Silverstein: Davante Adams asked to be traded to Raiders well before Packers applied franchise tag

Tom Silverstein
Packers News
Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams speaks during a news conference Tuesday near Las Vegas.

GREEN BAY – There are good reasons the Green Bay Packers decided to trade Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders, even if it’s a bad idea to get rid of one of the best players in the NFL.

As much as the Packers wanted Adams back, they realized that the circumstances that had developed after the season would lead to a no-win battle of wills with one of the franchise’s classiest players. It was going to get ugly because they were going to have to spend the entire offseason doing what they did with quarterback Aaron Rodgers last year, which was convincing an unhappy player to come back.

General manager Brian Gutekunst wasn’t blowing smoke when he said after the trade that he looked forward to the day Adams returned and was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame. Adams didn’t have the same gripe with Gutekunst that Rodgers had, and the lines of communication were open between the two, sources said.

Many are under the impression that Adams asked to be traded when the Packers put the franchise tag on him, but it happened much earlier than that. Shortly after the season ended, he made it known that he wanted out and his desire was to play for the Las Vegas Raiders and quarterback Derek Carr, his former college teammate and close friend, a source said.

The public didn’t know Adams was adamant about leaving for the team he cheered for while growing up in East Palo Alto, California. But it was no secret among Packers officials that Adams wanted out.

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The Packers must accept their role in Adams getting to that place. They had an entire year to sign him to a long-term extension befitting of the best receiver in football. But they stood firm against breaking their policy of not guaranteeing anything but the signing bonus, so the amount of guaranteed money was never going to be to Adams’ satisfaction.

Adams didn’t want to drag negotiations into the regular season and so Packers vice president of finance Russ Ball and agent Frank Bauer engaged in very little negotiating from September to February.

According to a source, the deal the Packers were offering before everything broke down was worth about the same amount over three years as Adams accepted from the Raiders ($22.5 million average). But the Raiders' deal featured $22.75 million of fully guaranteed money and another $44 million that was partially guaranteed and would have a chance of being fully guaranteed.

It’s doubtful the Packers offered those kinds of guarantees.

Once talks hit a wall, Adams decided to play out the year and take on all the risk. The payoff, he hoped, was going to be a massive contract after the season either with the Packers or somebody else.

Adams put together the best all-around season of his career (given all the double-teams he faced) and was named first-team All-Pro for the second consecutive year. He ranks second in franchise history in receptions (669) and receiving touchdowns (73) and is fourth in receiving yards (8,121). After the season, many people made the mistake of thinking Rodgers and Adams were a package deal and that if one came back the other would, too. If one left, they would both leave. They have a special chemistry on the field and were the best quarterback-receiver combination in the NFL the past two seasons.

But the truth is, they were not linked.

Rodgers and Adams are tight on the field, but Adams is not part of Rodgers’ inner circle. Receiver Randall Cobb and tackle David Bakhtiari are, but Adams doesn’t run with that crowd.

He is very much a family man and doesn’t golf with celebrities or hang out in clubs or push his brand. The non-football-related photos on his Instagram account are mostly of his wife and daughter with some shots of his latest footwear mixed in. There are more photos of him and Carr than there are of him and Rodgers.

There’s no question Rodgers has helped his career, but it’s possible Adams got tired of being defined by it. Adams was given plenty of respect and credit for what he did on the field, but it was always overshadowed by Rodgers, whose superb play and celebrity dominates everything.

Rodgers heaped praise on Adams all year, so it’s not like he tried to devalue his teammate’s contribution to their success. But as much as he claims he doesn’t like the spotlight, he tends to embrace it, and sucks a lot of the oxygen out of whatever room he is in.

It all became about him again after the season ended. Was he coming back? And if he did, was it going to be for more than one year? Adams didn’t know what Rodgers was going to do and couldn’t know for sure how long he would play, so there was a lot of uncertainty with rejoining the Packers.

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The one thing he knew for sure is that new Raiders coach Josh McDaniel likes the 30-year-old Carr, and if everything went well, he could be playing with him for the next five years.

The Packers had a better offer on the table than from the summer – one source said it was $25 million per year over three years – but Adams, after speaking with Carr and Bauer, was adamant he wanted to move on. Specifically, he wanted to play for the Raiders.

As many have reported, Rodgers knew about Adams’ desire well before he signed his record-breaking $151 million extension. There wasn’t anything he could do about it. Undoubtedly, he wanted Adams to stay, but his priority was his own contract and he wound up doing what was best for him.

Adams wanted to do the same. Gutekunst couldn’t have promised not to place the franchise tag on Adams; it would have been dereliction of duty. But Adams was upset when it happened, most likely because it lessened his chances of playing with Carr.

The Raiders would have to give up two first-round picks to sign Adams as a non-exclusive franchise player and they didn’t want to give up that much.

Eventually, Gutekunst decided it was in the team’s best interests to trade Adams. They didn’t want his deal hanging over them the entire offseason and his $20 million cap number making life very difficult.

As Peter King pointed out in his weekly column, "Football Morning in America," Raiders general manager Dave Ziegler called Gutekunst on March 13 and the two talked repeatedly in an effort to reach a deal on compensation. If the Raiders would have signed Adams to an offer sheet, they would have had to give the Packers a first-round pick this year and a first-round pick next year as compensation.

Most football people consider a second-round pick this year as roughly equal in value to a first-round pick next year, so Gutekunst asked for a first and second this year. The Raiders balked and the deal nearly fell through, in part, because the Raiders wanted to keep their second-round pick for another deal they had brewing.

Gutekunst might have taken some players instead of a second, but league rules state that players can only be included in a sign-and-trade of a franchise player if he receives the exclusive tag. Adams had been given the non-exclusive tag so getting a receiver such as Bryan Edwards or a tight end such as Foster Moreau was out of the question.

Packers wide receiver Davante Adams (17) picks up a first down against Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey (5) during their November 2021 game.

Gutekunst stood firm and eventually, the Raiders agreed to give up the Nos. 22 and 53 picks in the ’22 draft.

Bauer was given permission to negotiate with the Raiders and they came up with a five-year deal worth $141 million, which is the highest per-year average for a receiver in NFL history. But the deal includes more than $71 million in the final two years, so it is effectively a three-year deal at an average of $22.5 million, which is less than the Packers’ final offer.

 Adams will make $23.3 million in ’22 and $26.8 million in ’23 for a two-year average of $25 million. During the third year, he only makes $17.4 million. He should have gotten more fully guaranteed money, but as long as his production holds up, he’ll earn all $67.5 million and maybe be in position to renegotiate the final two years.

In the end, Adams got what he wanted.

As for the Packers, they won’t replace their star receiver with one guy. They’ll have to replace him in the aggregate and that means using those draft picks and the $20 million in cap money they cleared on some receiving help.

It’s not what the Packers wanted, but it’s the best they could do under the circumstances.