It’s going to take days, weeks and maybe months to process what exactly happened with Davante Adams and the Green Bay Packers. But it should take no time to process that Aaron Rodgers now has a big problem on his hands.
That whole last dance thing? The one that the team worked so hard to bring back for an encore? It’s over.
Now the problem is sitting in the lap of Rodgers the football player and Rodgers the talent evaluator. He wanted the respect of being granted that kind of influence and the front office granted it to him as part of his new deal. Aaron wants to be part of the roster discussions? Fine. But then Aaron also gets to be part of the all-hands-on-deck scramble when something goes catastrophically sideways with an offensive player. That’s precisely what happened with Davante Adams, who no longer wanted to be a Packer and was subsequently dealt to the Las Vegas Raiders on Thursday for a first- and second-round pick in the 2022 draft. The trade bounty was ultimately depressed by the reality that Adams required a titanic contract extension, which the Raiders obliged to the tune of five years and $141 million.
We’ll spend plenty of time in the future unraveling exactly how that all transpired and who was to blame for Adams having to be traded, but the simple fact is all that matters now is how to fix the gaping breach left behind on the Packers’ wide receiver depth chart. It’s a type of nightmare that is usually left for a general manager, coaching staff and personnel department to figure out. But in Green Bay, that should be a homework assignment for Rodgers now, too. Sort of a lesson in being careful what you ask for because it might boomerang back on you faster and with more force than you intended.
And make no mistake, the trading of Adams will. Not only is he arguably the NFL’s best wideout when you compare his production and accolades to virtually anyone else over the past five years, he was the most dynamic player on the roster not wearing a “12” jersey.
As one NFC head coach put it when asked to privately weigh in on the Rodgers versus Tom Brady MVP voting late last season: “It’s Rodgers. Compare the receivers between the two. Rodgers has one guy.”
That guy was Adams. Which means that as of Thursday night, in the eyes of some people in the NFL, it’s now Rodgers and zero guys.
It’s a harsh assessment, but also understandable when you actually compare the totality of what Adams put on the field in 2021, which was his second straight season as a first-team All-Pro wideout. Consider: In 16 games, Adams had 123 catches for 1,553 yards and 11 touchdowns. The next six wide receivers on the Packers roster totaled 115 catches for 1,519 yards and 16 touchdowns. And while snap count is a more accurate measure, it’s still pretty mind-boggling that those six receivers came up short of Adams’ production despite being active in a collective 74 games last season.
That’s how an opposing head coach ends up with the “Rodgers has one guy” evaluation.
Add it all up and Rodgers has a bit of a rebuild in front of him where it concerns his wideouts. Which means that general manager Brian Gutekunst and his personnel staff are going to get one hell of a crash course in teamwork with their quarterback, who should (by his own request) be an instrumental part of the talent additions that make up for the loss of Adams.
It’s not going to be easy, either. While Adams leaves behind plenty of cap space to work with, the best free agent options at the position have gotten thin. There is Odell Beckham Jr., who will be a popular name. Less popular will be the reality that he’s torn his ACL twice in two seasons. Then there’s JuJu Smith-Schuster, who despite being a buzzy free agent two offseason in a row can’t seem to get anyone to pay him. Then it’s a speed round of aging guys who are fading, from Julio Jones to Emmanuel Sanders, Jarvis Landry and AJ Green.
When you look at that collection, Green Bay and Rodgers could bring in several of those players and hope a back-to-back MVP quarterback can squeeze some juice out of them. That’s certainly far from a sure thing. And it’s a universe away from where Adams is as a player.
Outside of free agency, there’s the NFL draft and trade route. The draft is enticing, but also a crapshoot. And even if you hit, the likelihood of landing a dynamic ready-made player is dicey. Which means one year of Rodgers’ new massive salary could be spent weaning along and developing a rookie. And trades? Robert Woods is going to be a popular name on the block now that the Los Angeles Rams have added Allen Robinson to their wideouts. But he’s another player coming off a torn ACL.
If that picture isn’t clear enough by now, here are the brass tacks: The best guy for Green Bay and Rodgers by far was the one who just got dealt to the Raiders. A type of player who might require three or four new wideouts just to hope for the aggregate production that he managed all by himself.
That’s a tough slap of reality. But’s it’s where these Packers now find themselves. Working a collective problem between a collective braintrust that now includes the quarterback. But this is what Rodgers signed up for, being a touchstone when things get shaky.
Well, they are. And he better be. Because anything less than what Adams brought to the table in 2021 is going to be a huge letdown after so much work was put into another dance that’s already over.