DENVER — Set up the bar stools. Where’s Jim Gray? Never mind, Pat McAfee and a Zoom interview from the living room couch will do.
It’s time for The Decision 2.0. (Baby Decision? The Decision II? NFL version of The Decision?) Aaron Rodgers, the great quarterback, is expected to announce no later than Tuesday – perhaps during his semi-regular appearance on McAfee’s live podcast – whether he will return to his team of 17 years, the Green Bay Packers, or take his talents elsewhere, presumably to Nathaniel Hackett and the Denver Broncos.
Tuesday has been Rodgers’ deadline because that’s the final day for the Packers to decide whether to place an $18.5 million franchise tag on his favorite receiver, Davante Adams. Could Adams then become an NBA-like tag-sign-and-trade as part of a Rodgers’ deal?
If so, Broncos’ general manager George Paton may have to get a third team involved because he simply wouldn’t have enough draft picks or talented, young (read: inexpensive) players to properly appease the Packers in a Rodgers-Adams swap. Then again, a third team would make the confidentiality of the swap near impossible.
A straight Rodgers trade would cost the Broncos nothing less their No. 9 overall pick in the first round, No. 40 pick in the second round, and next year’s first-round selection. The trade would likely become more complicated than that with the Broncos also expected to deal an active player or two – Drew Lock is currently their quarterback (only if Adams becomes part of the Rodgers' deal would the Broncos then have to surrender either Tim Patrick or Jerry Jeudy their most tradeable receivers) – and possibly a third, first-round pick in 2024.
But two first-round picks and a high, second-round pick figures to be the base of the Broncos’ trade compensation for Rodgers.
If all goes well for Paton, he will go from having the Best Draft in 2021 (as he was awarded last week following a vote of NFL scouts and executives) to essentially No Draft in 2022. Maybe he can send along his no longer necessary Combine scouting reports from this past week in Indianapolis to the Packers along with all his top draft picks.
In some ways, Rodgers’ decision and The Decision starring LeBron James on July 8, 2010, is as different as the NFL and NBA. In other ways, they are remarkably similar. Both have been mega-hyped with the decisions amounting to whether two of the United States’ biggest sports stars choose to stay with their own teams, or go elsewhere. James’ handlers took control of his event by orchestrating a one-hour TV special on ESPN while insisting that 9News alum and sports interview extraordinaire Jim Gray conduct the Q & A session. James and Gray sat on high-back chairs and talked for a half-hour before LeBron uttered The Decision.
Even though the broadcast was from the Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich, Conn. and raised an estimated $5.5 million for that charity and others, The Decision was ridiculed for two reasons
One, James's choice of words in making The Decision – “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach and the Miami Heat” – was widely mocked as braggadocious. And two, James, who had never carried the Cavs to an NBA championship in his first seven seasons in Cleveland, seemed to take the easy shortcut to the NBA title by joining a Heat team that already included stars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.
James and the Heat could counter they were only following the lead of the Boston Celtics, who had pulled together stars Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen for the 2008 NBA title. The All-Star concept has since been repeated by the Kevin Durant-Steph Curry-Klay Thompson Warriors from 2016-18, the LeBron-Anthony Davis Lakers in 2020 and more recently in the NFL by the 2021 Los Angeles Rams who sold off nearly all their draft picks in exchange for adding Matthew Stafford, Von Miller, Odell Beckham Jr. to a roster that already included Cooper Kupp, Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey.
The Rams just won Super Bowl 56 and while they are expected to have up to five compensatory picks coming before this year’s draft, their only original picks are in the 5th and 7th rounds. To which Rams’ GM Les Snead proclaimed on the T-shirt he wore during the Super Bowl parade through downtown Los Angeles, “F*** them picks.”
The Decision from James generated venom from Cavs’ owner Dan Gilbert and fans, who viewed his move as traitorous. Although James was a hometown hero, there were jersey-burning ceremonies. James responded by leading the Heat – with ample help from Wade and Bosh – to four consecutive NBA title series, winning two.
RELATED: Aaron Rodgers Watch intensifies
Would Packers fans burn Rodgers’ No. 12 jersey if he makes a decision to leave Green Bay? Broncos fans could only hope for a similar James-like response and Rodgers leads Denver to four consecutive Super Bowls, winning two.
Rodgers is 38, which would be a concern if he wasn’t playing at the top of his game. He earned his third and fourth NFL MVP Awards in 2020-21, combining to throw a preposterous 85 touchdowns against just 9 interceptions. The Broncos have struggled to find a top 16 quarterback, much less a top 3 like Rodgers, since Peyton Manning’s last mostly healthy season of 2014. While an iconic defense and the quarterback duo of Manning and Brock Osweiler were enough to carry the Broncos to the Super Bowl 50 championship to cap 2015, Denver has not reached the postseason since then and is coming off five consecutive losing seasons.
The Broncos’ Opening Day starting quarterbacks during their five-year losing record skid: Trevor Siemian (2017), Case Keenum (2018), Joe Flacco (2019), Drew Lock (2020) and Teddy Bridgewater (2021). Will it be Rodgers and the end of the playoff drought in 2022? The Decision 2.0 awaits.
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