The 2021 NFL Draft is in the history books and the biggest event of the offseason served up the usual mix of drama, intrigue and headlines.
And the news was not all about the college players who heard their names called in Cleveland over the weekend. That is where this article begins…
All about Aaron
The reigning NFL Most Valuable Player Aaron Rodgers wants out. The rift between the superstar quarterback and Green Bay’s management overshadowed every other news angle to come out of draft weekend.
As the news trickled into our Sky Sports studio during our Draft Preview Show on Thursday night, it became more and more apparent that this is real and is not going away in the next two or three weeks. Rodgers may not have been traded over the weekend, but many close to the quarterback and the team suggest the chances of him playing at Lambeau Field in 2021 are slim. Things could not be rockier.
I don’t think this is purely a play for more money from Rodgers. I think he feels a complete disconnect from the team that has spent its last 10 first-round draft picks on nine defenders and a quarterback. And that selection of Jordan Love a year ago really got under the skin of the future Hall of Famer.
This is a monumental turn of events, but not all that stunning. Rodgers butted heads with previous head coach Mike McCarthy, he wanted a longer contractual commitment from the Packers and he was seriously upset about that draft selection of Love in 2020. All eyes are going to be on Green Bay in the coming weeks and months.
- LaFleur: I cannot comprehend Rodgers departure
- Rodgers reportedly tells Packers he wants out
Do Denver have a plan?
Throughout night one of the NFL Draft, further news broke that Rodgers had a destination ‘wish list’ of teams that included the San Francisco 49ers (who made a play for him before selecting Trey Lance third overall), the Denver Broncos and the Las Vegas Raiders.
And I have to wonder if Denver are putting together some sort of package for Rodgers that will become public knowledge in the coming weeks. If not, then I have to wonder what they were doing in the first round of the draft when they ignored the quarterback position and took Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II, adding to an already-strong secondary.
As the first eight picks fell a certain way, the Broncos had their shot at Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields and Alabama passer Mac Jones. Why would you ignore either of those guys when your alternatives are Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater? Is number 12 about to come into play for the Broncos?
AFC East will be feisty
The Buffalo Bills still lead the way in the AFC East, but the other three teams are busting a gut to compete with them in 2021. And this could be one of the most competitive divisions in all of football this season.
The Miami Dolphins had a very strong draft with a great many pundits suggesting their first four picks – Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, Miami defensive end Jaelan Phillips, Oregon defensive back Jevon Holland and Notre Dame tackle Liam Eichenberg could all have been first-rounders. Waddle can be Miami’s Tyreek Hill while Phillips would have been one of the very top defenders in the class but for some injury concerns.
The New York Jets grabbed who they hope will be their franchise quarterback in Zach Wilson and immediately helped him out with the selections of USC guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, Ole Miss receiver Elijah Moore and North Carolina running back Michael Carter.
After a free agency signing period of record proportions, New England also rolled the dice on their franchise quarterback in the aforementioned Jones out of Alabama. The AFC East is now a young quarterback’s division. Josh Allen is entering year four in Buffalo, Tua Tagovailoa is embarking on a second season and a big ‘prove it’ year in Miami and the other two are rookies. It should be fun to see who emerges on top in a division that could easily send three teams to the playoffs in 2021.
Gettleman does some good business
New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman is renowned for not trading back in drafts, for fear of “getting fleeced”. Well, he traded back in round one this year, moving his Giants down from the number 11 spot to 20. And it worked out pretty well, it has to be said.
In dealing with the Chicago Bears to allow Matt Nagy’s men to take Fields, Gettleman picked up an additional first-round pick in 2022 – a draft that scouts and general managers will feel a lot more comfortable about given the more extensive and open evaluation process we can all hope for next year.
Having signed Kenny Golladay in free agency, the Giants wanted another big-time receiver to help out young quarterback Daniel Jones. When the Philadelphia Eagles leap-frogged them in a trade with Dallas and took Devonta Smith, Gettleman went to work and moved down the board.
But even moving down in the draft, the Giants picked up an explosive playmaker and a matchup nightmare of a wide receiver in Kadarius Toney, out of Florida. Then, in the second round, Gettleman added an explosive edge rusher who was expected to go in the first in Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari. That was a pretty good one-two punch.
What will happen to Watson?
As we move towards offseason workouts, mini camps and training camps, the number one story around the league will be the future of Rodgers. But what is going to happen with Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans?
First of all, the question of Watson’s legal status must be answered as he faces allegations from more than 20 women on sexual misconduct and assault claims. Will he be punished in the courts? Will he receive a ban from the NFL and, if yes, for how long? All these questions muddy the waters when trying to predict Watson’s future.
All I’m saying here is that his will once again become one of the biggest stories of the offseason before training camps kick off in July. Houston seem to be preparing for life without Watson as they signed Tyrod Taylor in free agency and added Stanford quarterback Davis Mills with their first pick in this draft (in round three).
Eight teams were reportedly interested in Watson before his legal issues. Some of those have resolved their quarterback spot now as the Jets, 49ers, Bears and Patriots (all were reportedly keen on Watson) took passers in round one.
If Watson clears up his legal issues and emerges the other side with a ban anywhere between four and eight weeks, keep an eye on teams like Miami and Washington. They may yet make one of the biggest moves of this offseason and trade for the embattled signal-caller.
Watch this space and, as is always the case in the NFL, be prepared to expect the unexpected.
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