It's been a busy week across the NFL. Over the past few days, there have been high-profile signings; the trading of the first overall pick in the NFL Draft from the Chicago Bears to the Carolina Panthers; significant player trades and plenty of Aaron Rodgers news, even though he has yet to officially join the New York Jets. And let's start there with my five takeaways from the past week.
And now, the end is near…
Aaron Rodgers is done with the Green Bay Packers and they are done with him. So, his revenge tour will begin in New York as soon as the Jets can work out a deal with the Packers to seal the trade. Rodgers spent 18 seasons in Green Bay and, as he said on Wednesday's Pat McAfee Show: "Nobody has bled green and gold like me." He is hurting about the fact the Packers want to move on to Jordan Love, even though Rodgers said that had Green Bay wanted him back, he was 90 percent leaning towards retirement.
It's a confusing and emotional situation, that's for sure. Rodgers stated that his intention is to play for the Jets, but Green Bay are "digging their heels in." This deal will get done, but it's currently a game of chicken to see who blinks first between the Jets and the Packers. There is pressure on the Jets because they cannot afford to let down an excited fan base and the Packers are also feeling the heat because the last thing they need is Rodgers rocking up at training camp with his $50 million wages in tow.
The writing has been on the wall regarding a Rodgers move to the Jets. New York have signed wide receiver Allen Lazard – Green Bay's leading receiver in 2022 – and are reportedly kicking the tyres on a couple of Rodgers' guys in wide receiver Randall Cobb and tight end Marcedes Lewis. There are also reports that Rodgers had a list of demands that included the aforementioned players and Odell Beckham Jr.
Rodgers dismissed those reports as "ridiculous" and "stupid." He did admit that the Jets asked him about certain guys but that is totally normal. Tom Brady got Gronk and Antonio Brown to Tampa and they won a Super Bowl together. Other passers have exercised such power over the years. So, if Rodgers does have a say in who is on the receiving end of his passes, that is a reasonable thing; in my opinion.
Final point on this drama. Once everything settles down and Rodgers becomes a member of the Jets, I think he instantly makes them a playoff contender in the AFC. This team had just about everything last season, minus a reliable quarterback. Even at the age of 39, Rodgers can be that and much more in 2023.
Bears ready to roar
The Chicago Bears – and general manager Ryan Poles, in particular – have been very busy indeed. The trading of the first overall pick in the 2023 draft netted Carolina's first picks in 2023 and 2024, second round picks in 2023 and 2025; and 1,000-yard receiver D.J. Moore. That's an impressive haul with which to begin rebuilding a roster that produced just three wins in 2022.
The rebuild began this week as the Bears – flush with salary cap room and cash to spend – bolstered their defense by signing linebackers T.J. Edwards and Tremaine Edmunds, as well as edge rusher DeMarcus Walker. Edwards led Philadelphia with 159 tackles in 2022, while Edmunds went over 100 stops for Buffalo and has a whopping 565 tackles in five NFL seasons. Both will upgrade a run defense that ranked 31st in the NFL last term, allowing 157 rushing yards per game. The Bears also conceded a league-high 31 rushing touchdowns. Walker is a nice addition who recorded seven sacks for Tennessee last season.
The Bears also added much-needed offensive line help in the form of Titans guard Nate Davis and are probably not done yet in free agency. Then they can turn their attention to the NFL Draft and continue to put top-level talent around promising and exciting quarterback Justin Fields. The future is already looking much brighter in the Windy City.
Keeping Howie busy
The Philadelphia Eagles were always going to be vulnerable to player defections as they entered free agency with a laundry list of out-of-contract stars up for grabs. I feel like general manager Howie Roseman has been working flat out to keep what could have been a sinking ship afloat.
And I think he has done a tremendous job. The Eagles lost starting linebackers in the aforementioned Edwards and Kyzir White (Arizona); and the defection of defensive tackle Javon Hargrave to the San Francisco 49ers must have hurt. Miles Sanders – Philly's first 1,000-yard rusher since 2014 – has joined Carolina.
But Roseman has been working tirelessly to mitigate the damage. He has kept the team's core players together by re-signing center Jason Kelce, defensive linemen Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox, running back Boston Scott and defensive backs James Bradberry and Darius Slay (this deal is still to be concluded but the cornerback has spoken on social media to say he is returning to Philly).
The Eagles added an intriguing running back in Rashaad Penny, who was dynamic in Seattle when healthy. Injuries have been a concern, but I would love to see what he can do in Philadelphia. This could have been a disastrous few days for the Eagles, but they still have a very good team and they still have Jalen Hurts at quarterback. They're not going anywhere in 2023.
Panthers ready to prowl?
Carolina are clearly making aggressive moves to get better in 2023, giving new head coach Frank Reich his pick of the college quarterback class by climbing to first overall in the annual selection process at the end of April.
And there have been some promising moves in free agency that suggest this Panthers team – which was not far away in 2022 – can take an up-for-grabs division in 2023. Andy Dalton is a smart veteran addition at quarterback, the aforementioned Sanders should team nicely in the backfield with Chuba Hubbard and Hayden Hurst is a solid tight end option who resurrected his career in Cincinnati.
Given that the first pick is going to be spent on a quarterback in April and the second selection has also gone to the Bears, I do wonder how the Panthers are going to fare at receiver. The leading wide receiver left on their roster right now is Terrace Marshall and he caught 28 passes for 490 yards and one touchdown in 2023.
Rome wasn't built in a day, so it could be that the Panthers have to properly address the wide receiver position a year from now, in preparation for the 2024 campaign. That is an acceptable by-product of getting the long-term franchise quarterback in the building. That has long been the priority and is something that will be achieved in the coming weeks.
Cornerback Stephon Gilmore was traded from Indianapolis to Dallas, tight end Darren Waller went from Las Vegas to the New York Giants but the trade that really caught my attention in recent days was the one that saw the Miami Dolphins steal All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey away from the Los Angeles Rams.
The Dolphins swooped to take advantage of the financial woes of the Rams. Los Angeles went all in to win the Super Bowl at the end of the 2021 season and that was mission accomplished for head coach Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead. But now they are paying the price for that aggressive approach and could have some lean years coming their way. I actually think most NFL fans would take a few down years if it meant their team got to the top of the mountain and won it all, so there is no criticism from me towards the Rams.
But they simply couldn't afford to keep the 28-year-old superstar – and his wage demands – on the roster. So, Miami offered just a third-round draft pick and tight end Hunter Long, who has just one career catch in the NFL to his name. Talk about daylight robbery! The Dolphins are now adopting the Rams' approach and have given up draft picks in recent years to acquire the likes of Tyreek Hill, Bradley Chubb and now Ramsey.
As for the Rams, I'm not sure they are done trading their stars. Could they attempt to move quarterback Matthew Stafford at the age of 35? How about superstar defensive lineman Aaron Donald before he finally follows through on his retirement threat and the Rams lose him for no return?
Stay tuned for that and many more intriguing moves in the coming days. The offseason building of rosters for the 2023 season is far from concluded