And don’t forget that moment in a 2021 game when Rodgers and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin shared a bit of a bromance moment when Tomlin called timeout before Rodgers could run a free play while Pittsburgh had 12 men on the field.
“I’m a big Mike Tomlin fan, I have been for a long time. I like the way that he speaks about his team and the way he goes about his business,” Rodgers told McAfee after that game. “I like his confidence. I’ve heard nothing but good things from guys that have played there. I like Tomlin.”
From a fiscal point of view, they have more cap room – roughly $57 million – than any team aside from the Chicago Bears … and Rodgers isn’t getting dealt within the division to the franchise he already “owns.” The Falcons’ trade offer could also begin with a top-10 choice, No. 8 overall specifically, this year.
Atlanta additionally offers a bright offensive mind in head coach Arthur Smith and a nice array of young weapons – RB Tyler Allgeier, WR Drake London and TE Kyle Pitts. And given the state of the NFC South, especially if Brady bolts? Easily winnable, though this could concurrently be considered the kind of rebuild Rodgers isn’t interested in given that, even if Atlanta might be playoff caliber in 2023, it’s a stretch to think that the Falcons will suddenly be Super Bowl contenders.
They haven’t won a playoff game – appearing in just one – since Brady left in 2020. Their current group of offensive playmakers isn’t nearly as good as Green Bay’s, and there’s certainly no budding star on a par with Packers WR Christian Watson. And New England just hired sometimes prickly Bill O’Brien as its offensive coordinator, ostensibly to work with QB Mac Jones.
So what does New England offer? The 14th pick of the draft, ample cap space (about $33 million) to accommodate Rodgers and maybe some upgraded weaponry and a championship pedigree that would seemingly appeal to a player hunting a long-sought second Lombardi Trophy – one that would enable Bill Belichick to get level with Brady again. BB might even issue Rodgers Brady’s No. 12 jersey.
4. Seattle Seahawks
You might’ve heard, but they could have an opening given QB Geno Smith is unsigned. They’ve also got a pair of great receivers in DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett and are coming off an unexpected playoff season – catalyzed in great part by a miraculous 2022 draft that netted starting OTs Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas, RB Kenneth Walker and CBs Coby Bryant and Tariq Woolen.
And if an ascending roster isn’t enough to entice Rodgers? Well then, Seattle offers one of the few opportunities for him to play on the West Coast, the team has more than $30 million in cap space and also owns three of the upcoming draft’s top 38 selections. Pretty good calculus on all sides to get a deal done … assuming, of course, the Seahawks don’t bring Smith back.
3. New York Giants
Another team fresh off a surprise playoff run, the G-Men head into a compelling offseason – one in which GM Joe Schoen and HC Brian Daboll must decide what to do about QB Daniel Jones and RB Saquon Barkley, both pending free agents. The Giants currently project to have the league’s third-most cap space (after Chicago and Atlanta) and could allot much of that $45 million to, say, Rodgers and Barkley? But that may not leave much to address a receiving corps where Isaiah Hodgins (351 yards) is the top performer on the roster under contract in 2023 – especially if the Giants have to surrender the 26th pick of the draft or more. WRs Sterling Shepard and Wan’Dale Robinson are options, but both are recovering from torn ACLs.
Playing in the New York media market would surely be a temptation for Rodgers, and so, too, might be working with a respected offensive coach like Daboll. And, at this point, it seems like the NFC’s pathway to the Super Bowl is still more forgiving than the AFC road.
2. Las Vegas Raiders
They’re obviously in the market for a new quarterback, Derek Carr already sending his goodbyes to Raider Nation after being benched late in the season. He’ll likely be released before Feb. 15, otherwise, Las Vegas would owe him more than $40 million in contractual guarantees. However, if the Raiders manage to trade Carr first, not only would they save the money, they’d also pick up a bit of ammo that could conceivably be repackaged as part of a deal for Rodgers – perhaps along with the seventh and/or 39th picks of the 2023 draft.
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Brady has also been widely connected to Sin City given his longtime relationship with coach Josh McDaniels – and, again, signing him would only cost money, not draft capital. But what’s more valuable, a quarterback who will be 46 next season but knows the playbook? Or one who will be 40 and knows All-Pro and former Pack WR Davante Adams? (And placating Adams, who joined the Raiders to play with his good friend, Carr, could be a significant consideration for Vegas.)
From Rodgers’ standpoint? A reunion with Adams, plus the opportunity to throw to TE Darren Waller, slot WR Hunter Renfrow and All-Pro RB Josh Jacobs (if the Raiders can keep him) sounds pretty good. So, too, might living in Nevada, which has no state income tax and is a short flight from his Malibu home. And surely he’d embrace the challenge of playing in a division alongside fellow quarterbacking stars Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Russell Wilson (assuming he’s still a star).
1. New York Jets
Similar to the Giants, the NYJ offer the lure of playing in the New York market – presumably quite an attraction for Rodgers given his ample off-field interests, including media opportunities.
Unlike the Giants, the Jets have a championship-caliber defense and burgeoning offensive stars like WR Garrett Wilson and RB Breece Hall. They also have an opening at offensive coordinator … and recently interviewed Nathaniel Hackett, a favorite of Rodgers’ from their time together in Green Bay, when Rodgers won his most recent MVP awards in 2020 and 2021. Heck, Hall of Famer Joe Namath has even given his blessing for Rodgers to wear his retired No. 12 jersey should he choose to don “Gotham Green” and “Spotlight White.”
The Jets would have to free up money for Rodgers – and will need more to extend All-Pro DT Quinnen Williams. But considering owner Woody Johnson’s willingness to pony up for a long-awaited championship – and fact that QB Zach Wilson is the main impediment to that objective right now – this could be the best win-win scenario for Rodgers and a prospective future employer.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.