If the Broncos crave Aaron Rodgers’ presence this year and the quarterback desires to leave Green Bay for Denver, George Paton must, as fictional characters Vautrin and Don Vito Corleone vowed, make the Packers an offer they can’t refuse.
How about the Broncos’ first-round pick (No. 9 overall) in the April draft, one each of their two second-round, two third-round and two fifth-round selections, a first-round choice in 2023, Jerry Jeudy (15th in 2020) and Drew Lock (42nd in 2019)?
Seven for one.
The Packers couldn’t decline the proposal.
Green Bay was on the other side of a similar deal in mid-season 1974 when they traded five draft picks (two 1s, two 2s, one 3) to the Rams for 34-year-old quarterback John Hadl. He won his first three games with the Packers, then lost his last three as they failed to make the postseason. Hadl was 4-9 the following year, then shipped to the Oilers.
The Packers’ president states the franchise wants Rodgers back. Rodgers says he will decide on his future by the franchise tag period from Feb. 22-March 6.
Paton and coach Nathaniel Hackett, Rodgers’ offensive coordinator from 2019-2021, will know something within a month. The Broncos and OCU (Orange Crush Universe) will rejoice or have to rethink the quarterback situation.
It is well to know, though, Paton cherishes picks as if they are Picasso pieces. He currently holds 11 for 2022 after owning 10 in his first draft. The GM probably would have to be dragged to a trade table that forced him to surrender five of his prized possessions.
So, if no Rodgers, then what?
The Broncos have four other options to consider at quarterback: Keep Teddy Bridgewater or Drew Lock, but not both. Try to trade for a QB not named Rodgers. Sign an unrestricted free-agent veteran quarterback. Draft a quarterback. The last two in tandem are quite possible.
No way will the Broncos and Colorado accept a Duel at Dove Valley again. One or both QBs will be gone. The best guess is that Bridgewater takes his act to another team as a backup. In an ESPN quarterback ranking at season’s end, Bridgewater was 33, Lock 36.
Other quarterbacks conceivably available in trades are Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garoppolo, Deshaun Watson, Matt Ryan, Derek Carr, Carson Wentz, Sam Darnold and, — what now?– Kyler Murray, who is erasing all his social media association with the Cardinals.
The Raiders won’t send Carr to Denver; Ryan will finish his career in Atlanta; Wentz and Darnold aren’t upgrades for the Broncos, and Murray and the Cardinals will resolve the quality quarterback’s issue.
The Watson legal problems remain too stupefied, but probably will be settled before next season. Would the Broncos take a chance on Watson? Not before a new owner, who would have the final verdict, takes control. Even though he played in the Rockies’ organization, Colorado doesn’t seem to be a destination for Wilson, who’ll stay in Seattle for one season or longer.
The Broncos could get Garoppolo or Cousins for a reasonable proposition – a second-round choice and one of the fifths. John Elway definitely had fleeting interest in Cousins before he learned how much the quarterback’s initial contract with the Vikings was, and Paton was with Cousins for three seasons in Minnesota. Cousins definitely is in the NFL’s top 15, but has been a .500 quarterback for 10 seasons (and was 8-8 in ’21) with one playoff victory. Garoppolo is an enigma, but has a starting record of 37-16, including 4-2 in the postseason, and just missed reaching his second Super Bowl.
Either would be a solid, but not spectacular, starter with the Broncos.
The free-agent quarterback list will be comprised of Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Tyrod Taylor, Andy Dalton, Mitch Trubisky and a slew of has-beens and never-will-be’s. Winston will stay in New Orleans. But the much-maligned Trubisky is worth a study. He was 29-23 as a Bears starter and in two playoffs. The year with the Bills staff and Josh Allen certainly improved him.
Paton personally scouted five college quarterbacks – Matt Corral, Kenny Pickett, Malik Willis, Sam Howell and Carson Strong. Pickett or Willis could be selected at No. 9 or maybe later in the round.
The Broncos have at least two dozen quarterback contenders.
One makes the most sense, especially to the new coach.