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Aaron Rodgers Watch intensifies

The Broncos are hoping the star QB decides to reunite with his former Packer coaches Nathaniel Hackett and Justin Outten in Denver.

INDIANAPOLIS — Come on, Aaron Rodgers. Time’s up.

The Green Bay Packers quarterback started saying three weeks ago he would make a decision about his future “soon.” That decision has three possible outcomes – return to Green Bay, get traded to another team – with the Broncos among the possibilities – or retire.

It was reported Friday night by the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport that Rodgers is “truly torn” about where to play in 2022 while Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reported deals are already in place with the Broncos, Titans and Steelers. Along with Green Bay, those teams are waiting on Rodgers to make his decision.

It’s possible the fate of Davonte Adams, Rodgers’ favorite receiver in Green Bay, is weighing heavily in the quarterback’s decision. The Packers have until Tuesday to either work out a long-term deal for Adams, slap him with a one-year, $18.5 million franchise tag, or let him hit the free-agent market.

It’s also possible Adams would be part of any Rodgers’ deal to another team.

Rodgers is the Broncos’ first option, sources tell 9NEWS. Which 9News has been reporting since the Broncos’ season ended on January 8. Check that, Denver’s interest in Rodgers has been obvious for more than a year as the Rodgers-to-Denver possibility was reported on Day 1 of the 2021 Draft. It never materialized as the Packers refused to trade their superstar quarterback. Rodgers returned to Green Bay to capture his second consecutive MVP Award and fourth in his career.

But now the Packers’ salary cap situation has made Rodgers vulnerable to departure. His salary-cap number for 2022 is $46.4 million while the Packers, even after restructuring multiple players’ contracts in the past two weeks, are still $29.8 million in the red.

No matter how much the Packers are willing to dole out for Rodgers, the Broncos can pay him more. The Broncos not only have a robust $39.2 million in cap space, but they also have the cash. In 2021, the Broncos spent roughly $206 million on player salaries in cash, a source told 9NEWS or nearly 13 percent above the $182.5 million salary cap.

Rodgers’ future is expected to include a new contract that figures to come in around $45 million to $50 million per year. Even if the Packers and other teams can figure out a way to pay such an astronomical – but not unprecedented when compared to quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes II of Kansas City ($45 million annual average) or Buffalo’s Josh Allen ($43 million per) – the Broncos are the only team that have Rodgers’ former offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. Because the Broncos hired Hackett as head coach last month and former Packers tight ends coach Justin Outten as offensive coordinator, they are the only team besides the Packers who can offer Rodgers, 38, the comfort of not having to learn new terminology, much less a new offense.

The rest of the QB trade market appears to have dried up. Seattle coach Pete Carroll insists his team isn’t trading Russell Wilson. The Vikings hire of Kevin O’Connell as their new head coach will keep quarterback Kirk Cousins in Minnesota. Cleveland isn’t trading Baker Mayfield. San Francisco’s Jimmy Garoppolo now has a damaged right throwing shoulder and Indianapolis’ Carson Wentz has fallen off to where he may have to accept a backup role in 2022.

With Houston’s Deshaun Watson still embroiled in 22 civil cases of sexual misconduct, the Broncos next-best options are nowhere near as compelling as Rodgers. Option B would likely be to pick up a veteran “bridge” quarterback -- Jameis Winston, Teddy Bridgewater and Mitch Trubisky are the best in a thin free-agent class while sticking with Drew Lock remains a longshot possibility – and then follow it up by also drafting a quarterback within the first two rounds.

Kenny Pickett and Malik Willis are clearly the top two QB prospects with teams arguing over whether Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder, Ole Miss’ Matt Corral or North Carolina’s Sam Howell is the No. 3 choice.

Sources from the NFL Scouting Combine this week say Trubisky has become the hot free-agent quarterback even though he was a Buffalo backup who attempted just 8 passes in 2021. By process of elimination – Winston is coming off a torn ACL and Bridgewater is coming off a concussion that forced him to miss the final three games of the Broncos’ season – and because 5 teams are desperate for a quarterback – Washington, Carolina, Pittsburgh, New Orleans and the Broncos – Trubisky is expected to wind up with a starting role again. The No. 2 overall pick of the Bears in the 2017 draft, Trubisky started four seasons with the Chicago Bears.

As Bears fans know all too well, there’s a big difference between Aaron Rodgers and Mitch Trubisky. Come on, Rodgers. The time period for “soon” is about up. He has said he would make his decision before the start of free agency, which essentially begins March 14.

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