Another big-name veteran chooses not to join forces with Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers once claimed that big-name veterans come to Green Bay to play with him. That hasn't proven out, with Odell Beckham Jr. turning the QB down again.
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After scheduling a meeting with the Jets on Monday, Odell Beckham Jr. agreed to terms with the Ravens. Does the veteran wideout spurning New York suggest anything about the Aaron Rodgers trade?
Jason B. Hirschhorn: Odell Beckham Jr. signing with the Baltimore Ravens doesn't materially alter the outlook for the still-unresolved Aaron Rodgers trade. Beckham secured a one-year deal worth up to $18 million, and few players in his situation -- he turns 31 in November and missed all of the 2022 season recovering from a torn ACL -- would turn that down. The New York Jets might have countered if given the opportunity to physically examine him, but the timing of the Ravens' pursuit essentially took that possibility off the table.
However, Beckham's pivot does say something about Aaron Rodgers' ability to recruit. Less than two years ago, the quarterback said, "Green Bay isn't a huge vacation destination, people are coming here to play with me." That didn't prove to be the case, however, as big-name veterans spurned the Packers in the time since those comments. That includes Beckham who had the chance to play with Rodgers in 2021 but chose instead to sign with the Los Angeles Rams.
That doesn't make Rodgers solely responsible for how the Beckham situation played out two seasons ago or this past weekend. The Jets could have pursued the wideout more aggressively and sooner, a notion at least one reporter covering the team explored. It also remains unclear whether New York would or could have matched the money Beckham received from the Ravens.
Regardless, the evidence paints a pretty clear picture; proven players don't see Rodgers as the type of draw that signal-callers like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning proved to be during their careers. The lack of clarity regarding how much longer Rodgers intends to play almost certainly factors into the equation -- Davante Adams acknowledged as much last year after securing a trade to the Las Vegas Raiders -- and his late-career, new-age rebrand might turn off some potential teammates as well. Rodgers' performance dip in 2022 informs this conversation as well.
Ultimately, the causes matter less than the results here, and Rodgers hasn't proven capable as a recruiter.
Peter Bukowski: I’m sorry, I have nothing to add. I’m just laughing at “people are coming here for me” when no one ever came to Green Bay for him as a free agent and now they won’t even come for him when he’s going to be in New York.
Speaking of one that got away, what player connected to the Packers provides the most memorable "Sliding Doors" moment?
JBH: Since I know Peter's choice, I'll choose another what-if moment from the Brett Favre era: the 1996 NFL Draft. The Packers' general manager at the time, Ron Wolf, had his eye on Miami Hurricanes linebacker Ray Lewis. Though Green Bay already had solid players at the position -- George Koonce and Wayne Simmons had established themselves as starters and Brian Williams would step into a starting role that year -- Lewis would have added true play-making to the linebacking corps. As Lewis fell toward the mid-20s, Wolf informed his staff that the team would take the Miami linebacker at No. 27 should he remain on the board.
But the Packers saw this dream dashed at the 11th hour. The Ravens, picking one spot ahead of the Packers, snatched up Lewis. Wolf would later admit that he didn't have a Plan B for this scenario, leading to the panic selection of USC offensive lineman John Michels. Knee injuries ended Michels' career after two seasons. Lewis, of course, went on to win multiple Defensive Player of the Year awards, carve out a spot on the 2000s All-Decade Team, and a gold jacket.
Though the Packers would go on to win the Super Bowl during Lewis' rookie year and make a return trip to the big game the following season, the notion of adding a future Hall of Fame linebacker to a defense already anchored by future Hall of Fame defensive end Reggie White and safety LeRoy Butler strongly suggests the team could have secured another Lombardi Trophy or two during the Favre era.
PB: Randy Moss. This is cheating a bit as well because there were multiple reports the Packers would have sent Aaron Rodgers in a package to the Oakland Raiders for Moss, which would have sent the two franchises on monumentally different paths.
But if we just take the Moss part of it for the moment and assume Ted Thompson would give up the requisite draft capital to snag Moss, it would have been Brett Favre throwing to one of the greatest receivers ever in 2007 instead of Tom Brady. We never get the 18-1 FU New England Patriots, and Favre probably has a second Super Bowl ring.
It’s worth wondering if that would have been enough to satisfy Favre to ride off into the sunset on his lawn mower (potentially paid for by public funds). That would hand the keys over to Rodgers much in the way they were, only minus the incredible drama of that 2008 spring and then the years of Favre’s spite tour.
This scenario also theoretically allows early career Rodgers to play with Moss which would also have been an absolute blast.
At the annual league meeting, Matt LaFleur revealed the plan is for Rasul Douglas to stay at corner and Darnell Savage to return to safety. With free agency mostly over and a weak incoming safety class, how can the Packers patch up this obvious weakness?
JBH: With the Packers already working under significant salary-cap restrictions and planning an accelerated reboot with the transition to Jordan Love, half measures at a position like safety don't offer a ton of upside. Instead, the front office should make multiple bets on athletic traits in the draft and see which safeties overperform expectations.
And though the incoming rookie class doesn't have many standout safety prospects, it doesn't lack for athletes at the position. The tandem from Illinois, Sydney Brown and Jartavius "Quan" Martin, check every box for the Packers physically as does California's Daniel Scott. Iowa State's Anthony Johnson Jr. comes close as well. None should require a top-50 pick, and the Packers should have extra draft ammunition from the Rodgers trade.
Taking multiple swings at a position in a single draft has worked well for Green Bay in the past. That approach yielded Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams in 2017 and Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs just this past year. Not all the bets have to hit to justify the plan. In 2020, the team took three offensive linemen in the sixth round. Only one of the trio, Jon Runyan Jr, hit, but he has developed into an above-average starter in a short period and could become a long-term fixture at guard.
All of which underscores an important point about the draft. While some personnel departments scout better than others, no team should approach it with extreme confidence. While the 2023 safety class doesn't appear strong, taking a targeted, volume approach could still yield positive results.
PB: Just sign John Johnson III. I don’t understand why he isn’t already on the team. He played for Joe Barry in this defense the Rams were running. He’s the cheap veteran option the team desperately needs with Adrian Amos’ departure burning a hole in their two-deep and their salary cap.
As the question notes, this safety draft class is a mess and while I think the Packers will draft a safety at some point, it’s not enough. I like some of the things Rudy Ford offers with his speed and tackling, but he struggled in coverage enough to get benched last season even after he got the job because Savage got the butt splinter treatment.
The plan could well be, “See what the draft brings and then go the De’Vondre Campbell route, signing someone in June.” Given the safety market and how little these players are making, that’s certainly possible and potentially viable. I just don’t know why the team has ignored this position now for several years when it’s clear they needed depth. Now they need a starting player and still, they show no interest. Explain it to me.
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