yard dash time for Hamler, though once they looked at the tape, it was clear that he was impressively fast.

“He had a 100-yard kick return against Michigan,” Elway said, “and so we just figured we’d time him [in a 40-yard interval] on that play. We timed him at 3.93 in the 40, but of course he had a running start. He just has a different speed than anyone else. This has become such a speed game. Watch Kansas City. We love Courtland, we love Jeudy. Get Hamler in the slot against quarters coverage, releasing upfield at 4.3 or 4.32 speed, and that’s going to put a lot of pressure on the safeties, I know that.”

As nice as the situation in Denver is, the New England Patriots can’t be counted out as a hypothetical future suitor.

The Patriots do not have a clear-cut long-term answer at quarterback on the roster. Former fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham could do his best Tom Brady impression on the field, but that’s a big TBD at this moment.

It appears the Pats will enter the 2021 offseason with a need at quarterback. They could target the NFL draft if Stidham is unable to emerge from the pack. Perhaps 68-year-old Bill Belichick would like to groom someone he can coach into his late 70s. However, bringing in a quarterback who can offer three to five years of above-average play is undoubtedly the best option for the franchise.

Will Rodgers shift over to the AFC? While there is strong competition for the conference title with teams like the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs, there isn’t a long list of AFC teams that appear to be perennial locks to make the playoffs. It may be an easier path than in the crowded NFC, though. Wherever Rodgers lands, he’d certainly target a home where obtaining his second Super Bowl ring is a realistic outcome from the moment he hypothetically signs.

Bob McGinn, formerly of the Green Bay Press–Gazette and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The mere law of averages says that Love won’t have nearly the same career that Favre had and Rodgers is having. The other thing is that, in contrast to what fans of the old-style smash-mouth NFL think, running the ball first doesn’t make you an elite team anymore, in large part because running back are one of the least durable positions as far as length of NFL career.

This certainly has reverberated throughout the sports world, in part because nothing else is going on. On the one hand Rodgers is going to retire at some point. He may want to play as long as Favre did, but given his lack of durability compared with Favre that seems unrealistic. On the other hand, if this story is legitimate, the apparent arrogance of LaFleur in thinking he can replace a Hall of Fame quarterback with no problem is pretty astonishing. One season does not make LaFleur a good coach, and questions are increasing about Gutekunst after a draft where most draft experts (such a “draft expert is”) are giving the Packers F grades.

If Love can’t get the job done, well, there are plenty of candidates for GM and coach positions, and I’m sure some other team will hire Gutekunst and LaFleur for something.

 

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