New England Patriots

New England Patriots

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 9: Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks scrambles under pressure in the fourth quarter of a game against the Denver Broncos at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on September 9, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

The NFL is really a 365-day business, a fact which has been on display over the past 24 hours. Tuesday afternoon, the news cycle went into overdrive hitting fans with quite the one-two punch of reports on two of the game’s elite quarterbacks.

First, FanDuel’s Pat McAfee shared that Aaron Rodgers will indeed be returning to the Packers in 2022, and with NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport adding the details of the extension at four-years, $200 million. The end to what’s been over a year-long “will they, won’t they” saga between Rodgers and the Packers would be the dominating headline most days in the NFL, but Mar. 8, 2022 turned out to not be most days.

About an hour after the Rodgers news broke, ESPN’s Adam Shefter was the first to report that the Seattle Seahawks have traded nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos. Like Rodgers, trade rumors had swirled around Wilson for over a year.

As is the case when any franchise quarterback is dealt, this move should have ramifications not just for both teams involved, but the whole league. There could even be a trickle-down effect that could help the Patriots and Mac Jones.

  • The deal

    SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – JANUARY 02: Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks looks to pass against the Detroit Lions during the third quarter at Lumen Field on January 02, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

    When a quarterback of Wilson’s caliber is traded, generally the team moving on from that kind of talent is going to come up on the short end of the deal when viewed initially. Still, the Seahawks managed a sizable return.

    Highlighting the package heading back to Seattle is draft picks. Denver will send two first-round picks, two second-round picks, and a fifth-round pick as part of the trade. While it hasn’t been confirmed what year any of those picks are in, Denver’s first and second round picks in this upcoming draft are 12th and 40th, respectively. Along with Wilson, Seattle is sending a fifth-round pick back to Denver.

    Prior to this deal, Seattle had no first round pick in 2022 after using packaging it with their 2021 first to acquire safety Jamal Adams from the New York Jets. The Seahawks ended up making just three picks last year, and only one in the top 100. This infusion of top-tier picks should help as they aim to rebuild following Russel’s departure.

    On top of the picks, Seattle will also get three players – two who should be able to start right away. Noah Fant is the most intriguing name of the group. The 24-year-old tight end was drafted 20th overall by Denver in 2019, and has found success despite working with inconsistent quarterback play. In 16 games last season, he caught a career-high 68 passes for 670 yards and four touchdowns.

    Shelby Harris will also be heading to Seattle. The 30-year-old defensive end signed a three-year contract extension last spring, and in the first year of that deal had a career-high six sacks last season.

    Finally, the Seahawks are adding 25-year-old quarterback Drew Lock. A second-round pick in 2019, Lock has been inconsistent throughout his short NFL career, completing 59.3 percent of his passes for 25 touchdowns with 20 interceptions in 21 career starts. Given this year’s weak quarterback class, Lock may get a chance to win the starting job in Seattle, at least initially.

    Overall Seattle nets four top-60 picks, two starting-caliber players – one of whom is under 25 – and a low-end quarterback prospect in exchange for their 33-year-old nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback. As for Wilson, he’s coming off a Pro Bowl season that saw him complete 64.8 percent of his passes for 3,113 yards with 25 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He only played in 14 games due to a finger injury, and the team finished under .500 for the first time in his career (they were 6-8 in games he started, 7-10 overall).

  • Changing the landscape in the AFC

    DENVER, COLORADO – NOVEMBER 14: Tim Patrick #81 of the Denver Broncos, Jerry Jeudy #10 and Courtland Sutton #14 take to the field before a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Empower Field At Mile High on November 14, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

    The Broncos welcome Wilson to a roster that finished 7-10 last year. Although it doesn’t sound like much, recent comparable quarterback moves suggest its enough of a foundation to now make the Broncos legitimate Super Bowl contenders in the AFC.

    Two years ago, Tom Brady went to a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that had won seven games the season before and led them to 11 wins and a Super Bowl title. This past season, Matthew Stafford joined a 10-win Rams team, upped that win total by two, and also took home a championship.

    Like Brady and Stafford, Wilson enters an offense full of weapons. Denver has a trio of standout wide receivers all under the age of 30 in Tim Patrick, Courtland Sutton, and Jerry Jeudy. At tight end, Albert Okwuegbunam caught 33 passes for 330 yards playing behind Fant last year, and seems poised for a bigger role as the team’s new starting tight end.

    Defensively, the Broncos have already been playing at a high level. They were third in points allowed per game last year (18.9) and there are now rumors that linebacker Von Miller could return in free agency after being dealt to LA at last year’s deadline.

    Even in a division as loaded as the AFC West, which now has Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, and Derek Carr as its quarterbacks, the Broncos are built to make a deep playoff run. What was an already close conference last year is now even more competitive.

  • Can the Patriots take advantage?

    SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – OCTOBER 31: Tyler Lockett #16 of the Seattle Seahawks in action against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the second quarter at Lumen Field on October 31, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

    Aside from the added competition in the conference, how does this move impact the Patriots? It opens the door for them to take advantage of a now-rebuilding team that is deep at wide receiver.

    One name that should come up plenty in trade rumors in the coming weeks is Tyler Lockett. Lockett, who will turn 30 in September, has surpassed 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns in each of the last three seasons, including a 100-catch season in 2020.

    Stylistically, Lockett would be a great fit in New England. His game is mainly built on route-running ability, but he pairs that with surprising straight-line speed. While he doesn’t have the size (5-foot-10, 182 pounds) of a traditional ‘X’ receiver, given his route running ability the Patriots could potentially see him as an upgrade over Nelson Agholor in that spot. Upgrading Agholor is something the Patriots have already reportedly considered this offseason.

    Financially, Lockett’s deal is one that could work for  the Patriots. As tweeted by Andrew Callahan of the Boston Herald, Lockett would carry just a $3 million cap hit next season with no guaranteed money beyond 2022.

    Given their cap situation, the belief heading into the offseason was that if the Patriots want to get Mac Jones a veteran No. 1 receiver, they’d have to do so via trade rather than free agency. Calvin Ridley seemed like a logical fit, but that solution is now off the table after his suspension on Monday. Could Lockett’s potential availability be a case of one door closing, and another opening for the Patriots?

    Of course, Wilson being dealt has also opened up speculation about the availability of 24-year-old Pro Bowl receiver D.K. Metcalf. Metcalf is entering the final year of his rookie deal, and will likely command top-of-the-market money next spring. If Seattle doesn’t plan to bring him back as part of the rebuild, a trade would be likely yet expensive. At the same time, he’s young enough that he could be a part of the rebuild, and viewed as a top receiver for Wilson’s eventual replacement.

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