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Mailbag: Could the Packers Tag Davante Adams and Trade Him for a First-Round Pick?

Why Green Bay would have trouble with such a maneuver, and of course Aaron Rodgers is a complicating factor. Plus, the Vikings’ GM hire, good fits for Calvin Ridley, 49ers’ draft regrets(?) and more.

If you’re still amped up from last weekend, join the club. All of you definitely brought the energy to my call for questions this week …

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From Wendell Ferreira (@wendellfp): If the Packers want to tag and trade Davante Adams, do you think they'll be able to get a first?

Wendell, I understand the concept of it, and we’ve seen it before—it happened just a few years back with pass rushers Dee Ford and Frank Clark. But it can be tough to pull it off, particularly for a team with the sorts of salary cap issues the Packers are facing.

Why? Green Bay projects to be about $45 million over the cap. It’ll be a challenge simply to get under. The receiver tag number will likely be around $19 million. And for a trade to happen, the Packers will have to carry Adams on their roster into the 2022 league year, which means they’d have to create $64 million in space between now and then. And of course, if Adams is gone, that means Rodgers probably would be, too. But to trade Rodgers, you’d have to carry his $46.44 million cap figure into the new league year as well.

There are ways to do it, of course, but it’d take everyone being on board. And if Adams is on his way out, I don’t exactly know why he’d cooperate. It’d make way more sense for him personally to hold the line, and make it tough for Green Bay to tag him in order to get to unrestricted free agency, where teams would bid on him and he could pick his next home.

Now, if the Packers could work all of it out, could they get a first for him? Maybe. But it’s hard to see all of it coming together that way for them.

From Michael McCawley (@MacMcCawley): What are my Vikings waiting for? Exploring all options for the GM and coach positions?

This was obviously asked before the Vikings finalized a deal with Browns VP of football ops Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, but we can tackle the question anyway.

Michael, this was new territory for Zygi and Mark Wilf. They bought the team in 2005 and soon thereafter fired coach Mike Tice while hanging onto VP of football operations Rob Brzezinksi and scouting director Scott Studwell with the idea of having someone in a VP of personnel type of role to match with the coach. The personnel type wound up being Fran Foley, and the coach was Brad Childress. Foley lasted about four months before lies were found on his résumé and he was canned.

Childress then helped the Wilfs find Rick Spielman to be VP of player personnel, and Spielman was promoted to general manager in 2012. Along the way, Spielman led coaching searches ending in the hires of Leslie Frazier (’11) and Mike Zimmer (’14). So, really, the Wilf family hasn’t undergone a full reshaping of the football side of its organization in 16 years of ownership.

Brzezinski remains an important figure, but make no mistake, that’s what this is.

So, why has it moved slowly? That’s why, I think. I don’t believe, and I know candidates don’t believe, the Vikings went into this knowing exactly what they wanted, which is good and bad. Good because it leads to an open-minded process. Bad because it opens up questions on whether the owners have any sort of vision for the franchise (which is only exacerbated by the fact that they’re one of a number of NFL ownership groups that don’t live in the city where they own and as such aren’t around a ton).

That said, I do think the fact that they hired Adofo-Mensah to be their next GM is a good sign. Ask anyone who’s spent five minutes around Adofo-Mensah, and they’ll tell you: He’s brilliant. And it’s an outside-the-box hire in that, while Browns GM Andrew Berry had Adofo-Mensah do pro scouting and got him on the road to colleges, his background is more on the process side.

I think it’ll prepare him well for the job and makes him a good fit for a team that needs a true GM more than a head scout. Sure, he’s young, but Brzezinski will be a tremendous resource for him (kind of like Mike Disner was in Detroit for Brad Holmes this year), and everyone who knows him believes he’s ready. He’ll bring experience from the forward-thinking Niners and Browns and, I think, emphasize a communicative culture.

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From J.R. Willis (@thewillisfactor): Will the Texans hire Jonathan Gannon?

J.R., a lot of people are questioning Gannon’s readiness to be a head coach. It’s fair to ask questions. He’s 39. He’s been a coordinator for only a year. However, I think it’s a mistake to take the Eagles’ defensive results in isolation as a reason not to hire the guy—he’s been widely regarded as a top defensive assistant for years and stayed in Indianapolis past when he first could’ve been a coordinator for a variety of reasons.

