The Green Bay Packers could get a king’s ransom if they end up trading Aaron Rodgers before the start of the 2021 season, and one ESPN analyst seems to think the best-looking trade partner is sticking out like a sore thumb.
In response to reports that Rodgers no longer plans to return to Green Bay, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell took a look at seven teams that could still become “realistic suitors” for the reigning MVP if the Packers eventually change their mind and decide to trade him away.
Some curveballs — like the Tennessee Titans and Cleveland Browns — were included as some of the least likely (but not impossible), but the one he thought made the most sense has been a common destination among sports media and sportsbooks alike.
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Barnwell Pitches Aaron Rodgers to Broncos
Broncos receive: QB Aaron Rodgers and CB Eric Stokes (No. 29 overall pick in 2020)
Packers receive: CB Patrick Surtain II (No. 9 overall pick in 2020), QB Drew Lock, WR Tim Patrick, 2022 first-round pick, 2023 first-round pick
Yes, you are reading that correctly. Barnwell proposes the Broncos pull out all the stops to land Rodgers and not only ship one of their cornerbacks to Green Bay but their new first-round rookie cornerback as well. Denver would still get a first-round talent to pair with veteran Kyle Fuller, while the Packers have the appeal of an immediate upgrade and playmaker opposite All-Pro Jaire Alexander. Here’s his argument:
“The Packers would essentially get a third first-round pick as part of this deal by adding Surtain, who was the No. 9 overall selection on Thursday. In return, they would send their own first-round cornerback in Stokes, but the difference between the ninth and 29th picks is pretty significant, amounting to something like the 25th in a typical year. If Surtain pans out, he would team with Jaire Alexander and form one of the best sets of cornerbacks in football. Surtain would also crucially be on a below-market deal for at least the next three years, which is critical for a Green Bay team in rough cap shape at the moment.”
Barnwell also noted how Lock would naturally plug in as Jordan Love’s backup on the 2021 roster; though, he might be underselling Lock’s ability to compete with Love. Either way, it gives the Packers a pair of young arms to set off into the brave unknown of a post-Rodgers world, increasing the chances they find someone who can take a roster build to win now and do some damage with it.
The least-convincing piece in Barnwell’s proposal is Patrick, who will become a free agent in 2022. Even if he performed well, the Packers will most likely be reluctant to re-sign him with Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling also heading into unrestricted free agency.
Broncos-Rodgers Connection Remains Strong
Rumors about a possible connection between the Denver Broncos and Rodgers have been swirling since hours after the draft-day bombshell dropped about his reported unhappiness in Green Bay. There were reports Denver was among Rodgers’ preferred trade destinations, including also San Francisco and Las Vegas.
Then came the report from ESPN’s Diana Russini on Tuesday in which she said the Broncos continue to come up as the team “most interested” and “put the most in front of the Green Bay Packers” to ensure a Rodgers trade can happen.
“The Denver Broncos continue to be the team I hear that are going to be the most interested [in Aaron Rodgers], and are going to put the most in front of the Green Bay Packers to try to make this trade go down.”
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) May 4, 2021
Barnwell’s trade proposal might still be too ridiculous even if the Broncos end up making a run at Rodgers, but it isn’t like a deal involving Rodgers wouldn’t be unprecedented at this point. No reigning NFL MVP has ever been traded the year after winning the award. Would the Broncos double down on the weirdness and swap their prized top-10 rookie cornerback for a deep-first-round replacement?
For a three-time MVP hungry to win a Super Bowl, the Broncos just might. We are talking about the team that aggressively pursued free-agent Peyton Manning in 2012, signed him to a five-year, $96 million contract and reached the Super Bowl twice in the next four years, winning in Manning’s last hurrah — and all the direction of current Broncos team president John Elway.