Welcome to Draft Day, folks.
As we approach Round 1 of the annual event, Aaron Rodgers (as he often does) snagged attention from Cleveland following a report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, clarifying the reigning NFL MVP’s frustrations with Green Bay’s brass.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of rumbling frustrations surrounding Rodgers, who enters his 17th season with the Packers. During last year’s draft cycle, Green Bay general manager Brian Gutekunst selected quarterback Jordan Love at No. 26, a pick scrutinized both at the time and now a full calendar year later. Love, the former Utah State Aggie, was taken under the assumption Rodgers would serve a mentor role. However, when you take a quarterback in the first round, with a generational talent such as Rodgers in your building, it raises eyebrows. It’s easy to see where Rodgers’ disapproval of the Packers’ process stems, considering the modern NFL process of selecting quarterbacks with a devised plan to then sit a season (or more) based on the environment of the organization.
Rodgers alluded to the frustrations further this offseason, stating the many “unknowns” in his near (and now present) future. It’s only right to ponder on potential suitors for the three-time league MVP and Jepodary guest host. At the end of the day, it’s Aaron Rodgers, and of course, he’ll have fits, but when zooming out from the outlandish speculation and rumors, four franchises come to light as a potential home for the all-world talent in Rodgers, who would become the first quarterback in league history to be traded following a year in which they won MVP.
Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden has his second chance at Rodgers, and I don’t think his desire to improve with Derek Carr gets in Gruden’s way here. Let’s take it back to 2005, where Rodgers found himself in the green room as a wide-eyed prospect set to make an immediate impact in the NFL following an outstanding collegiate career at Cal. At the time, Gruden was head bench boss in Tampa Bay fresh off of two consecutive under .500 seasons. With Rodgers on the board at No. 5, Gruden opted for running back Cadillac Williams, a talented three-down rusher out of Auburn who Gruden believed was the solution to a mediocre Buccaneers offense led by Brian Griese. Rodgers slipped to No. 24, and the rest is history.
As we enter the 2021 season, Rodgers and Gruden under the lights in Vegas would have even the world’s most marketable city into a tizzy. Pairing Rodgers with wide receiver Henry Ruggs III and running back Josh Jacobs is enticing, but Las Vegas lacks top-tier talent on the boundary, something Rodgers suffered from in Green Bay. It’s an exciting fit on paper pairing the dynamic personality in Gruden with the haughty Rodgers, but when diving into scheme fit and potential immediate success, Las Vegas’ window to acquire Rodgers seems opaque.
The Carolina Panthers are an interesting spot, considering they just traded for Sam Darnold. But they didn’t pick up his fifth-year option and just sent his backup, in Teddy Bridgewater, to Denver, which I’ll get to in a little bit.
Rodgers is heads, buildings really, above Darnold, and it almost seems insulting to have both mentioned in the same sentence. Head coach Matt Rhule enters his second season following an impressive first year that saw Carolina finish 5-11. Ignore the record, Rhule has inserted a culture into the Carolina locker room that should continue to serve the Panthers well as he progresses into his seven-year deal. Add in the loss of running back Christian McCaffrey last season, and Rhule’s weathering of the storm was even more awe-inspiring when looking back at his rookie 2020 campaign. It’s tricky with Darnold in place, but having Rodgers and Brady square off twice a year… sign up me!
It’s a similar situation to Las Vegas, where Carolina similarly lacks pop out wide, especially with Curtis Samuel now in Washington. But if Rhule is looking to accelerate his rebuild and attempt to compete with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the addition of Rodgers would surely do so, especially with the fourth-overall selection cooped up in general manager Scott Fitterer’s armoire.
San Francisco 49ers
From No. 4 to No. 3, where the San Francisco 49ers are set on, reportedly, quarterbacks Mac Jones (Alabama) or Trey Lance (North Dakota State). One of the two will become the new face under center in the Bay Area but jump into the mind of head coach Kyle Shanahan for a second and imagine the 49ers with No. 12 under center. Disregard their draft ammo, when a team has a chance to make a move for a talent like Rodgers to vault itself back into NFC West relevancy, I envision general manager John Lynch pulling out all the stops to bring Rodgers to San Francisco.
Denver Broncos fans, hold your horses. See what I did there? I get Drew Lock is in town and understand Bridgewater is now set to compete with the former 2019 second-round selection in camp, but Rodgers is a whole different beast. With arguably the most talented pass-catching group of all potential suitors, Denver is a surprisingly principled fit with Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, and Noah Fant—you can see where I’m trending here. If Rodgers' ideal future home sits on a foundation of receivers who could ideally lengthen his career, Denver could serve as his transcendent mountain home.