As if Denver Broncos fans didn't already have enough to speculate and obsess over on the night of the NFL draft, reigning MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers was connected to the Mile High City through a flurry of reports online.
Rodgers reportedly told the Green Bay Packers that he won't return to the team and wishes to be traded. The likes of Pro Football Talk wasted little time connecting Rodgers to Denver, in part, due to his new fiance — actress Shailene Woodley — being a resident of Boulder, CO.
The Broncos are also an attractive destination for any veteran QB, thanks to the absolute wealth of talent on the offensive side of the ball — from a suddenly more-than-solid starting five to a plethora of weapons at the skill positions. Throw in Vic Fangio's defensive expertise and the talent on that side of the ball, and to a savvy veteran like Rodgers, the Broncos become an extremely attractive NFL landing spot.
Minutes before Round 1 of the draft was set to kick off, rumors swirled, including from Denver radio maven Mark Schlereth, that a Rodgers-to-Broncos deal was imminent. Alas, nothing materialized on that front and shortly after, we learned from ESPN's Adam Schefter that the Packers were stoically playing hardball and refusing to even discuss trading the nine-time Pro Bowler.
"We're not going to trade Aaron," Packers' GM Brian Gutekunst told reporters Thursday night.
Conflicting information. So where do things stand now? Following Thursday night's furious first round, Broncos' GM George Paton wasn't of a mood to discuss Rodgers Theory, instead opting to focus on the triumph on landing Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II at pick No. 9.
“We are just going to focus on the draft right now," Paton said alongside Fangio. "We will focus on Patrick Surtain II and what a great player he is."
NFL.com's Mike Silver peeled back the curtain at UCHealth Training Center to reveal a brief snapshot into how Rodgers popped onto Paton's radar and how the first-year GM twitched into action, before quickly reverting back to draft mode.
At the very least, he felt compelled to do his due diligence. The only question was, would the Packers play ball? When a third party made it clear to him that his Green Bay counterpart, Brian Gutekunst, had no desire to entertain such a conversation, Paton quickly abandoned the speculative scenario and pivoted back into draft mode.
Paton's decision to pass over Ohio State phenom Justin Fields and Alabama's Mac Jones to take Surtain spoke volumes about his confidence in Drew Lock and the Broncos' new fail-safe QB, Teddy Bridgewater. Following the way Thursday night's Round 1 unfolded furiously, Paton held firm to his position of satisfaction with the incumbent Lock and the newly-acquired Bridgewater.
“I’m happy with the room right now," Paton said. "We’re happy to open the season with the guys we have now, but we are open to improving everywhere.”
Once the draft concludes, all eyes in Denver will turn to the battle for QB1 between Lock and Bridgewater. Paton knows Bridgewater well after being a part of the front-office executive team that drafted him in Round 1 back in 2014 with the Minnesota Vikings, and he liked how Lock responded when the GM sat him down to inform him of his new veteran rival.
“Vic and I met with Drew together and we’ve been upfront with Drew from the day I arrived," Paton said Thursday night. "We told him that our goal was to bring competition into the room, and he’s embraced that from Day 1. We talked to him yesterday and he embraced it. He likes the competition, and nothing fazes Drew. He is on a mission this offseason. He is here every morning and he stays late. He is doing all of the right things. We are excited to see his progress as we move forward.”
Any potential Rodgers trade was tied in a bow by Silver on Friday.
In theory, the Broncos could still try to add one of the greatest quarterbacks of his era -- or any era -- depending upon what transpires between Rodgers and the Packers in the coming days or months. Unless and until that happens, Paton will keep turning over pebbles and embracing an opportunity he waited a long time to seize.
Silver and Schlereth, among other insiders, are leaving the barn door open on a Rodgers-to-Denver potential trade but for now, Paton and the Broncos have fish to fry. Day 2 of the NFL draft kicks off Friday night at 5 pm MDT.
Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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