After 16 years, has the 49ers' quest for a franchise quarterback finally led them to Aaron Rodgers?
The star quarterback reportedly is upset with the Green Bay Packers and has told some that he no longer wants to play there. The 49ers reportedly called the Packers to inquire about a deal for Rodgers but were quickly told the reigning NFL MVP wasn't available. Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio reported that Rodgers wanted the Packers to take the 49ers' deal, and has the 49ers, Denver Broncos and Raiders on the list of short teams.
Rodgers being upset with the Packers is a Groundhog Day event of the NFL offseason. But it seems like, at least this time, he really might have taken his last snap for Green Bay. If that is indeed the case, and the relationship between Rodgers and Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst can't be salvaged, then the 49ers might be in a great position to bring Rodgers home and have a true franchise quarterback for Kyle Shanahan to run his offense with.
There's just ... one problem.
Shanahan and general manager John Lynch already made their massive gambit to end their search for the elite quarterback when they traded future first-round draft picks in 2022 and 2023 to swap 2021 first-round picks with the Miami Dolphins and move up to the No. 3 spot in this year's draft which gets underway at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday night.
The 49ers made the blockbuster draft move, going all in to allow Shanahan to hand-pick his guy from a talented group of young signal-callers. They said they viewed the class as having at least three elite guys. That number then went up to five a month later as reports filtered out that the 49ers had yet to make a decision on who the pick would be.
Two days after that, they reportedly called the Packers to check in on Rodgers, which should tell you a few things.
One, they aren't fully confident in their evaluation process of this quarterback class, and they know that if Rodgers is banging down the door to escape the frozen tundra, their only chance to land him is before they make the pick at No. 3.
That No. 3 overall pick is now one of the few assets the 49ers have to work with in a trade for Rodgers, and it only will retain value to Green Bay while it remains a nebulous player. Remember, the Packers drafted quarterback Jordan Love in the first round last year to be Rodgers' successor, so they will have no desire to talk trade with a package centered around Mac Jones, Trey Lance or Justin Fields.
Or, at least, it would seem highly unlikely.
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Shanahan and Lynch pushed their chips into the center of the table with the move up to No. 3. It was a bold decision that should be respected. They have built a Super Bowl-ready roster and wanted to control their own destiny. They didn't want to pin their Super Bowl hopes year after year on Shanahan's ability to elevate a good but not great quarterback. They didn't want to head back to the Super Bowl and trust that this time Jimmy Garoppolo or another non-elite quarterback would make the big throws in the big moments.
They wanted to make sure their legacies were defined by a guy they truly wanted.
They have spent months looking at the quarterback class, and it appears they haven't been convinced of which one is the All-Pro or possible Hall of Famer who can win multiple Lombardi Trophies.
They know Rodgers is that guy.
Even at 37, Rodgers still is one of the three best quarterbacks in the NFL and is coming off a season in which he threw for 4,299 yards, 48 touchdowns and five interceptions. He's a wizard at making off-platform and second-reaction throws, a skill that Shanahan has never had in a quarterback piloting his deadly attack.
Rodgers lost the NFC Championship Game to Tom Brady and a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that was willing to go all-in on whatever Brady wanted to win a Super Bowl. They did just that. The Packers have been unwilling to commit to Rodgers in the long term and haven't done everything they can to surround him with the talent needed to out-shoot Brady or survive against the 49ers' ferocious front.
Shanahan and the 49ers would do that for Rodgers. They are ready-made to compete with a solid offensive line, vaunted rushing attack, dynamic skill players who torch defenses after the catch and a play-caller in Shanahan, who is the best in the game at drawing up plays to carve up defenses like Jason Vorhees rips through teenagers at Camp Crystal Lake.
The 49ers passed on him 16 years ago in the draft and might have lost their only shot to acquire him in a trade by going all in to acquire the No. 3 overall pick.
If that is the case, and Rodgers is traded in the next few months, the pressure to nail the pick has reached untold levels.
Rodgers and Shanahan would be the perfect match. He's the elite QB that Shanahan has been searching for. But in a few hours, their realistic shot of pairing savant and star will likely be lost forever.