Don't hate Aaron Rodgers or Julio Jones they're products of a changing NFL system
It's certainly one way the NFL can keep itself in the headlines all year long--having players demand out from their current teams before their contacts are up.
Unless you completely ignore sports there's a good chance you know what's going on with Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. The 37-year old Rodgers who's accomplished just about everything a future Hall of Famer can, has been telling anyone who listens this spring he wants out of Green Bay.
The speculation was Rodgers was angry over personnel decisions and the drafting of his eventual replacement Jordan Love.
Monday night Rodgers said plain and simple, it's about the "team culture".
This conversation stole the thunder from earlier in the day when Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones found himself on a phone with FS1's Shannon Sharpe while on live TV saying he's done in Atlanta. Jones said he won't return to the Falcons and wants to "play for a winner".
Atlanta Falcons fans are already apoplectic about this but in all honesty, Jones is likely done playing for a Falcons team that flat out cannot afford to pay him this season. Even if he didn't come out and say this publicly (I really don't think he thought he was on TV) his days in Atlanta were numbered.
The Falcons due to their own gross botching of the NFL Salary Cap have to make at least one of their group of high paid players go away and Jones, despite his immense talent is the best candidate. At the age of 32 with a long injury history and less performance as he gets older, Jones's best days are likely behind him.
But...the reason I write this is not to discuss what we know but rather what it all means.
It means the NFL is beginning to edge towards NBA territory where players can force their way out of the situation they currently occupy and find a situation more to their liking.
The NBA is littered with teams who have not one, not two but often three elite level players who want to play together and win a championship. Look at the Brooklyn Nets with Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving. Or the Los Angeles Lakers with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Traditionally its been very difficult for NFL players to talk their way out of one situation and get sent somewhere else. It's even harder for teams to load up with multiple all-stars. For Rodgers, a sticking point has been the lack of surrounding talent, yet the Packers are a yearly playoff contender and came within a game of the 2020-21 Super Bowl.
For Jones, he just stated what most who follow his team should already know. The Falcons have been awful the past few years with poor coaching and a front office who paid players because the owner (Arthur Blank) expressed his love for them. The Falcons are stuck with a QB, Matt Ryan who is making more money than, well, almost anyone else at the position. They're paying DT Grady Jarrett, who is a tremendous player, more money than Jones.
The question to the floor though is this: How do you arrange the situation to get you someplace you can win? How do you land in your "ideal spot"?
With the NFL having a hard salary cap, it is extremely difficult. It's not like the NBA where you can essentially trade salaries. Or have a variety of exceptions. Yes, the NFL allows teams to defer salary money, but its essentially just a way to kick the can down the road.
When an NBA trade happens, most teams are having to make the salaries fit or match. The cost is essentially equal to each team and does not blow up each teams cap. That's why Durant, Harden and Irving can land on the same team.
You'll never be able to do it in the NFL when the QB is making $25-40 million a season and the star WR is making $15-20 million along with another star making another $15-20 million. With roughly 50 players having to get paid each season, the $175-200 million salary cap figure adds up fast.
It's really interesting to me to see how these two leagues have similar issues but different ways of approaching them. The NBA is somewhat unbalanced. The teams who have the "mega-stars" seem to be the teams who end up in the finals. The NFL is a little more balanced.
Now that we've begun to emerge from the pandemic year where almost all sports suffered financial hits due to the lack of fans in the stands, we're going to go back in the direction where we were heading.
TV deals aside, fans mean revenue, revenue means money to pay players, money to pay players means more and more discussion about players wanting to pick their own locations.
The world of sports has changed a lot over the past few decades, there's very little loyalty and very few players spend an entire career playing for one team. With college athletics joining the free agency revolution, the era of spending a career in one city playing for one team is quickly coming to a close.
Embrace the change. The change is here.