Packers replace Aaron Rodgers, NFL Draft grades and more


The 2020 NFL Draft is over, and the Green Bay Packers took the biggest gamble by selecting Jordan Love with Aaron Rodgers signed for years to come.

If you’re a Packers fan, here’s some free advice: close the computer.

Anybody who understands professional football knows this… Aaron Rodgers is furious, and Aaron Rodgers will continue to be furious for some time.

Rodgers is furious because the front office failed to provide a single additional weapon in free agency and the draft, while simultaneously spending its best draft capital on a player who both can’t help him and is designed to replace him.

Great players have egos. Every one of them. Rodgers deservedly believes he’s the man in Titletown because he has been for more than a decade. He has a ring and if the franchise bothered to care about free agency until a few years ago, might have more. He’s long been asked to carry a middling roster to greatness, and last season came within a game of the Super Bowl.

This spring, the Packers could, and should, have done everything to jam his title window open. Instead, they let it slam on his desperate fingers.

Green Bay did not only select former Utah State quarterback Jordan Love, it moved up to do so. The Packers know Rodgers’ contract essentially locks him in for the next three years, eating up most of Love’s cheap rookie deal.

General manager Brian Gutekunst understands this. There were countless receivers available while on the clock, including Denzel Mims, Michael Pittman Jr. and Tee Higgins. He could have given Rodgers another top target. Instead, he gave him a look at the team’s future, and his own football mortality.

For Packer Backers who scream about this being similar to Rodgers being drafted in 2005 to sit behind Brett Favre, it’s a false equivalency. Rodgers was thought by some to be worthy of the No. 1 overall pick then. Nobody thought Love was in such lofty company. When Green Bay plucked Rodgers out of his hell in the green room, it didn’t move up. It got lucky.

This time, the Packers moved up. They targeted Love from the start.

Now, Rodgers has to spend the next few months knowing his team didn’t support him. If anything, the Packers undercut him. They’re readying to replace him. Fans can argue, but fans aren’t Rodgers. He’s going to look around from the pocket and see Davante Adams, and nobody else of importance.

Players see things through the prism of money, power and love. The great ones, the Rodgers’ of the world? They better get paid, they better have some sway and they better be shown love. Their  franchise needs to be all in on winning, equally to how much the player is.

It won’t be lost on Rodgers what happened around him in the NFC while his team did zilch.

The Philadelphia Eagles added Marquise Goodwin and Jalen Reagor. The New Orleans Saints added Emmanuel Sanders. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers added Tom Brady, and then gave him Tristan Wirfs and Rob Gronkowski. The Dallas Cowboys gave Dak Prescott a new toy in CeeDee Lamb. The San Francisco 49ers traded for Trent Williams (more on that below) and landed receiver Brandon Aiyuk in the first round. So on and so forth.

The Packers? They swapped Bryan Bulaga for Ricky Wagner, signed Devin Funchess to a one-year deal and drafted Love to eventually replace Rodgers.

Green Bay had a chance to put the finishing touches on a Super Bowl contender these past two months. Instead, the Packers managed to piss off their best player, their most important player. All this for a quarterback who, if things go well, won’t see the field until 2023.

Rodgers is undoubtedly irate, and he should be.

The Packers worried more about what to do without Rodgers, instead of worrying about how to help him while he’s still here.

Power rankings

Top 10 draft classes in the moment

1. Cincinnati Bengals
2. Minnesota Vikings
3. Dallas Cowboys
4. Denver Broncos
5. Carolina Panthers
6. Arizona Cardinals
7. Baltimore Ravens
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
9. Jacksonville Jaguars
10. Cleveland Browns


"“If we feel like we find the right situation, we’ll certainly draft them. We’ve drafted them in multiple years, multiple points in the draft. Didn’t work out the last three days. That wasn’t by design. We just tried to do the best we could with what we had this weekend.”"

– New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick on not selecting a quarterback in the draft

There are two options now for the Patriots heading into summer. They either roll with Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer, or they create cap space and go after Cam Newton or Andy Dalton.

Certainly, Belichick understands the situation. Despite his greatness, the Patriots are going nowhere fast with the first two options. Dalton provides a boost, while Newton could give a real lift if healthy.

It’s been a sobering offseason for New England.


Random stat

Barry Sanders retired after the 1998 season. Since then, the Detroit Lions haven’t finished in the league’s top half for rushing yards in any season. (credit: ESPN)

Info learned this week

1. Quarterbacks and their futures in each new city

Five notable rookie quarterbacks found their first homes over the weekend.

Of course, the headliners are Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert. Surprisingly, each finds a relatively good situation.

Burrow goes to a 2-14 Cincinnati Bengals, but one which spent in free agency for the first time in franchise history. General manager Duke Tobin upgraded the defense in March and then helped Burrow in the draft, landing receiver Tee Higgins of Clemson with the 33rd-overall pick. Factor in the returning playmakers of receivers A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd, and running back Joe Mixon, and the Bengals are frisky.

Miami has a good, young head coach in Brian Flores. It also invested significantly in the offensive line this weekend, including first-round pick, USC tackle Austin Jackson. The Dolphins have a long climb ahead, but the arrow is clearly up. Tagovailoa has a real chance to succeed in South Beach.

Then there’s Herbert and the Chargers. Los Angeles has a playoff-caliber roster around him, a smart coach in Anthony Lynn and little pressure in a yawning fan base. The Chargers also have veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor, allowing Herbert to ease into the pro game.

Finally, the intriguing later-round choices.

Jalen Hurts to the Philadelphia Eagles was a stunner in the second round. However, there’s some logic here. Hurts played under Lincoln Riley and Nick Saban in college. He’s a smart kid who totaled more than 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns from scrimmage last year. If Carson Wentz gets hurt (again), Hurts is a terrific insurance policy.

