Dougherty: Davante Adams deal leaves gaping hole, but Packers could be better off in big picture
GREEN BAY - It turns out Aaron Rodgers isn’t the only Green Bay Packers star who can carry a grudge.
Davante Adams was nothing but the good soldier in the final year of his contract last season, but if reports are true that the Packers were willing to pay him the same as the Las Vegas Raiders did or more as part of the blockbuster trade the teams made Thursday night, then Adams simply wanted out of Green Bay.
Sure, he can now reunite with his college quarterback, Derek Carr. That might mean a lot to him. But to leave Aaron Rodgers for the same money? Adams must have felt burned about something, either that they wouldn’t pay him what he thinks he’s worth with a contract extension last year, or because of something that happened in their contract talks since the season ended.
Either way, Adams is no longer with the Packers, and according to multiple reports Rodgers knew it was headed that way before he agreed to sign on with the team last week. That’s the biggest stunner in all this. Rodgers and Adams were not a package deal after all.
It’s shocking because Rodgers made clear he wants the Packers all-in for as long as he’s playing with them, yet dealing Adams probably won’t reap its benefits from the two draft picks ESPN reported they’re getting (Nos. 22 and 53 overall) for a couple years down the road, if at all. It’s a blow to their high 2022 Super Bowl hopes.
The Rodgers-Adams connection was sublime, best in the NFL. It changed defensive game plans. The Packers can’t bring in anybody, or any several players, and replace that this offseason. General manager Brian Gutekunst and CEO Mark Murphy know that, which is why they leaked they were willing to pay Adams the same money the Raiders did. Adams apparently forced their hand.
It is worth noting that the Packers were 7-0 without Adams the last three years, and that’s hard to ignore. His absence very likely forced Rodgers to play more within the offense rather than turn to his favorite target by default, and Rodgers played well going by the book in coach Matt LaFleur’s scheme.
But it’s worth remembering that 7-0 came against teams that collectively finished 57-55-1, and one of those teams was the 12-win Kansas City Chiefs who faced the Packers without Patrick Mahomes. But even knowing 7-0, it’s still hard to think the Packers are a better team in ’22 with the cap space and draft picks than they would have been with Adams.
Still, this season will test the theory that Rodgers at times locked onto Adams to a fault.
Among the several surprises in this big trade was that the Raiders were willing to give up so much for a receiver who turns 30 in December. Along with the average of $28.25 million a season for five years, the Raiders gave up their first- and second-round picks this year. That’s a lot for a receiver who probably has only three really good years left, at best.
Adams’ value was higher with the Packers because he and Rodgers had played together for so long, and in the current system for three years. Their chemistry was off the charts. In Las Vegas, Adams will be in a new offense and with a quarterback he hasn’t played with since college at Fresno State. It’s not like he and Carr can just pick things up where they left off.
In any event, where does this leave the Packers? In the here and now of free agency, Gutekunst suddenly has $20 million more in salary-cap room to work with but also an incredibly gaping hole at receiver. Time to switch to Plan B.
We can only assume that if Rodgers knew last week that Adams might be traded before signing his contract extension, the quarterback received some assurances Gutekunst will restock the receiving corps with a couple of veterans. Right now the Packers’ top two receivers are Allen Lazard, their No. 3 last season, and Randall Cobb, who at age 32 in August is an injury waiting to happen.
The extra money will allow Gutekunst to sign several midtier free agents for anywhere on the roster — a report by the ESPN said they’re working on bringing back cornerback Rasul Douglas — and that surely will include a veteran receiver or two. Among the receivers still on the open market are Cleveland’s Jarvis Landry and Pittsburgh’s JuJu Smith-Schuster, and maybe Marquez Valdes-Scantling will be back in the mix now that there’s more cap room, too.
You also can bet on Gutekunst selecting at least two and maybe even three receivers in the April draft. With two picks in each of the first two rounds, it wouldn’t be a shocker if he adds two by the end of the second round.
This certainly changes the outlook for the Packers’ draft in other ways, too. Gutekunst has needs galore — receiver, tight end and defensive line at the top of the list, cornerback (even assuming Douglas re-signs), inside linebacker and tackle. He now has two more high picks to use either on players or to trade for even more picks in a draft that’s reportedly strong in the middle rounds.
There’s no getting around it, Thursday night’s trade was a stunner. Stunning that Adams wanted out and to play with Carr that badly when he had such a great thing going with Rodgers. And stunning that Rodgers willingly returned to the team knowing Adams probably wasn’t going to be back.
Barring some exceptional work in free agency and the draft, it’s a trade that hurts the Packers’ Super Bowl hopes for 2022. It also improves their prospects for a couple years down the road.