Mailbag: Will the Raiders Be in on Aaron Rodgers? What Would the Broncos Offer?

How much would it actually take to land the Packers' disgruntled QB? Personnel execs weigh in. Plus, when will Mac Jones and Justin Fields play, will Julio Jones be moved and let's pump the breaks on Tim Tebow just a bit.
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Another week, more quarterback (and quarterback-converting-to-other-positions) questions. Let’s jump in …

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From _ (@jpf2794): Are the Raiders in on Aaron Rodgers or no?

Underscore, I can’t imagine Las Vegas isn’t at least exploring the idea of it as one of three teams reported to be favored by Rodgers’s camp. Remember, though Jon Gruden has kept his impulses under control in staying with Derek Carr through three years back with the Raiders, he certainly has let his eyes wander at times and was never averse to flipping quarterbacks when he was with the Buccaneers.

And going back to that time in Tampa, Gruden’s publicly said before how passing on Rodgers with the fifth pick in the 2005 draft was a regret of his. The Bucs’ quarterbacks that year were Brian Griese, Luke McCown and Chris Simms, so the need was there. But the team instead spent the pick on Auburn’s Cadillac Williams, who was the third tailback to go in the top five (which makes that feel 60 years ago, not 16). And that was after some serious tire kicking on Rodgers, too.

“I went and watched tape with Aaron. I can still remember it like yesterday,” Gruden told ESPN in 2017. “I watched tape with Coach [Jeff] Tedford and Aaron. Was really impressed in the film room and then we went out right there in the stadium. We walked right outside and started playing catch to loosen him up and then you look up in the stands and here comes this strange figure walking down the aisle and Aaron says, ‘Who is that?’ I said that’s our receiver. He says, ‘Well who is it?’ I said, ‘You’ll see.’ So it’s Jerry Rice.

“That was pretty good. That was a great day. I’ve still got the picture hanging right here at the FFCA [Fired Football Coaches Association]. It’s a memento of why I was fired. You can see one of the greatest regrets in my lifetime.”

So do I think Gruden would be interested? Hell yeah, I think he would be. I also think, for all the slings and arrows Gruden and GM Mike Mayock have taken, they have a decent roster, one that’s been plenty competitive the last few years and one that I believe Rodgers could make a very real contender (no offense to Carr, of course).

On top of that, they’d also be able to offer the Packers a quarterback, in Carr, who could keep a win-now roster in a realistic win-now spot, and buy the staff more time to develop Jordan Love. Was it weird seeing their name on Rodgers’s initial list? Sure, it was, with the franchise having been to the playoffs just once since it played in Super Bowl XXXVII. But if you consider the geography and the team there, I can see some appeal for Rodgers in going there (though I still believe Green Bay’s a better football situation).

From Denver Broncos Internacional (@Broncos_DBIN): What would a trade package for Rodgers look like?

The Broncos are a fun team to think about for Rodgers too. Among the ascending young skill guys on the roster are (all ages as of Week 1): Jerry Jeudy (22 years old), K.J. Hamler (22), Noah Fant (23), Albert Okwuegbunam (23) and Courtland Sutton (25), and they have a high second-rounder coming in at tailback, in Javonte Williams (21). On top of that, Denver has perhaps the best line coach in football in Mike Munchak, who transformed a Broncos offensive front that was a liability going into last year into a legit team strength.

And because so much of the talent is young, there’s flexibility with the cap going forward to build creatively around a veteran quarterback. The head coach, Vic Fangio, is 62, so operating with urgency probably wouldn’t bug him much. GM George Paton could work on that timeline his first couple of years, before almost certainly getting a chance to rebuild the roster thereafter. Honestly, I look at all this, and I don’t see a lot of downside.

What would a trade package look like? Full disclosure: I ran a fake trade by a couple of execs who’ve got good experience with trades. That deal had Denver sending away its 2022 and ’23 first-rounders, a ’22 second-rounder, ’23 third-rounder and quarterbacks Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater for Rodgers and a ’22 fourth-rounder. My feeling? It was a couple of ticks up from the Matthew Stafford trade.

I told the guys to feel free to call me an idiot and found, once again, that I’m an idiot. So I kept workshopping it through them. And here’s what I landed on:

Broncos get: QB Aaron Rodgers, 2022 fourth-round pick.

