Aaron Rodgers isn’t leaving Green Bay, at least not this year. And Russell Wilson likely isn’t leaving Seattle, either.
But both quarterbacks still could have a major impact on an offseason that’s shaping up as a significant moment in defining the boundaries of a quarterback’s power.
It’s the most important on-field role in professional sports, with the quarterback affecting every aspect of a franchise’s efforts to win. As such, quarterbacks have long enjoyed more leverage than the vast majority of their peers.
A few years ago, Kirk Cousins used that leverage to secure the first fully guaranteed contract in modern NFL history. The bar’s been moving forward ever since, with players at all positions pushing for more guaranteed money in negotiations.
This offseason is unlikely to move the needle to such a widespread degree, but it will be very interesting to watch how the next few months unfold.
Deshaun Watson reportedly isn’t returning the Houston Texans’ phone calls and wants to be traded to a new home. The Texans are steadfastly against a move and have told all callers the quarterback is not on the trading block.
This situation could have huge ramifications for the offseason market with some teams waiting to see if Houston will budge. Franchises that otherwise might sit out the annual game of quarterback musical chairs will be tempted to jump in on Watson, and the return for the Texans could be unprecedented.
But that particular scenario is unlikely to have a long-time, far-reaching effect. It’s a unique situation with a healthy 25-year-old widely considered to be among the best five quarterbacks in the league, and it’s unlikely to be replicated anytime soon.
The situations with Rodgers and Wilson, however, could set precedents with much wider impact.
Rodgers essentially wants the Green Bay Packers to show him the same sort of all-in commitment the Tampa Bay Buccaneers employed en route to winning Super Bowl 55. The Bucs didn’t just sign Tom Brady to a two-year, $50 million contact – itself an aggressive move that changed the fate of a franchise that hadn’t made the playoffs in 13 years. They also coerced tight end Rob Gronkowski out of retirement, signed controversial wide receiver Antonio Brown and took a chance on running back Leonard Fournette – who had been unceremoniously dumped by the Jacksonville Jaguars. All three of those players scored a touchdown in the Super Bowl upset victory against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Brady’s presence also helped to convince defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to return for another season and is likely to pay even more benefits this offseason as Tampa attempts to keep as much of the championship roster together as possible.
Green Bay’s big offseason move last year was trading up in the first round to draft Rodgers’ ostensible replacement, Utah State quarterback Jordan Love. It’s not hard to understand how Rodgers might have been a little miffed looking across the field during the Packers’ NFC Championship Game loss to the Bucs.
He hinted in a now infamous postgame interview perhaps his future in Green Bay was not secure. It didn’t take long for the Packers’ brass to answer with emphatic responses about the importance of Rodgers to the franchise’s future.
But will they show him the .. well .. love this offseason and aggressively look to add pieces to compete for a Super Bowl title? It won’t be easy with a flat salary cap and a lot of bills coming due, but it might be the cost of keeping the franchise icon happy.
Wilson’s goal with the Seattle Seahawks is reportedly less ambitious. He’d just like to see the team invest in the offensive line a little more aggressively and do a better job of keeping him upright. On the surface, it’s a pretty simple ask the team should quickly agree to.
But the fact Wilson made his frustration known through a nationally broadcast interview on the Dan Patrick Show ruffled a few feathers. There’s been an odd undercurrent between Wilson and the Seahawks for years, and the most recent flareup only served to expedite this year’s version of the annual whispers about the franchise possibly moving on from the uber talented star. Just like every other year, those whispers likely will amount to nothing.
But will Wilson get what he wants? Will Seattle pay to bring in a high-priced free agent or select an offensive lineman early in April’s draft? And, if not, how far is he willing to push the issue?
The league will be watching the Texans, Packers and Seahawks closely over the next few months. How these situations are handled will help set the guardrails moving forward.
Quarterbacks are using their voices more powerfully than ever before, but will franchises listen?
And, if they don’t, what will the long-term costs be?