We’ve spent the last several months dissecting how the New England Patriots might approach the quarterback position during the 2021 NFL Draft.
Should they up for Justin Fields, Trey Lance or Mac Jones? Take a shot on a second-tier prospect Davis Mills or Kyle Trask? Swing a deal for Jimmy Garoppolo?
Another potential option presented itself Thursday, and it’s perhaps the most intriguing of all: Aaron Rodgers.
Hours before the start of the draft, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Rodgers is “disgruntled” with the Green Bay Packers and “has told some within the organization that he does not want to return to the team.”
Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst swiftly released a statement saying the team is “committed to Aaron in 2021 and beyond,” and Green Bay shot down an advance Wednesday night from the San Francisco 49ers, per Schefter’s sources. The Los Angeles Rams also reportedly were rebuffed when they called about Rodgers before their January trade for Matthew Stafford.
Still, ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio reported, citing a “source with knowledge of the dynamics,” that Rodgers “could indeed be traded this weekend.”
Whether the Packers, who drew Rodgers’ ire last year when they traded up in the first round to draft Jordan Love, will end moving their star quarterback remains to be seen. But if we’re Bill Belichick, we’re placing a call to Gutekunst before Round 1 kicks off Thursday night.
We first examined the possibility of a Patriots-Rodgers trade during the aftermath of the NFC Championship Game, after the QB sent the NFL media world into a dizzy with unprompted postgame remarks about his “uncertain” future.
Here were our thoughts on Rodgers’ potential fit in New England:
“Would Bill Belichick love to have Aaron Rodgers on his team? Absolutely.
“Rodgers is one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history and would be the most physically talented signal-caller Belichick has ever coached, even at his advanced age. According to ESPN’s Ian O’Connor, Brady once told an NFL coach that Rodgers ‘would throw for 7,000 yards every year‘ in New England’s offense.
“‘He has great accuracy,’ Belichick said before the most recent Patriots-Packers meeting in 2018. ‘Very mobile in the pocket. He extends plays. Really good vision down the field. Uses the cadence well. He’s a very good situational player. He’s just one of the great quarterbacks in the National Football League. No question about it.’ …
“It is worth wondering, though, how the opinionated Rodgers would take to Belichick’s demanding coaching style. And giving up something in the neighborhood of two first-round picks for a 37-year-old quarterback would be a definite gamble, especially for a team with holes at several other spots. …
“Should the Patriots inquire about Rodgers if he hits the trade block? Yes. 100 percent. He’s a surefire Hall of Famer who’s coming off one of the best years of his career.”
Rodgers was the NFL’s MVP last season, throwing for 4,299 yards and 48 touchdowns with just five interceptions for a Packers team that fell one win shy of a Super Bowl berth. Even at 37 years old (38 in December), he remains one of the NFL’s elite signal-callers.
Even if he might not be a long-term answer for New England given his age, Rodgers would be a massive upgrade over the Patriots’ current quarterback group of Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham and Jake Dolegala.
From a financial perspective, Rodgers would carry an affordable 2021 cap hit of $15.2 million if traded, with the Packers absorbing a massive $31.5 million dead money charge. The Patriots entered the day with $15.6 million in available salary cap space, per PatsCap, though they’ll need some of that to sign their draft picks.
Including cornerback Stephon Gilmore in a theoretical trade would free up an additional $7.7 million.
It’s unclear what assets a team would need to give up to acquire Rodgers, however, and he might not be interested in moving to Foxboro. He wants to play on the West Coast, per a ProFootballTalk report, and his preferred destinations are San Francisco, Las Vegas and Denver.
But with how aggressive the Patriots have been at nearly every other position this offseason, we wouldn’t rule anything out.
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