Everybody expected Davante Adams to receive a lucrative new deal this offseason. What we didn’t predict was that the massive contract would come from the Las Vegas Raiders instead of the Green Bay Packers. But that’s exactly what’s happening with a trade sending the All-Pro receiver to the AFC West and leaving plenty of questions about how Packers star quarterback Aaron Rodgers now feels about his situation.
Green Bay seemed to be one signing away from pulling off the best possible scenario — the pairing of Rodgers and Adams for the foreseeable future. Now the happiest person about this deal — outside of Adams and Las Vegas — is Pat McAfee, because his podcast is about to become a lot more interesting once Rodgers sits down for his next guest appearance.
As if the AFC West wasn’t already loaded enough after the initial wave of free-agent activity, the Adams deal makes things even more interesting. The Denver Broncos filled a gaping hole at quarterback by trading for Russell Wilson and then bolstered their pass rush by signing Randy Gregory. The Los Angeles Chargers built up their defense with the additions of edge rusher Khalil Mack and cornerback J.C. Jackson. The Raiders hadn’t been making much noise until they signed edge rusher Chandler Jones on Wednesday, but now they’ve hit the jackpot by trading for Adams and making him the highest-paid receiver in league history (five years, $141.25 million).
The Kansas City Chiefs have to be shaking their heads at all this action. They’ve won this division in each of the last six seasons, but salary cap constraints have kept them from making similar blockbuster moves. Oh, they still have superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes throwing the football to Pro Bowl wide receiver Tyreek Hill and Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce. What they no longer have is the ability to claim they’re undoubtedly the most talented team in the AFC West.
This isn’t just the best division in football anymore. It might be the best division I’ve ever seen, at least since the NFC East was filled with three teams that all won Super Bowls in the early 1990s (New York Giants, Washington and Dallas). So the west will most certainly be wild, and it’s been a while since that was the case.
The rest of the NFL will also feel the implications of Thursday’s blockbuster move. Adams obviously got everything he wanted, but here’s a look at some of the other winners and losers from the trade:
1) Raiders QB Derek Carr: The ninth-year veteran is following up the best season of his career with an offseason that surely has him beaming. Carr and Adams produced monster numbers as teammates at Fresno State. Now that same gifted wide receiver is joining a Raiders offense that features one of the game’s best tight ends (Darren Waller), a versatile running back (Josh Jacobs) and a slippery, sure-handed slot receiver (Hunter Renfrow). With Adams — a player who has produced at least 100 receptions, 1,300 yards and 11 touchdowns in three of the last four seasons — it’s easy to see the Raiders’ offense going from solid in 2021 to electric this coming fall.
2) Raiders HC Josh McDaniels: It already feels like McDaniels learned a valuable lesson from his first opportunity as a head coach with the Denver Broncos: Talent means a lot more than acting like a genius. In Denver, McDaniels got rid of quarterback Jay Cutler and wide receiver Brandon Marshall and drafted Tim Tebow in the first round. This time around, he’s letting general manager Dave Ziegler (who worked in the Patriots’ front office for the past nine season, when McDaniels was the team’s offensive coordinator) make the personnel moves and operating in a more collaborative manner. The results on paper look pretty good with that approach so far. McDaniels needed a dominant playmaker in this offense to take pressure off of Waller. Adams will be exactly that.
3) Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill: The star wideout had to be grinning when the Jacksonville Jaguars gave Christian Kirk a deal that averaged $18 million annually. He should have fainted when hearing the salary that will be going to Adams. It’s no secret that Hill has been waiting for his own massive payday, since he’s in the final year of his contract and had to accept a slightly unconventional extension in 2019, when he entered the final year of his rookie deal just as he was facing legal problems. Hill gave the first indication that he was going to be more aggressive in these negotiations last offseason, when he refused to restructure his contract to give the Chiefs more salary cap room. He’s surely going to want money close to what Adams just received, if not more. Hill, 28, is a year younger and one of the game’s elite playmakers.
4) Any promising free-agent wide receiver still looking for a home: There are still some big-name receivers on the market, including those who saw their contracts expire (JuJu Smith-Schuster, Odell Beckham Jr.) and those who were dumped by their former teams (Jarvis Landry, Julio Jones). It’s a safe bet that Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst is considering all those possibilities and countless others. Green Bay just lost its quarterback’s favorite target. The Packers also likely will be looking to use a first-round pick on a wide receiver, which is something the franchise hasn’t done since George W. Bush was in his first term as president. Rodgers didn’t become the league’s highest-paid player to end up with nobody to throw to.
1) Packers QB Aaron Rodgers: When this news first broke, my immediate reaction was that Rodgers must have been in the loop. Rodgers and Adams are tight, and they’ve been the most prolific passing tandem in the league over the past four seasons. If the quarterback were kept in the dark, I mused, then everybody in Green Bay needed to find somewhere to lay low. Remember how miffed Rodgers was when the team drafted his supposed replacement (Jordan Love) without giving him a heads-up two years ago? Imagine how he would’ve felt if he’d been blindsided by the departure of his buddy. With that in mind, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport’s reporting a short time after the initial bombshell made sense:
While Aaron Rodgers was negotating his contract, he knew Davante Adams would never play for the #Packers again. The situation was too far gone. Something had to give. And when Adams informed GB he wasn’t playing on the tag, talks got fired up. Now, Adams will be on the #Raiders. https://t.co/YTAxHov0Rj
Still, Rodgers is now heading into the season without a dominant receiver and with plenty of questions about how he’ll adjust to more unfamiliar targets.
2) Packers GM Brian Gutekunst: There’s a lot to be said for batting .500 if you end up keeping Rodgers in the fold. However, losing Adams is a major blow to this roster. He was the second-best player on a team that has won 13 games in three straight seasons, reaching a pair of NFC Championship Games in the process. Green Bay was aiming to finally return to the Super Bowl this coming season. Those hopes feel a lot weaker today. The upside is that Gutekunst scored a first-round (No. 22 overall) and second-round pick (No. 53) in return, and there’s more cap room down the road to improve this team. The key is that he has to turn those opportunities into assets. If that doesn’t happen, then his quarterback is going to get irritated real quick.
3) Chiefs GM Brett Veach: As happy as Hill has to be with this Adams news, the opposite should be said of Veach. He’s trying to keep his team contending for a championship in a loaded division that has gotten much stronger in a matter of days. That won’t be an easy task as he starts dealing with the obvious salary cap challenges associated with having a long run of success. The hot topic around Kansas City may be the negotiations Veach is having with left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., who received the franchise tag. The real serious question revolves around how Veach will handle Hill. The Chiefs already have paid huge contracts to several players in recent years (Mahomes, Kelce, LG Joe Thuney, DT Chris Jones and DE Frank Clark) and there’s only so much pie to go around. If they have to overpay to keep Brown, then the Hill negotiation could become even more difficult. It’s also possible that Veach could look at the two top-60 picks Green Bay just received for Adams and think that wouldn’t be a bad deal for his team if Hill’s demands become too ridiculous.
4) Every cornerback in the AFC West: It’s a good thing the Chargers have stocked up on cornerbacks (adding Jackson this offseason after drafting Asante Samuel Jr. last year) while the Broncos have a gifted young talent in Pat Surtain II. Those teams are going to need all the help they can get when dealing with a player as prolific as Adams. There aren’t many defenses that can handle him with double coverage, let alone one-on-one. And he’s joining a quarterback with whom he has a tremendous, pre-existing bond. The AFC West was already looking like a bloodbath this coming fall. The presence of Adams is going to create even more pain for the division’s defenses.
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