Packers get: QB Drew Lock, DE Bradley Chubb, G Dalton Risner, 2022 first-round pick, ’22 second-round pick, ’23 first-round pick, ’24 first-round pick.

Chubb and Risner are both young players with two years left on their rookie deals, which adds up to four years of service, and replaces the immediate impact a 2021 pick (obviously you can’t deal those anymore) might’ve made. Another idea was to throw in Patrick Surtain II, which a team dealing Rodgers might ask for given Surtain’s upside and new rookie contract (and even more so if Denver agreed to pay the signing bonus). But add Chubb and Risner together and that equaled, as these guys saw it, basically a fourth first-rounder in the deal.

A third exec gave me an alternate proposal that equates the one above: first-, second- and third-round picks in 2022, first- and second-round picks in ’23, Lock and Chubb, without a pick going back to Denver in the deal.

The thought with each of these is that it’d be ridiculous for the Packers to take less than the Dolphins got for the rights to Trey Lance from the 49ers. Then again, the packages above would qualify as historic.

“Seems completely insane,” texted one of the guys. “But so does trading Rodgers.”

Indeed. Which is why I think Green Bay still a long way off from actually doing that.

From JAY (@flightmarshalls): Should Washington go all-in for Aaron Rodgers?

Jay, I’m torn on this. On one hand, Washington was very measured on the quarterbacks in the draft. Maybe if Justin Fields had slipped a little further, they would’ve done something. But I do think the overall idea here is to keep building the roster up, which would allow Ron Rivera & Co. to then drop a young quarterback into a better situation down the line, giving that quarterback the best shot at making it.

And all that makes sense. But Washington was also in on Stafford and willing to move its first- and third-rounders this year to Detroit for him. Now, that price and the price that Rodgers would go for aren’t the same, as we showed above, by a long shot. And thus, trading for Rodgers would mean blowing up the plan that Rivera has worked off of for the last 17 months, and jamming the fast forward button.

Would he do it? I’m not sure. But if you view acquiring Stafford as a special opportunity worth shifting course a little for, then getting Rodgers, through the same logic, might merit changing your course altogether.

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields

From Brent Urban Fan Club (148-14) (@BUrbanFanClub): What week does Justin Fields make his first start?

Brent, while I’d like to see the Bears’ schedule before I say anything definitive, I do think Matt Nagy is being forthright when he says that he’d like for this to play out like his last year as Chiefs offensive coordinator—that season, Alex Smith started, Kansas City won the AFC West and Patrick Mahomes got the benefit of a redshirt year. And it’s not hard to figure out why he’d want that. It would mean Andy Dalton played well, and Chicago contended.

What’s different about this situation, though, is that Dalton doesn’t have the pelts on the wall that Smith did in Kansas City. There, no matter how good Mahomes looked in practice (and he looked great behind the scenes that year), the other players knew Smith gave them a great shot to win on Sundays. And if it gets to the point where the Bears are up and down, and Dalton hits a rough patch, and Fields’s physical talent translates on the practice field, it’s certainly possible it’d be tougher for Nagy to keep riding Dalton than it was with Smith.

My guess is the Bears will reach a decision sometime in November, when they’ll maybe have a good-not-great team, and Dalton’s been playing well, but not over-the-top great. And there, maybe a call will need to be made on whether Fields can add another dimension the team needs at that point. Of course, the other two results (Dalton struggling or Dalton really crushing it) would make those sorts of decisions academic.

From mlip (@MLx1134): Who do you think starts week one for the Pats, Cam Newton or Mac Jones?

Mlip, I think it’ll be Newton early, and I think the Patriots will play well enough for Bill Belichick to keep Jones under wraps for most of the season. And as I see it, there are two things at play there.

First, I’m not sure anyone, and this includes the Patriots, got a clear-eyed view in 2020 of what Newton might have left. I’ll admit that I probably didn’t consider the magnitude of the surgeries (to his throwing shoulder and his lead foot) he was coming off or the layoff (in essence, a season and a half) he was returning from. What I did know at the time, and the Patriots have since confirmed this with their spending spree, is just how bad the offensive talent at the skill positions had gotten in Foxboro.

So I do think it’s possible Newton has a little more left in the tank than a really bad 2020 showed. And it should help that he and Josh McDaniels now have a year together under their collective belt, too.

