Drew Lock is in survival mode. After a rotten 2020 season and another playoff-less year for Denver, the former Missouri QB has been under the microscope. While new General Manager George Paton has been very active during his first offseason with the Broncos, he has yet to find an obvious replacement for Lock. When the first wave of free agency and a very active QB trade market began, many fans assumed Lock’s days were numbered. Guys like Matt Stafford, Carson Wentz, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Mitchell Trubisky came and went while Paton resisted the urge to overpay. Instead, Denver sat tight and with every signed contract and confirmed trade, Lock heaved a sigh of relief.
Just before the Draft, the Broncos made a small splash and traded a 6th round pick to Carolina for injury riddled Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater had an OK season in 2020 but I don’t think anyone truly believes the QB job is his to lose. At this point there will be a competition but the ceiling is higher for Lock so it would seem the Broncos would sure like to give him every chance to win the battle.
Then came the draft. With a class where 5 quarterbacks dominated the storylines going in and were expected to be gone before the Broncos selected at 9, most were shocked when not 1 but 2 players were available to Denver by the time they were on the clock. Justin Fields and Mac Jones were both there for the taking and while we knew Paton liked Fields, he decided to make his very first pick as Broncos GM a cornerback in Patrick Surtain. Their need of a QB and an already deep CB room caused a lot of head scratching. However, the hope of a star QB landing in Denver didn’t completely fade away as the NFL Draft drew to a close. Just before the draft began, major news overtook the headlines; the 2020 league MVP wanted out. Aaron Rodgers strategically let it be known ahead of the draft that he wanted out of Green Bay and had no intentions of returning.
Did Mr. Paton give the Packers a call? Did that impact Denver’s decision NOT to take Fields at #9?
“We are just going to focus on the draft right now,” Paton said when asked if his team had trade talks with the Packers. “We will focus on Patrick Surtain II and what a great player he is. We’re excited to have him here.”
The thought of Rodgers in a Broncos uniform is mouth watering. At 37, he continues to be one of the best in players in the NFL and will go down as one of the best Quarterbacks in history. With an already stacked defense, adding a hall of famer and last years MVP would not only break the Broncos 5 year playoff drought, they might actually be a favorite to win the SB next season. But is Denver willing to give up 2 or 3 first round picks, a second rounder and a young stud player like Bradley Chubb, Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy or even newly acquired Surtain?
The Packers have been adamant about NOT trading Rodgers. However, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Green Bay has begun exploring QB’s they can add to their roster for OTA’s. Is the relationship mendable? Doubtful. As we progress through the week, the rumors continue to swirl. There’s one out there that indicates Rodgers is warning potential free agents that he has no plans to return to the Packers, perhaps steering them away from signing with the team. So if I were a betting man, I’d be willing to invest quite a bit of $$ that Rodgers, one way or the other, will not put on a Packers uniform ever again.
IF it’s going to happen it will be after June 1st. The contract is structured in such a way that trading him before June would leave the team with a larger salary cap charge than the $37 million cap hit he would cost if he played in 2021. The June 1st rule would allow Green Bay to spread the dead money from Rodgers’ contract over the 2021 and 2022 seasons instead of seeing it all in 2021.
The idea that Paton knew he had a legitimate shot at landing Rodgers before the Broncos first round pick is conceivable. Green Bay wanted a top CB and had their eyes on Surtain. They settled for Georgia’s CB Eric Stokes but could send Stokes and Rodgers to Denver for 3 #1’s, 2 #2’s and Surtain. As mentioned, the Packers would have been silly to trade Rodgers on draft day because of the contract issue so that explains why a move wasn’t made at the time.
So, the possibility of trading for Rodgers is starting to seem like a reality…..but is it the right move?
Why are we not talking more about a key number? 37. Rodgers is 37. Yes, he was the league MVP last season but when Father Time calls your number, it’s typically not a steady decline. In Peyton Manning’s case it was a rapid fall. In 2014, Manning threw for 4,700 yards and 39 touchdowns. The very next season he was riddled with injuries and threw for just 2,200 yards, 9 TD’s and 17 INT’s. Yes, Denver won the SB that year but you’re fooling yourself if you think the best defense in team history didn’t carry Manning over the finish line.
Is trading off picks and players that would impact your organization for at least 3 years worth 1 or 2 great years and a couple shots at a title? Ultimately, yes. Would you sacrifice 5 losing seasons for a few shots at winning the ultimate football prize? The Broncos did it once with Manning.
As John Elway once said, “Plan B…..I don’t have a Plan B. We’re going with Plan A.” If Denver finds a way to bring Rodgers to Denver then fans better be ready for a lousy back half of the 2020’s.