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Mailbag: What Would a Trade Package for Aaron Rodgers Look Like?

Plus, chances of a Houston coaching change, the Niners’ Trey Lance alternatives last draft, Russell Wilson’s future, Kenny Pickett’s landing spot and more!

From Cincyfan (@Darktraveler1): Where could [Aaron] Rodgers go that would be better than GB? seems they are best positioned to win over other teams.

Cincy, thank you! This is a point I’ve been making since the spring—I do not think there’s a better football situation for Rodgers anywhere. That was the case then, it’s the case now, and I think it’ll be the case when we get to the offseason. The irony, of course, is the guy that Rodgers has been at odds with, GM Brian Gutekunst, is responsible for it; that roster is well-rounded, it’s deep, and it’s set up for a veteran quarterback.

The flip side here is that the Packers have some cap gymnastics to do after this year. They project to be way over the $208.2 million limit. Davante Adams, De’Vondre Campbell and Robert Tonyan are scheduled to be free agents (though the latter two should be relatively affordable). On top of that, if the Packers and Rodgers were to renew vows it would have to be with a new contract, and that won’t be cheap either.

But you tell me where the better situation is, of the teams that will be looking. Seattle? The Giants? Miami? Carolina? Philly? The two I might buy are Denver and Cleveland, teams that could be what Denver was to Peyton Manning or Tampa was to Tom Brady. The difference here is Manning and Brady were playing for teams that had rosters about to crumble. Rodgers isn’t in that spot. Which means continuity would be another plus for Green Bay.

Now, if Rodgers just wants to play somewhere else, or if he wants to live in a certain part of the country rather than in Wisconsin, then that’s a different discussion. Based on football alone? Green Bay was the best spot for him, without question, in 2021, and so long as the Packers are willing to do a few things cap-wise and contract-wise to help him, it sure looks like it’ll be the best spot for him in 2022, too.

From Mike Woodford (@DFlutieBB): If Rodgers ends up traded, what package will the Packers get back?

Mike, it’d be a haul. Post-draft, there were four teams still sniffing around on a blockbuster quarterback trade: Philly, Carolina, Denver and Miami. I don’t see why any of those four wouldn’t be in the running again, and you’ll have others now, too. Seattle could be in the mix if Russell Wilson’s gone. Derek Carr has been great, but he’ll be going into a contract year, and Rodgers showed previous interest in the Raiders. The Giants? The Browns?

And then there are teams you wouldn’t expect. Remember, in 2012 no one was talking about the Broncos being a player in the Manning sweepstakes—they had a first-round pick at the position who’d just won a playoff game. Then they were, and you know the rest.

I’m detailing all of that to say, the potential for a bunch of bidders would drive the price north. That Rodgers is not under contract past 2022 would be a factor going in the other direction, so it’s a little complicated. But for the sake of the exercise, let’s pick Denver out of the hat and put a package together. If the season ended today, the Broncos would have the 13th pick in the draft. The Packers would have the aforementioned cap problems. So …

Broncos get: QB Aaron Rodgers, 2022 seventh-round pick, 2023 fourth-round pick.

Packers get: 2022 first-round pick (13th overall), 2023 first-round pick, 2024 first-round pick, 2022 second-round pick, 2022 second-round pick (from Rams), QB Drew Lock, TE Albert Okwuebunam, WR K.J. Hamler.

My reasoning here on the Packers return: They get a cheap, young, talented quarterback to push Jordan Love (remember, they drafted Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn the year after Brett Favre’s first retirement to compete with Rodgers), plus two promising young guys on rookie contracts. And, of course, the mountain of picks is self-explanatory, with three top-60 picks this year, plus two future first-rounders and another future top-100 pick in the mix. It’s a bounty. But Rodgers makes Denver a title contender instantly.

As for Denver’s return, getting a pick this year and a pick next year means your net loss in picks volume is lessened to two this year, one in 2023, and one in 2024, and having volume of picks will help even out a roster that’s likely to be top-heavy on the cap with Rodgers able to attract stars to town, and guys already on the roster likely to ascend with him and, thus, command big contracts.

It’s fun to think about, that’s for sure. That said, I think the Packers are winning the Super Bowl. And if they do, it stands to reason that Rodgers won’t wind up going anywhere.

From Houston “whatever” Football (@Houstonfootbal3): Is it realistic to expect a HC change in HOU, or at least a shakeup of the offensive coaching staff? Apologies if you have answered this already in your MAQB :) Merry Christmas AB.

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Houston, these are interesting times for the Texans. GM Nick Caserio is going to come out of his first season in Houston with more than $40 million in 2022 cap space, and the likelihood he’ll clear around $24.2 million with the trade of Deshaun Watson, and a full complement of draft picks at the top of every round, with extra picks in the third and sixth rounds, plus whatever Watson brings home in a deal.

And then there’s this: When no one was looking, and without picks in the first two rounds last April, the Texans somehow have assembled a pretty impressive rookie class, with Davis Mills, Brevin Jordan, Nico Collins, Roy Lopez and Garret Wallow having flashed the potential to be real pieces for the future.

