Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers shake up QB world order in NFL

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Across a few wild NFL hours Tuesday, the quarterback carousel spun and cemented the future plans of two future Hall of Famers while potentially altering the expected balance of power of the league.

Aaron Rodgers, who made the most noise about potentially leaving, stayed in Green Bay, agreeing to a four-year contract.

Russell Wilson, whose interest in moving on from Seattle never went above much more than a whisper, wound up getting traded to Denver.

The result is Green Bay not just continuing to gun for a Super Bowl the next few years, but having (with the addition of other QB moves) a slightly clearer path to do it. Meanwhile Wilson, 33, heads to the snakepit known as the AFC in general, and AFC West in particular, to compete at the highest level for the rest of his career.

GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - JANUARY 12: Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks greets Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers after the Packers defeated the Seahawks 28-23 in the NFC Divisional Playoff game at Lambeau Field on January 12, 2020 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers dominated the NFL news cycle on Tuesday. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

For Rodgers, there was no place like Packerland. Green Bay could offer a mass of money, a reported $150 million-plus guaranteed per the NFL Network, although Rodgers denied anything is finalized. There was also the comfort of the only franchise that, at 37 years old, he’d ever known, even if there was plenty of drama involved.

Green Bay could also provide an appealing path to a Super Bowl, and not just because of receiver Davante Adams, head coach Matt LaFleur and a nice roster. Rodgers will remain in the NFC North, where Chicago and Minnesota just changed front-office and coaching staffs and Detroit is still Detroit, fresh off a three-win season.

The ease of the division hasn’t helped Rodgers of late – the Packers haven’t played for a Lombardi Trophy since the 2010 season and just lost consecutive home playoff games.

Still, you take your chances with a division you can win and likely rack up five wins against. Moreover, the NFC gets clearer. Tom Brady retired in Tampa, a year after Drew Brees did the same in New Orleans. Wilson is now out in Seattle.

There are no easy routes to the big game, but this is an easier one, certainly, than what Wilson is now facing in Denver.

The Broncos gave up three players — quarterback Drew Lock, defensive end Shelby Harris and tight end Noah Fant — and a slew of draft picks — two first-rounders, two second-rounders and one fifth-rounder – to get Wilson and a fourth-round selection.

Denver went 7-10 last season, same as Seattle, but the Broncos with Wilson have a better roster that is better equipped to compete for playoff spots than the Seahawks right now.

Well, except that the Broncos are in the AFC West, where Wilson will face both Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and the Los Angeles Chargers' Justin Herbert twice a season. Derek Carr and Las Vegas aren’t bad either.

Wilson is no stranger to divisional competition, having played for years in the NFC West, but this will not be easy. This will be one of the most quarterback-rich divisions in league history.

His move to the AFC also increases the incredible quarterbacking talent within the conference.

It features: Mahomes, Herbert, Josh Allen (Buffalo), Joe Burrow (Cincinnati), Lamar Jackson (Baltimore) with promising second-year guys Trevor Lawrence (Jacksonville) and Mac Jones (New England) coming along. Then there is Carr, Ryan Tannehill (Tennessee), Baker Mayfield (Cleveland) and others who are more than capable as well. And Deshaun Watson is still with the Houston Texans (although for how long, who knows?).

The AFC is a dogfight. Denver, by giving up a fortune for Wilson, believes it has to have an elite quarterback to survive. Wilson threw just 25 touchdowns last year (down from 40 in 2020), but he still made his ninth Pro Bowl in 10 seasons in the league.

As the seasons go on, Wilson will not be the mobile threat he was in the early part of his career, when he led the Seahawks to two Super Bowls and one championship. However, he has stated he wants to play to a Brady-esque 45 years old. If he’s even half right, then Denver, which will owe him a major extension, will get their value out of this.

Seattle meanwhile can begin a massive rebuild, perhaps even packaging all those draft picks to get Watson out of Houston, if the 26-year-old can clear up his numerous legal and league discipline situations involving alleged sexual misconduct.

That’s the next spin of the carousel though, one for the future. What’s clear is that in this league no team thinks it can win without a great quarterback.

The Broncos mortgaged future drafts to get one. Meanwhile the Packers kept theirs.

And the NFL, on what was slated to be a quiet Tuesday in March, somewhere between the scouting combine and free agency, spun on its axis.