First off, let’s make one thing clear: this sucks.
Any time you lose a world class talent like Davante Adams, the joy in any room is going to be sucked out when the news breaks. Just ask anyone in Wisconsin how they felt when word came that the Green Bay Packers sent Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders for a first and second round pick in next month’s draft.
The first emotion that hit most of us was shock. While the situation that played out was possible in the back of our minds, it was widely assumed Green Bay and Adams would come to an agreement sometime between now and July. There was no way the Packers would breakup the Aaron Rodgers to Adams connection, right? Eventually the team would have to capitulate to the receiver.
Well, we assumed wrong and we clearly underestimated how much Adams wanted to be in Las Vegas. After reports Green Bay offered as much or more than what the Raiders ended up giving him, Adams dug his heels in and the end was near for one of the best pass catchers in the 100-plus year history of the franchise.
As bad as this looks right now for the Packers’ chances in 2022 and beyond, fear not cheesehead faithful. There is a way out of this for Green Bay and while they almost certainly won’t immediately replace Adams’ abilities on the field this year, there are plenty of other ways this situation can turn into a win for the Packers.
Let’s take a look at a few of them.
The draft pick stockpile: Help now and down the road
As it stands right now, the Packers hold four picks in the first 60 and five in the first 100 of next month’s draft (numbers 22, 28, 53, 58, 92). That is the most draft capital Green Bay has held in recent memory and it also represents a prime opportunity.
The team is at a fascinating crossroads. They were able to lure Rodgers back for at least one more year if not more. and yet by moving Adams they have left themselves perilously thin at one the most important positions on the team outside of quarterback. This means the Packers now have to build their receiver corps for the present (to give Rodgers some weapons) as well as the future. They have to find a player that can contribute immediately while also finding players they can develop and build depth with.
It’s quite a tightrope for Gutekunst to walk but armed with that many early draft picks, he can do just that. If he plays his cards correctly, they can simultaneously stay in “win now” mode and also build for the long-term. Losing Adams is very painful in the here and now but getting that return for a soon-to-be 30 year old wide receiver gives Green Bay a great opportunity.
The main concern here is Gutekunst hasn’t shown the knack for drafting receivers that his predecessor Ted Thompson did. With Marquez Valdes-Scantling recently joining the Chiefs, all three of the wide receivers in Gutekunst’s first draft class are now off the team. Valdes-Scantling at least developed into a solid deep threat while Equanimeous St. Brown and J’Mon Moore fizzled out at different times.
He also drafted Amari Rodgers last year, a player whose future with the team is cloudy at best after multiple special teams debacles last season and a complete lack of impact on offense.
Gutey can’t afford to make a mistake if/when he drafts one or more receivers next month, especially early. Thankfully there is enough talent available that Gutekunst should be able to stick the landing in at least the first round should that be the position he targets.
Losing Adams forces Rodgers to adapt
Lost in the melancholy of losing Adams is an underrated and underappreciated fact: Matt LaFleur’s team is 7-0 in games where Adams did not play.
That indicates two things. First, LaFleur can cook without an elite pass catcher on offense and second, so can Rodgers. This suggests that 2022 won’t be nearly as dire as initially feared.
For proof, look no further than Green Bay’s playoff defeat against the San Francisco 49ers in January. For the entire first half plus the start of the third, Rodgers was so keyed in on Adams that no other wide receiver even saw a target until late in the third quarter.
A tilted diet of Rodgers and Adams stalled and the offense was basically stuck in neutral the entire game before special teams iced the cake with a gigantic turd. Mo Drayton’s group deserves plenty of blame for that loss but so too does the offensive performance.
Taking Adams out of the equation does remove Rodgers’ security blanket but it also forces him to spread the ball around in a more pure version of LaFleur’s offense. Judging by the team’s record sans Adams, they have been just fine.
It’s a safe bet we will see more balanced and spread out targets from Rodgers in 2022 and don’t be surprised if that actually works to the Packers’ favor. The famously stubborn quarterback now has to evolve and judging by the strength of his relationship with LaFleur, he will do so.
It’s truly LaFleur’s offense now
Over the past three seasons, the Packers have run many of LaFleur’s concepts, but they also kept some things around from former coach Mike McCarthy’s offense to not only keep Rodgers comfortable but also because some things still worked.
Rodgers’ improvisational skills plus his inhuman mental bond with Adams allowed Green Bay to get away with some playground ball with both the quarterback and receiver sometimes basically drawing up plays in the dirt. If you’re LaFleur and you have two legendary players at those positions, you’d be crazy not to let them continue to do their thing even if it didn’t fully jibe with your own offensive tendencies.
With the bond between Rodgers and Adams now severed after the trade, LaFleur can run a much more pure version of his offense and judging by what we saw in 2020 and 2021, the man can scheme as well as anyone in the league.
The fact that Rodgers agreed to return to Green Bay knowing full well that Adams was leaving points to the quarterback still being fully on board with this approach. While stubborn, he’s not stupid. He saw a similar system win a Super Bowl with Matthew Stafford at the controls this year so the guess here is Rodgers has bought in to what the coach wants to do.
Trust the coach and watch the offense LaFlourish.
Conclusion: This isn’t the end….yet
The bottom line is that while losing Adams is absolutely painful and fans should be sad, the trade doesn’t mark the end of anything for the Packers. As long as they make smart decisions in the draft and perhaps add a veteran receiver now that we have entered the discount period of free agency (hi Julio Jones), the Super Bowl window is still open.
The Packers have to make some good choices to fully realize it but the odds are actually in their favor.
It will just take looking through the pain for many to see it.