Now, do they have a long way to go? Absolutely they do. But all the above sets the table for an offseason that could be a real turning point for the franchise. And with that in mind, I’ll give you two things that I’ve heard: One, rumblings have held that Caserio has an idea who his next coach would be (and that doesn’t mean, necessarily, that he’d have to go get that guy this year); two, for the first time since San Francisco nearly hired them both in 2017, I’ve heard Josh McDaniels and Caserio might have an interest in working together.

It’s interesting, because the two have known each other since they were teenagers—Caserio actually beat McDaniels out in a QB competition at John Carroll (which turned McDaniels into a receiver). They worked together for 17 seasons in New England (2001–08, 2012–20). At one point, Caserio was McDaniels’s receivers coach. More recently, Caserio was in McDaniels’s ear on the offensive headsets. (It’s also worth noting that Houston EVP Jack Easterby was slated to go with McDaniels to Indy in 2018 before that deal fell apart.)

Could this all come together in January? I don’t know for sure. But I do think that if there’s a long-term answer Caserio is eyeing for the head-coaching spot in Houston, having that guy on board for what looks to be a pretty crucial offseason would be preferable. And while that’s too bad for Culley—a good man who waited forever for his shot, and has been an asset for the franchise through a tough year—sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

From Sandy Perea (@66problemz): 49ers win SB, do they still trade Jimmy G?

Sandy, this is the one scenario where I might say no. If they fall short of that, based on history, it’s hard to see where they wouldn’t turn the page.

In 2011, the Titans redshirted Jake Locker, and Matt Hasselbeck played well in front of him. Tennessee turned to Locker the next year anyway, and released Hasselbeck after the 2012 season. In 2017, Alex Smith was excellent with Patrick Mahomes in the bullpen. And that didn’t cause the Chiefs to hesitate—Smith was traded before January 2018 was out. Last year, it went the other way, of course, with the Packers sticking with Rodgers over Love. But Rodgers was the MVP of the league, heading up a win-now roster. And … it’s Rodgers.

I really do like Jimmy Garoppolo as a quarterback more than most. You can win with him, and the Niners absolutely did the right thing in hanging on to him and giving Trey Lance a year to acclimate to the pros. I think he’ll continue to be a solid starting quarterback well beyond this year. But if he’s still starting for the Niners in 2022? I’d say it’d be hard not to see that as a red flag on Lance’s development.

From Richard Addy (@addytheyounger): Given Jimmy Garoppolo's performance in SF's recent wins, was it a mistake to trade picks for Trey Lance, and if 49ers are in a Super Bowl window, would they have been better served taking a CB e.g. Patrick Surtain?

Well, Richard, we actually can wind back the clock on this one—if they’d stuck at 12, they’d have had a few interesting options.

In that scenario, The two corners that everyone loved, Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain, would’ve been gone at 12. Also, in that scenario, maybe the Eagles stick at 6, and take Jaylen Waddle where the Dolphins did. That means, potentially, Micah Parsons goes to Dallas at 10 and the Giants don’t trade out of 11, because they’d planned to take DeVonta Smith there. Or the Eagles take Smith at 6, and the Giants get Waddle at 11.

Either way, that’d leave the Niners in a fascinating spot—with the option to take Justin Fields, Mac Jones or trade out. At the time, both the Vikings and Bears (and the Saints were on the periphery of this as well) had an interest in moving up for Fields, with the Bears obviously being the team that made the move up. The Niners could’ve taken bids from those teams, and maybe even drawn the Patriots in, or stuck and picked someone like Rashawn Slater or Ali Vera-Tucker to play guard for them.

If they traded down? Maybe they’re looking at taking Caleb Farley or Najee Harris.

Anyway, batting all this around is fun. And really, whether or not the Niners did the right thing boils down to whether or not they were right on Lance. Because if he becomes what think he can become, even discussing all of the above really is a waste of breath. If he doesn’t, well, then it’ll wind up costing people jobs. That’s just the game the Niners chose to play when they made that move up.

From Joshua Schelberg (@SchelbergJoshua): What do you think will happen with Russell Wilson given the lost Seahawks season?

Joshua, I’m starting to think this one’s over. Wilson had issues with how the Seahawks were built when they were making the playoffs eight times in nine years—that’s where they were at the end of last year. And part of his motivation for trying to push his way out of town last year was concern over his legacy, and how things were set up for him to pursue championship. So in the midst of the first losing season of his career, what, exactly, would’ve made him change his mind on that?

The truth is, I’m not so sure it’s not just time for a clean break all the way around. Wilson is 33 now, and has two years left on his contract. With those two years locked in at just $50 million, he should very tradable, more so than he would be in 2023 going into a contract year. And if you’re assuming this is the last contract Wilson will play on in Seattle—and that’s been the assumption of many for some time—what are you keeping him around for?

If the Seahawks were close to a championship, that would be one thing. They aren’t. Much of their core is aging—Duane Brown is 36, Bobby Wagner is 31, Tyler Lockett is 29—and young building blocks are few and far between. D.K. Metcalf is one. Jamal Adams, even if he is flawed as a player, is another. Past those two? It’s slim pickings.