Second, Belichick’s history of playing rookies in major roles is, well, spotty. For every first-rounder who played a sizable role in Year 1 (Richard Seymour, Devin McCourty, Chandler Jones) it seems there are a few who were worked in slowly—some that worked out (Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork, Nate Solder) and others that didn’t (Malcom Brown, N’Keal Harry). Also, none of those guys were quarterbacks.

And sure, it’s true that Jones is as pro-ready as any quarterback in the class. To me, whether Belichick lets him show it will likely come down not to his performance, but to Newton’s.

Former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow

From Justin O (@lonelyjetsfan1): Do you think that Tebow’s presence on the Jaguars’ roster will allow them to hold one less quarterback? Could he possibly function as the third-string QB?

Justin, I understand the premise of your question, and on the surface it makes sense and has been deployed in the past—having a guy with quarterbacking experience who plays another position full-time does, indeed, save you a roster spot on game day. It’s also worked in the past, to a degree, with guys like Julian Edelman in New England and Bert Emanuel in Atlanta capable of running an offense competently from the position, even if you wouldn’t want them doing it full-time.

But I’ll be crystal clear here in saying that guys like Edelman and Emanuel are exceptions, not the rule. It’s tough to switch positions at any level. It’s damn near impossible to pull it off in the NFL. So what Edelman and Emanuel did? It’s incredibly impressive, and it happened, in part, because those guys were drafted in the league knowing they’d have to try that to make it as pros. Which is to say Tebow pulling it off at 33 would be bananas.

Maybe he can do it. Hell, everyone thought his baseball career was a sideshow—he hadn’t played since high school—and the dude made it all the way up to Triple A. And despite all his flaws as a quarterback, he did get a team into the playoffs and beat the defending conference champions when he got there. It’s just that this one seems even less likely than those.

A huge part of that is how he’d make the team. The Jags can’t waste roster spots at a need spot like tight end. So he’ll have to make it as one, and not on the premise that he could fill in under center if Trevor Lawrence and Gardner Minshew went down.

From Sam (@vincible_0): Any chance that GB moves on from Jordan Love like Denver did Paxton Lynch?

Sam, I think it’s way too early for that sort of talk. I’ve mentioned a few different places that Love hasn’t shown he’s ready yet—which would make it even more difficult for Green Bay, with a championship-caliber roster, to justify moving on from Rodgers. But Love still has a lot of talent, and everyone knew he was a project coming into the league.

Projects take time, and I think the Packers are going to afford that to Love.

From Corto (@Corto__) Hi, do you think Julio Jones will be traded before the start of the season? Thanks.

We’ll wrap up with Corto’s question here. It’s a good one, because I think the logistics of a potential deal are worth diving into. Most people just think another team would have to come get Jones, given the Hall of Fame career he’s had. It’s more complicated than that.

• In acquiring Jones, a team would be inheriting what’s essentially a three-year, $38.3 million contract—and that’s a steal for someone at Jones’s level. The problem is he’s 33, and he’s never shown any reluctance to seek his worth in the past. He’s due $15.3 million this year, and if he crushes it in the fall for a new team, you’d imagine he might be looking for a correction on what’s left of his deal. At 34 years old. And if he doesn’t crush it? Well, that’s not a great result either.

• To make this happen, the Falcons would have to execute the move post–June 1. In fact, even if Atlanta had agreed to a deal predraft, and that was considered, it would’ve had to wait to pull the trigger on it for cap reasons. At that point, the Falcons would take on $7.75 million in dead money for this year (saving $15.3 million off Jones’s current number, which would give the Falcons needed wiggle room to sign their draft class), and swallow $15.5 million in 2022. All of which means a new team would have less time to acclimate him.

• Because of where we are in the calendar, more teams have used up their cap space and filled their holes, making for fewer suitors for his service.

• Jones’s injury history is a factor, too, especially at his age.

So sure, the Falcons would love a first-rounder for one of the greatest players in franchise history, and someone who could be a true difference-maker for a team in the here and now. But my guess, given their situation, is that while they wouldn’t give Jones away, they’d probably take a little bit less than that for him. And to bring the mailbag full circle, if I’m say, the Packers, and dealing a second-rounder for Jones gets Rodgers to come back, I’d probably do that.

More NFL Coverage:

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Brandt: Rodgers and Packers Still in Fight for Control
Breer: Inside the Lions' Offseason Overhaul
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