Teams that are interviewing him now see it. One team he interviewed with told me he was “electric” in their session—with smarts, command and energy that lit up the room. That’s not a surprise since most who know him felt like once he started interviewing for jobs, it’d only be a matter of time before he landed one.

Why does Houston make sense? Simply put, the Texans have a good idea of what they’d be getting. We told the story in the MMQB column this week, and I’ll give you the abridged version here. Gannon worked with Josh McDaniels in St. Louis for a year in 2011 (Gannon was a pro scout, McDaniels the team’s OC), and the two struck up a friendship. They’ve grown tighter since. In the years that followed, they habitually met at the combine and talked football—and Gannon learned a ton as he rose through the ranks of defensive coaches.

Had McDaniels landed the Browns’ job two years ago, his plan was to have fellow Northeast Ohio natives Gannon and Brandon Staley as co-defensive coordinators.

Anyway, through that relationship, Gannon got to know McDaniels’s former college teammate and longtime Patriots colleague, and another guy from the Cleveland area, Nick Caserio, who is of course now the Texans’ GM. So, just the same as it’s not a surprise to his friends across the league that he did well in his interview with Houston, it’s not a surprise to Caserio either, who actually ruminated on the idea of hiring Staley a year ago.

It’s been no secret that Josh McCown’s a strong candidate for the Texans’ job, but I wouldn’t discount Gannon’s chances (or a couple others’).

From jermaine jones (@jermaine611): Does Atlanta trade their best wide receiver?

Jermaine, it feels to me like, at this point, it might be best for everyone to get a clean break. And that’s not any sort of indictment on Calvin Ridley as a football player—in 2020, his last full year, he had 90 catches for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s still just 27 years old, so he’s got pelts on the wall with a relatively low football odometer.

In 2022, he'll be on his $11.12 million fifth-year option (Note: I interpreted the rule wrong earlier, thinking his contract would toll because of the timing of his departure from the team; my bad on that). That's a relatively affordable price for an in-prime wideout. It’s hard to imagine the Falcons would bend over backward at this point to give him a new deal, but Atlanta is in a good spot to sell off a player whose contract is a decent value. And that might put Ridley in position to get his second contract earlier than he might otherwise (presuming he’s ready to return after stepping away for his mental health).

Who should trade for him? If I’m one of the teams with a quarterback going into Year 2—the Jaguars, Jets, Bears or Patriots—the idea of adding Ridley would be awfully tempting. The Jaguars could pair him with a recovering D.J. Chark; the Jets with a rising—and young—Elijah Moore. He could be the Bears’ replacement for Allen Robinson or help elevate a crew of good but complementary-type skill guys around Mac Jones in New England.

Matthew Stafford

From Jerrad Wyche (@JerradWyche): Will Matthew Stafford's success with the Rams lead to teams being ultra-aggressive toward acquiring veteran quarterbacks this offseason?

Good question, Jerrad. I actually think the cases of the 49ers and Rams are interesting and instructive here. Both teams, as I see it, were affected by their own experiences. The Niners completely outplayed the Chiefs for three and a half quarters in Super Bowl LIV and led 21–10 deep into the fourth quarter. Nick Bosa was going to be MVP. Jimmy Garoppolo was going to silence the doubters. Kyle Shanahan was going to get a ring at five years younger than his dad got his first.

And then Patrick Mahomes erased the whole damn thing.

For Shanahan, it wasn’t unlike the experience he’d had as Falcons offensive coordinator facing Tom Brady three years earlier in the Super Bowl. Nor was it wholly unlike the Rams’ experience in Super Bowl LIII, when Aaron Donald & Co. put together a historic defensive effort into the game’s final minutes, only to have the dam break on them at the end as a result of Brady’s sheer force of will.

The point is, these guys saw firsthand—because of the rules, the direction of the game and the elevation of the quarterback position—that just having a quarterback who’d run the offense and do the right thing might not be enough anymore. Back in September, I called it the Mahomes-ization of the NFL. I think it convinced McVay and Shanahan they had to level up at the position.

