Shockwaves of sorrow and disbelief reverberate from the Rocky Mountains like a storm front headed east as the Broncos beacon of hope eschews the Mile High City to re-sign with Green Bay.
Chiefs Focus @ChiefsFocus
Charles Robinson @CRob5769
Oh, what could have been. Since early February, Denver Bronco fans have been married to the idea of a new era of Bronco football being ushered in for the 2022 season. When Denver fired Vic Fangio and subsequently hired former Green Bay offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to captain their ship moving forward, the writing appeared to be on the wall. Aaron Rodgers again seemed as though he was no longer content in Green Bay after another early exit from the postseason, and to add to it – his top target, Davante Adams, was also a free agent to be.
The city of Denver could smell it. They could taste it. I’m sure there were folks preparing social media posts and dreaming up far-too-early Super Bowl parade routes in preparation for the day that Aaron Rodgers decided he was coming to Denver to resurrect a franchise that – short of a few rented years at the end of Peyton Manning’s career – had been looking for a QB since team President John Elway hung up his cleats for the last time in 1999. Let me backtrack for a second. It would be unfair to classify the Peyton Manning years as anything but great for Broncos fans and Manning alike. He was a two time First Team All-Pro in Denver, led the Broncos to a pair of Super Bowl appearances and a championship in Super Bowl 50. In 2013 he threw for 55 touchdown passes. He was outstanding. But they got 3 good years out of him, and an injury and turnover prone final season before having to face their persistent reality once more.
Today we learned that the Rodgers/Adams connecting would not come to fruition in Denver as many Coloradans (and folks across the NFL) had suspected. Rodgers re-signed with the Green Bay Packers on a staggering 4 year, $200 million contract that features $153 million in guaranteed money. With the deal structured in a “team friendly” manner in year one, this should clear up enough cap space for the Packers to apply the franchise tag to Adams at the very least. The Mile High dream is dead, and the Packers will look to somehow achieve something that they have not done in 12 years with Rodgers at QB – win a Super Bowl.
But let’s consider for a second what the Broncos actually dodged here. 4 years, $200 million for a guy who will turn 39 in December of this year? I understand Rodgers is the 2-time reigning NFL MVP. I get that Green Bay has set up a decent battery on their offensive line, particularly with some of the healthy pieces they will have back in 2022. I also get that the Packers play in arguably the worst division in football. So I can’t imagine a world where you can feel great about owing a 42-43 year old quarterback $50 million in 3 years no matter how much the salary cap ceiling goes. Overpaying for something is overpaying no matter how you cut it – even if the budget you have now is not the budget you will have in 3 years.
Additionally, the Broncos would have had a lot of work to do along their offensive line and recouping what they would have had to provide in a trade to bring Rodgers and Adams in. Jerry Jeudy would likely have been gone in a deal of that magnitude, and the offensive line that Denver currently possesses would have had issues protecting Rodgers from elite pass rushers in the AFC West like Joey Bosa, Maxx Crosby, and Chris Jones 6 times per year. Rodgers is mobile, but look at the difference in pass rush win rates from 2021 for AFC West teams compared to NFC North teams :
AFC West : Chiefs 7, Raiders 8, Chargers 11
NFC North : Bears 17, Vikings 29, Lions 31
Rodgers is a great player – one of the best to ever play the quarterback position. But in order for him to continually achieve remarkable greatness, a la winning MVPs in his late 30’s, he has to the be in the situation he’s in in Green Bay. Putting him in Denver with just Adams, Noah Fant, and an offensive line that’s middle of the pack in pass protection against the defenses he would face in the AFC West would be asking for disappointment.
Nevertheless, there is certainly a letdown for Denver fans as the franchise continues to seek it’s next great signal caller in the post-Peyton era. Will they still be hot after a potential trade for QB – Russell Wilson, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Baker Mayfield have been names floated as potential movers this offseason. Will they look to free agency? Without much of a talent pool there, this would likely just be them repeating the cycle and chasing their tail – hoping a quarterback who has been average to subpar somehow busts out of his shell to excel in Denver. Will they focus on the draft? Sam Howell, Malik Willis, and Desmond Ridder all had outstanding showings at the Combine. Kenny Pickett has proven he can play football in poor elements having excelled at Pitt in college, but has 8.5 inch hands which for whatever reason is tanking his draft stock.
One thing is for sure – the Broncos will not repeat history and bring in a former MVP to hopefully win more in the Mile High City. I can’t say I feel bad for Broncos fans, particularly when much of the motivation and lashing out about the potential of getting Rodgers was towards Chiefs Kingdom and particularly a big you-know-what contest between the prospective Broncos QB and Patrick Mahomes. But I can honestly say I think the Broncos dodged a very expensive bullet that likely would have set the franchise back even further had it landed. Sure, there’s a possibility Rodgers would have led Denver to the postseason, maybe even a Super Bowl, but with Rodgers playoff resume, the grind of the AFC West, and a loaded AFC from top to bottom, it’s tough to imagine them competing year in and year out with the likes of the Bills, Bengals, Ravens, Chargers, and Chiefs consistently. Especially with the roster they currently have, what they wouldn’t have been able to bring back or go get with a massive Rodgers contract on the books.
I guess we’ll have to wait and see what Elway has up his sleeve next for the QB position in Denver. I would encourage anyone over the height of 6’4” with long arms to reach out, John definitely seems to have a type. In the meantime, I’ll be fantasizing about future matchups between either Teddy Bridgewater, Drew Lock, or a rookie QB against Patrick Mahomes, and the winning streak that’s 3 presidential administrations long continuing.