- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 8, 2022

The quarterback market changed in just a matter of hours Tuesday. First, Aaron Rodgers put an end to a yearlong, will-he-or-won’t-he saga and committed to staying with the Green Bay Packers rather than demand out or retire. Then, in a shocking blockbuster trade, the Seattle Seahawks sent Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos.

When the dominoes started to fall, they fell fast. 

Rodgers and Wilson were the top two most enticing options for teams that desperately need a new quarterback this offseason. And now, they’re officially off the market — leaving those still in the hunt likely to be forced to settle for a disappointing consolation prize. 

Perhaps no team epitomizes that disappointment more than the Washington Commanders, whose coach has repeatedly signaled that the team would be “aggressive” to find a quarterback over the next few months. That plan included Wilson. A source with knowledge of the situation confirmed the Burgundy and Gold made a “strong offer” for the quarterback, only to be rejected.

And on Tuesday, more details about that offer emerged: A source said the Commanders offered high picks across the next three drafts — including multiple first rounders. But the Seahawks, the source said, preferred to send Wilson out of the NFC. 

Instead, the Seahawks traded Wilson and a fourth-rounder to Denver for two firsts, two seconds, one fifth, quarterback Drew Lock, defensive tackle Shelby Harris and tight end Noah Fant. The deal came after public denials from Wilson and the Seahawks that a trade was possible.

The Packers, meanwhile, also had to pay up to keep Rodgers: Reports indicated the four-time MVP and the team were nearing a four-year extension that would raise his salary north of $50 million per year.

“Hey everyone, just wanted to clear some things up; YES I will be playing with the @packers next year,” Rodgers tweeted Tuesday, “however, reports about me signing a contract are inaccurate, as are the supposed terms of the contract I ‘signed’. I’m very excited to be back #year18.”

Tuesday’s developments further highlighted the difficulties in actually acquiring a top-shelf quarterback. Even if the Seahawks had been willing to trade Wilson within the conference, the quarterback still ultimately held the choice over his destination as his contract contained a no-trade clause. And with that in place, Wilson reportedly preferred Denver over other teams because of the Broncos’ assortment of young playmakers and talent on defense.

Circumstances likely dictated Rodgers’ decision, as well. As much tension as there was between Rodgers and the franchise over the last year — Rodgers wanted a bigger voice in team decisions — the Packers provided an excellent supporting cast, including arguably the best receiver in football with Davante Adams. The Packers also gave Adams the franchise tag Tuesday, ensuring the All-Pro would be in Green Bay next season to play with Rodgers.

Realistically, the Commanders — despite their progress under Rivera in reshaping the roster — couldn’t compete.  Missing out on Wilson means this is now the second-straight season in which the Commanders pursued a top quarterback and failed. Last year, the team chased Matthew Stafford before Detroit shipped him to the Los Angeles Rams. 

Other teams in the search for a new quarterback include the Carolina Panthers, Pittsburgh Steelers, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Indianapolis Colts and ironically, the Seahawks. Lock, a 2019 second-rounder, may still have upside, but his presence likely won’t prevent Seattle’s brass from trying to land an upgrade. 

That’s at least seven teams on the prowl. The number of appealing options? Fewer than that.  

San Francisco’s Jimmy Garoppolo will now be seen as the top trade chip unless Las Vegas (Derek Carr), Atlanta (Matt Ryan) or Minnesota (Kirk Cousins) reevaluate their situations in light of what Seattle received from Denver.  In free agency, there are retreads like Mitchell Trubisky, Marcus Mariota, Teddy Bridgewater and Jameis Winston. But none of them inspire confidence. 

This year’s draft class has received mixed reviews, but a number of quarterbacks seemed to slightly boost their stock over the past week at the NFL scouting combine. Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett is thought to be the most ready-now option, while Liberty’s Malik Willis is regarded as having the most upside. 

The only other potential superstar on the market is Houston’s Deshaun Watson, a three-time Pro Bowler who led the league in passing yards in 2020. But Watson did not play this past season after 22 women filed civil suits against him alleging sexual misconduct — with 10 of them filing criminal complaints.  Several women will appear Friday to give testimony in front of a grand jury, Waton’s lawyer told The New York Times on Tuesday.

Still, teams are reportedly interested in Watson — including the Commanders, according to Pro Football Network. It’s fair to wonder if that would really pan out: A team with a widespread sexual misconduct scandal trading for a player widely accused of sexual misconduct. 

Trading for Wilson would have been much easier to digest. That’s why the Broncos were happy to do it. 

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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