So the idea of reset, I’d think, would appeal to GM John Schneider, and what Wilson would bring in a trade would set Seattle up for that. A year ago, I was vehement that Schneider shouldn’t deal Wilson, that the team was in far too much of a win-now posture to walk away from an in-prime franchise quarterback. Since then, the wheels have fallen off. And so if I’m the Seahawks, given the spot they’re in, I’m probably doing what Detroit did last year, and exploring an amicable separation from a guy who’s meant much to the team and city. It’s time.

From Not who you think I am (@DonRidenour): Do you think [Brian] Daboll might be in trouble in Buffalo if the offense does not improve? Have a great Christmas Albert and thank for all you do!

Merry Christmas, Don! I think the Bills are in an interesting spot with their offensive coordinator. Brian Daboll has done an incredible job the last three years developing Josh Allen into a bona fide franchise quarterback—and maximizing the immense potential that he so clearly brought into the NFL. And if the Bills had continued on the path they were on coming into this season, I think Daboll would be where Arthur Smith and Robert Saleh were going into last year’s hiring cycle, as a guy who everyone would have on their list.

Things haven’t played out that way. Poised for a monster season, Allen has had his ups and downs this year, and the Bills’ run game has been rickety to put it lightly. It’s gotten better of late. But the lack of commitment to building a balanced offense has exposed issues on the offensive line, with defenses pinning their pass-rushers’ ears back to get after Allen and, in turn, bringing back, in spots, the wild-child Allen of 2018 and ’19.

You could argue the lack of a real run game has also affected the Bills defense, since this is what Buffalo was practicing against in the summer, leaving guys on that side of the ball less calloused to withstand the rigors to strapping it up against the Indys and New Englands of the AFC.

Now, do I think Sean McDermott will fire Daboll, if Daboll doesn’t land a head-coaching job elsewhere? Probably not. But knowing what I know about how McDermott wants to build a team, I’d guess if the flaws on offense prove fatal for the Bills, there will be a very real emphasis on getting tougher and more physical all the way around in the offseason. And that will have to start with how the roster is augmented, and how Daboll tweaks his offense.

From Jeff (@1975Rams): Now that we're in December, how do you feel about the new playoff format? Has it increased the level of late-season excitement for more fan bases? Will we see a watered down the playoff product? Will any of the possible 7th seeds have a chance of a playoff win(s)?

Jeff, I actually liked the 12-team format, because I think it’s cool that it’s harder to get into the NFL playoffs than it is the NBA or NHL playoffs. And I honestly thought going into last year that it’d really bother me, having the seventh team in each conference. But really, I didn’t even give it much of a thought that the Bears and Colts were in and wouldn’t have made it in previous years. As it stands right now, those two teams this year would be the Bills and Vikings, and I wouldn’t be in an uproar over that either.

Also, the first-round matchups for Buffalo and Minnesota would be, respectively, the Patriots and Cowboys. And I wouldn’t totally rule out upsets in either of those games.

So if I’m summing it up, I’m sort of indifferent to the 14-team format. It doesn’t add a ton to the playoffs for me (and obviously it’s a plainly-obvious money grab by the owners), but it doesn’t really get me worked up like I thought it might. It’s fine.

From Matt Ramas (@matt_ramas): Which team do you think will draft Kenny Pickett? How good a Pro will he be?

Matt, I think Mac Jones’s success in Year 1 absolutely helps Kenny Pickett—even if their games aren’t totally alike (Pickett is more improvisational, whereas Jones is a surgeon back there). Having someone who lacks a physical superpower succeed early (it had been a while) should help the Heisman finalist from Pitt. I, for one, am excited to see how the scouts see him coming out of Senior Bowl week.

As for where he lands? Looking at tankathon.com, I see Carolina at 7, Washington at 10, and Pittsburgh at 17 as teams that sort of jump out as potential landing spots. The Steelers are a fun one, of course, given that they share a practice facility with Pitt. And I think that spot, 17th overall, is probably where you’d see real value in Pickett. It’s in that range where teams, to be sure, saw value in Jones, and ultimately it’s where he went.

For now, I would say that Pickett is probably the leader in the clubhouse to be the first quarterback taken, in a very shaky year draft-wise at the position.

From Tom Marshall (@aredzonauk): Will teams consider entering a "bubble" for the playoffs?

Tom, I don’t think the league is going to force teams into bubbles. But I absolutely could see teams doing it on their own, to try and preserve a competitive advantage. And that could make a difference all the way to Super Bowl week—with the league planning to keep the teams home until the Thursday or Friday before the game, rather than have them in Los Angeles for the whole week, as was always the case pre-COVID.

From Mick Johnston (@AirJohnston1): Do you know the time frame for Washington's name change?

Yes! Mick, the plan is to roll out the new branding in early 2022.

From Gambling Avenger (@GamblingAvenge1): What is your favourite Christmas movie?

Gambling, based on your spelling of favourite, I’d guess this is coming from Canada—so Merry Christmas from down South, and the only answer to that question is Christmas Vacation. Especially since Die Hard isn’t a Christmas movie.

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