The final contract that Tom Brady signed in New England in August 2019 contained a clever provision that prevented the Patriots from imposing a franchise or transition tag on him to ensure Brady was after the season as he wished becomes a free agent of the season.
In this booming era for quarterbacks in the NFL, even the average player is getting $ 10 million, not to mention stars like Brady, who were guaranteed $ 22 million on this deal. Five quarterbacks were awarded in the first round of draft Thursday evening – including the top three spots – as the teams fervently aimed to build personality and production at the most important position in American professional sport.
Yet, as Aaron Rodgers finds out, quarterbacks have little power, as this is the NFL, not the NBA, where the best players armed with guaranteed contracts can win financial concerns as a priority. In the NFL, players who want to switch teams are at the mercy of their contract structures and have little or no control over their careers.
No matter how disappointed Brady became in New England – with the lack of talent, with his diminishing power to influence personnel decisions – he did not publicly express his grievances. Brady finished with the Patriots in two decades and six titles and didn’t pout. He just left. His contract allowed him to do so.
And in Tampa Bay, where Brady signed ahead of the 2020 season, he found a better squad, a front office that valued his opinion, and in the end a confirming championship.
Among the few to see Brady’s seventh Super Bowl win in person was the Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson, who has become the NFL’s most sacked quarterback in his first nine seasons since the league’s merger with the AFL more than half a century ago is. Wilson must have noticed that Brady, 43, was shredding Kansas City’s high school out of a clean bag.
Seven days after the game, Wilson told the news media that he wanted a bigger voice on Seattle hiring decisions. His agent also let it be known that there were four teams Wilson wanted to trade with – without actually asking for a deal.
This week, reports of Aaron Rodger’s dissatisfaction with management exploded in the hectic hours leading up to the draft. His veiled refusal to return to play for Green Bay was put down just hours after reports surfaced. The team’s general manager, Brian Gutekunst, stated that Rodgers would not be traded. Rodgers and the Packers lost to Brady and the Buccaneers in the NFC title game in January.
That news of Rodgers’ dissatisfaction broke when it pointed to a calculated disruption from one of the league’s most calculating disruptors, an attempt by the quarterback camp to embarrass the Packers, as they embarrassed him that night last year had. At this point, they traded to draft a quarterback, Jordan Love, without telling Rodgers who would have four years left on his contract.
In either case, the Packers’ clunky handling of the situation and long-term strategy had an impact on Rodgers. He craved revenge and had the best season of his career.
Rodgers tends to choose his words with the precision of a safe cracker, and he has scattered cryptic clues about his feelings in various interviews. Acknowledging his weak relationship with the team a few days before losing the conference title game, he called his future “a beautiful secret”.
And that was before Packer’s coach Matt LaFleur made the confusing decision to attempt a close field goal while falling 8 points late in the game instead of trusting Rodgers to make a decisive touchdown.
Both Rodgers and Wilson have publicly raised the possibility of divorce from their teams, sending implicit threats, “Make me happy or I’ll see you”. But neither Green Bay nor Seattle are encouraged to do anything other than listen to their quarterback’s grips and try to improve the overall quality of the roster.
Rodgers, 37, is contracted to the Packers until 2023. His only options following this draft daily report are toothless: he can skip the mandatory minicamp in June or the training camp in July and be absent at the start of the season. But if Rodgers perseveres or even retires, there will be fines and he may even lose some bonus money that he still owes. Rumor has it that it is “Danger!” is looking for a full-time host.
Given the tastier salary caps Green Bay would face if Rodgers bargained for it next year – $ 17.2 million, according to Over the Cap’s Jason Fitzgerald – the Packers are far more likely than they are Love drafted, Rodgers wanted to split up before the 2022 season. Rodgers has reportedly turned down an extension.
“It’s about pride, it’s personal, and there’s money,” said longtime NFL executive Randy Mueller, who served as general manager in Miami and New Orleans. “You are talking about three ingredients that are like kerosene.”
Before Deshaun Watson’s sexual misconduct allegations surfaced in legal proceedings, the Texans quarterback was similarly disappointed with his team. Furious at Houston’s front office dysfunction and squad mismanagement, and after a 2020 season in which he led the league on the fly, Watson insisted he would never play for Houston again.
Watson had negotiated a no-trade clause for the four-year extension he signed in September 2020, which gave him influence over where he would play next, but the Texans had influence too: they signed Tyrod Taylor in March and put up poses a scenario where the team could put Watson on hold for the entire 2021 season, maybe longer, and impose millions of dollars on him for lost time.
Not so long ago, Brady and Rodgers had each envisioned spending their entire careers in one place and playing with the team that designed it into the 1940s. But circumstances have changed. The packers designed love; Bill Belichick – the Patriots’ coach, general manager, and jury – stared at his quarterback. So Brady moved south to win with a team that valued his contribution.
“Everyone wants to be Brady,” said Marc Ross, a longtime HR director for the Giants and the Eagles. “To try to compare what he’s doing and what he’s achieved and what maneuvers he can do, he’s just unique.”
Like the Texans, the Packers had already solved one of the biggest problems in team building in professional sport. When the NFL’s most valuable asset is a star quarterback, finding one is the toughest job – and the team owners didn’t get as rich as they did by always treating goods like people.