The biggest storylines to jump-start the NFL offseason will be what Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers end up doing. Rodgers could return to the Green Bay Packers, retire, or demand out and request a new team. The Minnesota Vikings will be keeping close tabs on what’s going down in the land of cheese. But even if Rodgers departs, it won’t immediately mean everything is candy canes and roses for the Vikings.
There’s already an odd foregone conclusion that Jordan Love is a bust after two years and one start in the NFL. Love struggled against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in his only start, but he found out midweek that he would be the guy after Rodgers tested positive for COVID. His only other meaningful regular-season action came in the finale against the Detroit Lions when Green Bay pulled its starters on offense. The jury is still out. Nobody is suggesting Love will fill Rodgers’ shoes as well as Rodgers did Brett Favre‘s, but it’s a tad bizarre that so many people are already out on him. Let’s say Rodgers exits Green Bay; they still would have plenty of options besides Love.
A Rodgers trade could signal a proven quarterback coming back in return. They could deal him to the Las Vegas Raiders for Derek Carr. It could also signal the Packers diving into free agency and linking up Marcus Mariota and Matt LaFleur again — both of whom were with the Tennessee Titans in 2018. Are either better than Rodgers? No. A Rodgers exit, though, wouldn’t necessarily signal a full-blown rebuild project taking place. Look at the rest of the NFC North.
The Chicago Bears, not Minnesota, traded up in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft to select Justin Fields. Like Love, the jury is still out on Fields. But, if nothing else, the Bears know they have their future of the franchise who will get every opportunity to prove he is just that. Matt Nagy clearly wasn’t it at head coach. You can bet that Chicago will work finger-to-bone to make sure Fields has competence with coaching and talent around him on offense. Yes, the Bears have turnover in progress with a new general manager and a new head coach coming in, but there’s no doubt about who the QB1 will be in the Windy City. Minnesota can’t really say the same.
The roster is so talented for the Vikings, which is part of the reason many assume that a Rodgers departure would easily catapult Minnesota into the driver’s seat in the division. However, they have their own questions with Kirk Cousins.
How much say will the new general manager and head coach have in deciding the fate of Cousins and his future in Minnesota? It should be a lot. Until a head coach is hired and that dialogue is cracked open, it’s a guessing game as to how it will unfold. The problem for Minnesota is that if Cousins is traded and shown the door, what’s the succession plan?
Chicago has Fields. If nothing else, Green Bay knows they have a former first-round pick who hasn’t gotten a shot in Love. Minnesota could turn to Kellen Mond, but how much faith is there in that panning out right away? They could also go the free-agent route, but there isn’t an option better than Cousins on the market this offseason. Bringing back Cousins would keep things status quo, but he only has one postseason win in four seasons with the Vikings.
It’d be the easy decision to keep Cousins around if Rodgers exits. Minnesota could justify it because every other team in the division is rebuilding in some capacity, but how confident can they be in him? There are a ton of moving parts in the NFC North this offseason. While Rodgers getting the hell out of the North would certainly be great for the Vikings, it wouldn’t mean Minnesota immediately takes over the division.
The Vikings have a lot in place. Looking around at other head coaching vacancies league-wide, it’s hard to argue that any roster is better than Minnesota’s among those looking for a new head coach.
Plenty of questions remain in the NFC, especially who the Bears and Vikings will hire at head coach now that both have solved their general manager question. However, the biggest question that looms is what Rodgers will do. The Vikings will watch from a distance, but they need to keep their foot on the gas because a Rodgers exit doesn’t mean a gift-wrapped division crown for them. Staying aggressive and figuring out their own questions is priority No. 1 for the Vikings as they start to navigate the offseason and prepare for 2022. Everything else is outside noise for now that will take care of itself at one point or another. Until then, all the Vikings can do is piece together their own puzzle so that they do put themselves in the most advantageous spot next year.