Maybe the Green Bay Packers got too caught up in history.
During the 2005 NFL draft, exactly 15 years before Thursday night’s first round, the Packers struck gold with Aaron Rodgers at pick No. 24. They had Brett Favre. They took Rodgers anyway. It worked out.
On Thursday night, the Packers made the most controversial pick of the draft, trading up to draft Utah State quarterback Jordan Love. On Friday night, their first pick was Boston College running back AJ Dillon, another odd pick. Dillon is a good player, but the Packers have Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. The third-round pick was Cincinnati tight end Josiah Deguara, which was considered a major reach.
They need pass catchers. Badly. And with their first two picks, in a deep draft for receivers, the Packers got a long-term project at quarterback and a running back who won’t start right away. The third pick was a questionable tight end selection. That’s not getting Rodgers any closer to a Super Bowl.
Love will be debated for a long time. He probably won’t help until 2022, at best. And unlike Favre in 2005, Rodgers hasn’t given any indication he might retire soon.
Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst needs this pick to work out or he’ll never hear the end of it. It will be considered a huge mistake unless Rodgers wins another Super Bowl anyway, or if Love turns out to be as good as Gutekunst thinks he can be. You can blow a pick on a linebacker and nobody remembers. That’s not the case here.
The problem isn’t necessarily picking a quarterback when you still have one. It’s that the timing doesn’t work great with the Packers’ move.
It will be very hard for the Packers to get out of Rodgers’ deal before 2022. They’d have a $31.6 million dead cap hit in 2021 if he’s cut or traded before June 1 and a pair of $14.4 million hits in 2021 and 2022 if it happens after June 1, according to OverTheCap.com.
Unless the Packers want to blow away the NFL record for a dead cap charge — right now it’s Brandin Cooks’ $21.1 million for the Rams this year, $10 million less than that potential 2021 Rodgers cap hit — then they have Rodgers for at least two more years. Even if they wait until 2022 to part ways, the dead cap hit will still be $17.2 million. That’s not ideal.
In other words, the Packers just traded up for a quarterback who, in any realistic scenario, won’t start for two years and maybe not for three. It’s smart to not wait too long to think about a quarterback replacement, but that’s not a good allocation of resources.
The notion that the pick was made to motivate Rodgers is ludicrous. Rodgers doesn’t need motivation coming off an NFC championship game appearance. He needs competent receivers other than Davante Adams. Things move too fast in the NFL to worry much about what might happen in 2023.
“I know a lot of people will look at this as not a move for the immediate, and I understand that, but the balance of the immediate and the long-term is something that I have to consider and that’s why we did it,” Gutekunst said, according to The Athletic. “… Obviously, if there was a game-changer-type player at another position, we would have seriously considered that. We didn’t feel that there was, so we picked Jordan and were really happy to do it. I think you can make mistakes thinking you’re one player away from anything.”
Here’s a realistic timeline for Love: He sits for two years and the Packers move on from Rodgers. Love then gets one year to prove he’s the quarterback of the future before a decision has to be made on his fifth-year option. That happens after a first-round pick’s third season. The Packers won’t get much benefit of a quarterback on his rookie deal, like Russell Wilson with the Seattle Seahawks, Jared Goff with the Los Angeles Rams or Dak Prescott with the Dallas Cowboys. They also won’t have a long time to make important decisions on Love.
The last time the Packers made the Super Bowl was the 2010 season. They probably should have made it at least once more with Rodgers. The chances of Rodgers going to another Super Bowl took a pretty big hit when the Packers decided against getting him much help in this year’s draft.
Here are the rest of the winners and losers from the second day of the NFL draft:
Winners? Philip Rivers and Drew Lock get some help
Frank Reich and Philip Rivers: Reich, the offensive-focused head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, and his new quarterback Rivers won’t lack for talent to work with.
The Colts ended up getting a new running back and receiver early in the second round. With the second pick of the second round, they took big USC receiver Michael Pittman Jr., a master at gaining yards after the catch. Then at No. 41, the Colts traded up for Jonathan Taylor, an extremely productive running back from Wisconsin.
The Colts already had a stellar offensive line and T.Y. Hilton as a good No. 1 receiver. Between Rivers, Pittman and Taylor, they’ve added a lot more punch this offseason.
Drew Lock: Lock had a lot of momentum going into the offseason. He has much more now.
The Denver Broncos quarterback finished his rookie season with some strong performances. Denver committed to him as their quarterback for at least 2020. Then they got him help. Denver added guard Graham Glasgow and running back Melvin Gordon in free agency. Then they doubled up at receiver in the first two rounds of the draft, with Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy in the first round and speedy slot receiver KJ Hamler in the second round. LSU center Lloyd Cushenberry, Denver’s third-round pick, could contribute right away, too.
When Lock looks around, he’ll have Courtland Sutton, Jeudy and Hamler at receiver, 2019 first-round pick Noah Fant at tight end and Gordon or Phillip Lindsay to hand off to. There will also be an improved offensive line in front of him. He’s in a great position to succeed.
Arizona Cardinals: For only having two picks in the first three rounds, the Cardinals did very well for themselves.
They needed an offensive tackle, but Clemson do-everything defender Isaiah Simmons was too good to pass at No. 8. It was a great value pick. Then the Cardinals looked up in the third round and saw Houston offensive tackle Josh Jones, projected by some as a late first-round pick, on the board. Easy pick.
Considering the Cardinals used their second-round pick in the DeAndre Hopkins heist, it’s arguable nobody helped themselves out more through the first three rounds of the draft than Arizona.
Losers include all the Bears’ tight ends and Jalen Hurts
But Hurts is going to a really weird situation. Philadelphia Eagles fans aren’t going to be thrilled the team used a second-round pick on Hurts when they already had Carson Wentz. Hurts might never start for the Eagles. In the most likely scenario, Hurts is a gadget player who backs up Wentz for a few years. Wentz would have to get hurt or struggle mightily for Hurts to get a chance to start before his rookie contract is up.
So Hurts begins his career as an unpopular pick, with his path to starting blocked by one of the better young quarterbacks in the game. He could have landed in a much better spot to start his career.
Yet another Bears swing at tight end: Ryan Pace will be somewhere 30 years from now, trying to acquire another tight end for the Chicago Bears.
How much capital can one team put into a position? The Bears keep taking shots at tight end. The latest try was using their first pick early in the second round on Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet. He’ll go with free-agent addition Jimmy Graham.
The Bears have missed on free-agent signings like Trey Burton and high picks like Adam Shaheen. The Bears had nine tight ends listed on their roster before picking Kmet.
The Bears needed help. They didn’t have a tight end reach 100 yards last season and all their tight ends combined for just 395 yards. Maybe the Bears will finally get one right and can stop pouring money and picks into tight end.
The sad houses of Jacob Eason and Jake Fromm: By the time the second day of the draft was creeping up toward midnight on the East Coast, the saddest scenes were at the houses of Eason and Fromm, two quarterbacks who were considered possible Day 2 picks.
After Hurts went in the second round, there were a lot of picks made and no quarterbacks off the board. ESPN would occasionally show the in-house camera shots of Fromm and Eason surrounded by family, looking tired, bored and probably frustrated.
With each pick that passes in a draft, a quarterback’s chances to get a real chance drops substantially. Draft pedigree matters more at quarterback than any other position. It’s not good news for either quarterback to fall to day three, though they’ll hope to land in a good spot for their development.
But it was a disappointing drop for both of them. And it probably didn’t help that it was being shown on TV.
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