And I don’t think it’s Stafford’s effort alone that illustrated it last weekend—though those two throws at the end, McVay told me, are 100% a part of why you acquire a quarterback like him. Just as much, it’s looking up the mountain now. If you’re an AFC team, that means staring at Mahomes in Kansas City, Josh Allen in Buffalo, Justin Herbert in Los Angeles, Lamar Jackson in Baltimore, Joe Burrow in Cincinnati and, well, it’s easy to see where, short of having Trevor Lawrence, you might wind up having a wandering eye.

Like the Rams and Niners did.

From Not who you think I am (@DonRidenour): How good might SF be if they had drafted a Micah Parsons or one of the CBs in the 1st round? Seems like a hell of a gamble on Trey Lance.

Don, good question! Let’s say the Niners had stayed where they were and held the 12th pick. In that scenario, the Cowboys wouldn’t trade down and take Micah Parsons with the 10th pick. That leaves them picking from Rashawn Slater, Ali Vera-Tucker, Zaven Collins, Jaelan Phillips and Caleb Farley, among others. My guess would be, in that case, they’d have wound up taking an offensive lineman—if they didn’t pick Mac Jones.

They’d be looking at either Jones or maybe considering extending Jimmy Garoppolo, and I’d bet they’d have taken Jones.

That makes this one interesting going forward. Would it be better to have Jones—who’s a good fit for Shanahan in his ability to see the field, his feel in the pocket and how fast he plays—and first-round picks in 2022 or ’23? Or is better to have Lance as is? We’ll have better perspective on that a few years from now.

From Moose Block (@moose_block): Any update on your new podcast?

Moose, hopefully for the offseason! I want to apologize to everyone on the delay, and I promise that it’s something I miss doing.

(Our YouTube show, The Hurry Up, is a nice alternative for now, FYI.)

From Not_DB_Cooper (@_Not_DBCooper): Who will be the next HC of the Saints? How would you rank the job if it gets open?

Coop, the contingency for Sean Payton’s departure, for a few years now, has been to turn to defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, and that’s what I think the Saints will do. The program isn’t broken, and I think, if you want comps for the Saints’ idea here, you can find them at the college level—in what Oklahoma did in carrying over Bob Stoops’s infrastructure when the Sooners turned to Lincoln Riley and what Ohio State did in carrying over Urban Meyer’s infrastructure when the Buckeyes turned to Ryan Day.

That is to say, it’s not just Allen. With what’s there, they can lean on assistant GM Jeff Ireland to take the trigger in personnel—Ireland’s been a massive part of the team’s outstanding record in scouting over the last six or seven years. They may even make him general manager and move Mickey Loomis up into an upper executive role. And with Allen as head coach, the Saints would have Pete Carmichael, the team’s offensive coordinator of the last 13 seasons, there to move forward with the system Payton put in place.

Are there cap issues in New Orleans? Sure. Do they have to figure out the quarterback spot? No doubt. But as for where the program is, and how it works, it makes a ton of sense for the first bet the Saints make after Payton to be a double down on what he built.

From Mike Liddle (@mliddle17): With the hiring of Ben McAdoo in Carolina, is there any chance, may it be slim, that Aaron Rodgers comes to the Panthers??? If not, is there a QB in the draft that fits McAdoo?

Mike, since McAdoo had Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers as quarterback as he worked his way up in Green Bay (i.e., Hall of Fame talents), and inherited Eli Manning in New York, it’s tough to get a great read on what exactly he wants at the position. But I do think having a smart guy at the position, given the volume his offense brings, would be a good place to start. That, to me, could put someone like Pitt’s Kenny Pickett in play.

The trouble the Panthers might run into with the high-end guys, like Rodgers, Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson, is the perception that head coach Matt Rhule will be fighting for his job next fall. Of those three, Watson and Wilson have no-trade clauses in their contracts. But the reality is all three will be able to dictate their destination to a degree—no team is going to trade for one of them if it’s communicated that the player won’t play for that team.

And the fact that Carolina’s facing uncertainty going forward would have to be a big factor for any of them and why I think taking a shot at guy like Garoppolo might be more realistic for the Panthers in the end.

More NFL Coverage:

A Fitting Final Game for Tom Brady (Yeah, Right)
Thirteen Seconds: Mahomes, Chiefs Win an Instant Classic
Measuring the Super Bowl Stakes for Each Remaining Quarterback
MMQB: McVay’s Faith in Stafford Rewarded on Year’s Best NFL Weekend