The final contract Tom Brady signed in New England in August 2019 contained a clever provision that prevented the Patriots from awarding him a franchise or transition tag, ensuring that, as he wished, Brady would become a free agent afterwards. the season.
In this booming era for NFL quarterbacks, even average players are paid tens of millions of dollars, not to mention stars like Brady, who got $ 22 million guaranteed in that deal. Five quarters were won in the first round of the draft Thursday night – including the top three – as the teams fervently sought to build around personality and production at the most important position in American professional sport.
Yet, as Aaron Rodgers finds out, quarterbacks have little power, as it’s the NFL, not the NBA, where the best players, armed with guaranteed contracts, can prioritize winning over financial concerns. In the NFL, players who want to change teams are at the mercy of their contractual structures and have barely a minimum of control over their careers.
Disillusioned that Brady has become in New England – with the lack of reception talent, with his diminishing power to influence staff decisions – he has not expressed his grievances publicly. Finished with the Patriots after two decades and six titles, Brady hasn’t pouted. He just left. His contract allowed him to do so.
And in Tampa Bay, where Brady signed before the 2020 season, he found a better roster, a front office that valued his opinion and, in the end, a justifying championship.
Among the few who have seen Brady’s seventh Super Bowl win in person is Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson, who became the NFL’s most sacked quarterback in his first nine seasons since the merger. of the league with the AFL more than half a century ago. Wilson must have noted that 43-year-old Brady had shredded Kansas City high school in a clean pocket.
Seven days after the game, Wilson told media he wanted a greater voice in Seattle staff decisions. His agent also made it known that there were four teams Wilson would agree to be traded – without actually, you know, demanding a trade.
This week, reports of Aaron Rodgers’ dissatisfaction with management exploded in the frantic hours leading up to the project. His veiled refusal to play for Green Bay again was crushed just hours after reports surfaced. Team general manager Brian Gutekunst has admitted Rodgers will not be traded. It should be noted that Rodgers and the Packers lost to Brady and the Buccaneers in the NFC title game in January.
That news of Rodgers’ discontent broke as it suggested a disturbance calculated by one of the league’s most calculating disruptors, an attempt by the quarterback’s camp to embarrass the Packers just as they embarrassed him in last year’s draft. That’s when they traded to draft quarterback Jordan Love without communicating their intentions to Rodgers, who was four years on his contract at the time.
Either way, the Packers’ awkward handling of the situation and the long-term draft strategy upset Rodgers. Wanting revenge, he had the best season of his career.
Rodgers tends to choose his words with vaulted precision, and he’s spread cryptic clues about his feelings in various interviews. Namely, he acknowledged his tenuous relationship with the team days before losing the conference title game, calling his future a “beautiful mystery.”
And that was before Packers coach Matt LaFleur made the disconcerting decision to attempt a close field goal, while dropping 8 points late in the game, instead of trusting Rodgers to throw a tied touchdown.
Rodgers and Wilson have publicly addressed the possibility of divorce from their teams, sending implicit “do me a favor or I will ask” threats. But neither Green Bay nor Seattle have any incentive to do anything other than listen to their quarterback’s reproaches and try to improve the overall quality of the roster.
Rodgers, 37, is contractually linked to the Packers until 2023. His only options following that draft-day report are toothless: he can skip the mandatory minicamp in June or training camp in July, and he may remain absent once the season has started. . But by withholding or even retiring, Rodgers would rack up fines and even, perhaps, lose some of the bonus money still owed to him. Rumor has it “Jeopardy!” is looking for a full time host.
Considering the more palatable salary cap fees Green Bay would incur if it traded Rodgers next year – $ 17.2 million, according to Jason Fitzgerald of the Over the Cap website – it’s much more likely that the Packers, when ‘they drafted Love, were considering going their separate ways. Rodgers before the 2022 season. Rodgers have reportedly refused an extension.
“There’s pride, it’s personal and there’s money,” said longtime NFL executive Randy Mueller, who has served as general manager in Miami and Nova Scotia. Orleans. “You are talking about three ingredients that are like kerosene.”
Before Deshaun Watson’s sexual misconduct allegations surfaced in lawsuits, the Texans quarterback harbored a similar disenchantment with his team. Infuriated by front office dysfunction and roster mismanagement, and after a 2020 season in which he led the league in passing yards, Watson insisted he would never play for Houston.
Watson had a no-trade clause negotiated in the four-year extension he signed in September 2020, giving him the choice of where he would play next, but the Texans also had leverage: They got signed Tyrod Taylor in March, setting up a scenario in which the team could let Watson be out of the 2021 season, possibly longer, while fining him millions of dollars for missed time.
At one point not long ago, Brady and Rodgers each considered spending their entire careers in one place, playing in their forties with the team that drafted him. But the circumstances have changed. The Packers wrote Love; Bill Belichick – the Patriots coach, general manager and jury – looked his quarterback down. Brady therefore moved south to win with a team that valued his contribution.
“Everyone wants to be Brady,” said Marc Ross, a longtime personnel officer with the Giants and Eagles. “To try to compare what he’s doing and the things he’s done and the maneuvers he can do, he’s really one of a kind.
The Packers, like the Texans, had already solved one of the biggest team building puzzles in professional sports. If the NFL’s most valuable commodity is a star quarterback, the hardest job is finding one – and team owners couldn’t be as rich as they are always dealing products like people.