As for Jacob Eason, the Indianapolis Colts are the perfect destination. He can learn from head coach Frank Reich — a former NFL quarterback — and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni, two of the brightest minds in the game. All this while sitting behind Philip Rivers.

Of course, Rivers is only signed for one year, so Eason has a chance to impress in practice and get his crack at the starting job in 2021.

2. AFC West drafts in specific way to keep pace with Chiefs

The race is on in the AFC West. Literally.

While the Kansas City Chiefs are Super Bowl champs and clear favorites in the division moving forward, the trio of teams chasing them loaded up in the draft.

The Broncos essentially assembled a track team, landing receivers Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler in the first two rounds. The idea is clearly to surround second-year quarterback Drew Lock with a bevy of weapons in hopes of having an offense good enough to compete with Patrick Mahomes and Co.

The Las Vegas Raiders took a similar tact. General manager Mike Mayock selected Henry Ruggs — long compared to Tyreek Hill — before nabbing Bryan Edwards in the third round out of South Carolina. Vegas also took Ohio State corner Damon Arnette in the first round, hoping he can become a shutdown corner.

Finally, the Chargers. We wrote about Herbert above, but don’t forget about Kenneth Murray. Murray is a freakish linebacker from Oklahoma with all the speed and athleticism to cover tight ends. Look around the division — and specifically in Kansas City — and it all makes sense.

Of course, the Chiefs have Mahomes and Andy Reid, so they remain firmly in the catbird seat.

3. Texans overpay Tunsil to comical degree

At some point, an adult needs to step into the room for the Houston Texans.

On Thursday afternoon, head coach/general manager Bill O’Brien signed left tackle Laremy Tunsil to a three-year extension worth $66 million. Incredibly, there’s a whopping $50 million guaranteed.

For starters, Tunsil is a good player, but not an elite one. At 25, he’s a one-time Pro Bowler who has never been First or Second-Team All-Pro. Tunsil is now being paid $22 million per year, $4 million more than Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson, who was previously the highest-paid tackle in football.

This is what happens when a team trades two first-round picks for a player and doesn’t have an extension lined up. Tunsil had more leverage than any player in football, and he used it to sign an absurd deal. While the annual value is wild, the guaranteed money is equally so. Guaranteeing 75 percent of the contract is locking Houston in for the duration of the deal, regardless of what happens in the future.

The trade of DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals will long be the touchstone of Houston’s awful offseason, but this contract has a good case for second place.

4. 49ers steal Trent Williams in trade with Redskins

Exit Joe Staley. Enter Trent Williams.

The San Francisco 49ers pulled the weekend’s biggest heist on Saturday morning, sending a 2020 fifth-round choice and a 2021 third-round pick to the Washington Redskins for Williams, a seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle. Williams will replace Staley, who is retiring at age 35.

For the Redskins, this is the end of an ugly, year-long saga. For the 49ers, it’s two mid-round picks for a dominant left tackle. Williams, turning 32 this summer, should still have great years ahead. Considering how much the Niners rely on their run game and athleticism up front, head coach Kyle Shanahan is undoubtedly elated with the acquisition.

San Francisco has endured an uneven offseason, losing receiver Emmanuel Sanders and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner off its NFC champion roster. However, gaining Williams to replace Staley is a key upgrade. Coupled with their draft, the 49ers should feel good entering 2020.

5. Winston goes from 5,000 yards to Saints’ backup

Tough decision for Jameis Winston, but a smart one.

After throwing for more than 5,000 yards — and 30 interceptions — Winston decided on a one-year deal with the New Orleans Saints. After five years with the Buccaneers, the former No. 1 overall pick gets a chance to reset his career and work under head coach Sean Payton and behind future first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees.

This is a good decision on both sides. The Saints get to see Winston on a daily basis. They can attempt to correct his mental errors and teach mistakes out of him. if they see significant progress, perhaps he takes over for Brees in 2021. At that point, he’ll be 27 years old and entering his prime.

For Winston, the upside is aforementioned. Aside from Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid, this is the best quarterback-coach duo in the game. It’ll be painful watching for a season, but if Winston wants his career to matter, he needs the humbling experience. He also must make it a worthwhile one.

The Saints get a talented quarterback with a potential future. Winston gets to learn.

History lesson

Before Joe Burrow, there have been 24 quarterbacks selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft since 1960.

Only six were starters in Super Bowl victories: Terry Bradshaw (Steelers), Jim Plunkett (Raiders), John Elway (Broncos), Troy Aikman (Cowboys), Peyton Manning (Colts, Broncos) and Eli Manning (Giants).

Parting shot

For two decades, the AFC East has been the easiest division to predict. Now? The toughest.

With the draft come and gone, the Patriots — as mentioned above — are still looking at Stidham and Hoyer as their starting and backup quarterbacks, in some order. The New York Jets added offensive help around Sam Darnold, but the roster has significant holes on both offense and defense.

The Buffalo Bills are the most complete team, but there are questions abound regarding Josh Allen. Did Buffalo take a leap last year, or simply beat a bunch of cupcakes with losses to the better teams? Finally, the Dolphins landed Tua, but will he stay upright?

So many questions, and yet so few answers.

While the Jets are a stretch, one can make a case for any of the other teams to win the division. If Tagovailoa is healthy, the Dolphins could be the classic worst-to-first outfit. The Bills need Allen to make strides, but even minor ones and Buffalo is likely the strong favorite.

New England is without a quarterback, but there’s the looming shadow of Bill Belichick. Of course, Cam Newton remains an option, as does a potential trade for Andy Dalton or Jacoby Brissett.

For 20 years, the Patriots were the penned-in champ of the East. Now? Grab a pencil.