Rookie class and veteran QBs disrupting trade market for Packers
The Packers will have trade partners should they put Aaron Rodgers or Jordan Love on the block, but potential suitors have more viable alternatives this year than usual.
In the near future, the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers will have a meeting of the minds and finalize the future of the team and its starting quarterback of 15 seasons. That determination, whatever form it takes, will represent an inflection point for not only the franchise but the rest of the NFL as well.
Of course, that time hasn't yet arrived. Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst noted during his media availability at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine that a resolution before March 15 -- the start of the new league year and the first day of free agency -- has become the de facto deadline for a decision. Receiving clarity before Green Bay and other clubs formally begin building their rosters best serves all parties involved.
For his part, Rodgers acknowledged as much. During an appearance on the Aubrey Marcus Podcast this week, the four-time MVP said, "It's best for anybody who has an interest to make a decision sooner rather than later."
If Rodgers opts to continue playing but desires a change of scenery, the Packers will find themselves shipping off a sure-fire Hall of Fame signal-caller for the second time in less than two decades. That process could unfold in a number of ways, but it likely would involve Rodgers moving to the AFC for the next chapter of his career.
And even if Rodgers stays in Green Bay, perhaps the Packers will ultimately trade a quarterback. Jordan Love, the team's first-round pick in 2020, enters the fourth and final season of his base rookie contract. Should Rodgers lock in for another run, Love could conceivably ask for a trade to avoid spending yet another year holding a clipboard. Whether Gutekunst would acquiesce to such a request remains uncertain, but the possibility remains on the table.
But regardless of the precise details, the Packers might find a disrupted market should they place one of their passers on the block. A confluence of factors has driven up the supply of viable options for QB-needy teams, clouding the trade landscape until further notice.
Cheaper, viable free-agent options
In the overwhelming majority of offseasons, clubs with voids under center have no cost-effective way of addressing those needs other than the draft. When it comes to free agency, the Peyton Manning sweepstakes of 2012 and Tom Brady world tour of 2020 have proven to be the exception, not the rule, with the likes of Kirk Cousins cashing in due to the lack of alternatives. And while the frequency of trades has ticked up in recent years -- 2022 saw Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson, both considered blue-chip signal-callers at the time, dealt after protracted standoffs with their previous employers -- the cost remains exorbitant (multiple first-round picks and more).
However, 2023 provides a rare respite for those in need of quality QB play on the relatively cheap. The free-agent class doesn't feature a future Hall of Famer, but it does have several veterans that have performed at or near a Pro Bowl level in the recent past. Former Las Vegas Raiders signal-caller Derek Carr headlines the group following his release last month with longtime San Francisco 49ers passer Jimmy Garoppolo following close behind. Free agency could get an additional boost if the New York Giants and Seattle Seahawks opt not to tag or extend Daniel Jones and 2022 Comeback Player of the Year Geno Smith, respectively.
But regardless of whether Jones and Smith actually reach the open market, Carr and Garoppolo provide franchises with the potential to hold down the game's most important position over multiple seasons. Each entered the league in 2014 and each enter their age-32 campaigns, experienced enough to command the respect of a locker room but not so old that their next team will automatically reenter the QB market in 2024.
Because of Carr's early arrival to free agency, he has already met with multiple suitors, including the New York Jets.
"He's got an elite, elite mental makeup with regards to football IQ," Jets head coach Saleh said of Carr. "He's got tremendous accuracy and arm strength. He can put the ball anywhere you want. He's underrated in terms of scrambling and being able to move out of the pocket and all that stuff."
Given that the Jets could conceivably pursue Rodgers should he reach the market, the impression left by Carr could factor into their ultimate decision. The same applies to Garoppolo and the Raiders given the quarterback's connection to head coach Josh McDaniels.
Band-aid plus a rookie
In recent years, securing a band-aid option -- a short-term starter under center -- while adding a rookie to develop for the future has become an increasingly common tactic for quarterback-needy franchises. Though teams differ on when to make the transition from one to the other, the overall approach remains fundamentally the same.