What Brady, Rodgers and Wilson’s picks could mean for the 2022 NFL season

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers website said it all Monday morning.

“Tom Brady is back!” he read in bold black letters. “Join the waiting list for 2022 season tickets.”

The title, of course, referred to Brady’s decision not to retire. Less than two months after ending his 22-season NFL career, Brady, 44, took a step back Sunday night by announcing on social media that he would be returning to the league and to Tampa Bay.

“I realized my place was always on the pitch and not in the stands,” he wrote.

After Brady’s first announcement, with the centerpiece of his franchise leaving, Tampa Bay looked like it would have to rebuild to have a chance to compete. With Brady, the quarterback of a record seven Super Bowl-winning teams, the Buccaneers are in a rather prime position to compete for what would be their second championship in three seasons.

His decision follows news last week that Aaron Rodgers, the league’s reigning most valuable player, has agreed to stay with the Green Bay Packers, seemingly ending a high-profile rift between Rodgers and the front office of the team. The Denver Broncos also planned to trade for Russell Wilson, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection who spent 10 seasons with the Seattle Seahawks.

A good quarterback has always been the foundation of a healthy franchise, but these three cornerstones helped define the 2010s in the league through stellar play for their organizations and have continued to do so into the 2020s. But the turmoil that has surrounded Rodgers and Wilson’s tenures in recent years, and the seismic impact of Brady’s decisions, shines a light on the power these elite passers hold over their own franchises and around the NFL.

“There’s a difference between Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson and the vast majority of other quarterbacks in the league,” said Bill Polian, the former Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts general manager who was inducted. in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. in 2015. “Not all quarterbacks are created equal.”

Below is a look at how each of these NFL stalwarts are expected to alter the landscape of the league.

The return of Tom Brady should be a boon for the NFL, and the first statistics already suggest it. His jersey was the top seller among NFL fans during the 2021 regular season, according to Fanatics, and less than a day after his return announcement, Brady-related merchandise has beaten that of all Fanatics network athletes, according to the online sports retailer.

His return made Brady the logical focal point on the Buccaneers field with would-be season ticket buyers who may have doubted the team’s chances in the playoffs behind Kyle Trask or Blaine Gabbert, the two backup passers for the Buccaneers. team, and a sign that they wouldn’t need a total rebuild. to compete for their second Super Bowl title since 2020.

NFL schedule officials also likely viewed the news as a pleasant surprise. The process of building the regular season schedule begins in January, and based on conference rotations, 2022 will already pit Tampa Bay against the Los Angeles Rams, Packers and Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City in a Super Bowl rematch. LV. The Buccaneers are also expected to play a game in Germany in the 2022 season.

An NFL spokesperson declined to comment on marquee games, but Polian said he believes it’s inevitable that the Buccaneers will feature prominently in night games during the 2022 season. don’t think the schedule is nearly full or done, so they’re just going to re-juggle the Bucs primetime games, which will be plenty,” he said.

But Brady’s return hasn’t been a boon for everyone: An anonymous fan, who declined to be interviewed, paid more than $500,000 for the ball thrown in what had been the last touchdown pass from Brady, a 55-yarder to Mike Evans late in the fourth quarter. of the Buccaneers’ loss in the playoffs to the Rams in January. The hammer fell on the auction on Sunday. Hours later, memories lost their distinction, assuming Brady threw more touchdowns.

For the first time in two offseasons, the Packers, one of the oldest and most storied franchises in the league, can divert attention to other matters rather than questioning their quarterback’s temperament. -rear star.

Rodgers, the reigning winner of back-to-back Most Valuable Player awards, had embarked on a year-long saga with Green Bay over his future there before announcing on social media last week that he would return. in the squad for the 2022 season.

Rodgers, 38, who the Packers drafted in the first round in 2005, publicly bickered with general manager Brian Gutekunst and other members of the team’s front office over a list of grievances. They understood, Rodgers said, the organization not including him in management decisions, his perceived mistreatment by the Packers of former teammates and the fact that he was not used to recruit agents. free.

Rodgers led the Packers to a 13-4 season in 2021, and their relationship has improved even as the chaos of Rodgers’ transformation into a cultural lightning rod over his coronavirus vaccination status ensued off the field. . But it ended in a disappointment in the Divisional Round of the playoffs when the Packers lost, 13-10, to the San Francisco 49ers.

Rodgers’ return was the first chess piece in the team’s offseason plan. Green Bay enters free agency with salary cap issues, but the undisclosed renegotiation of Rodgers’ contract should free up space for moves Gutekunst will need to make to re-sign key players. Star receiver Davante Adams said this week he won’t play under the franchise tag, and linebacker Preston Smith signed a four-year extension worth $52.5 million.

Rodgers’ decision, like Brady’s, maintains the balance of power in the NFC as the Buccaneers and Packers try to challenge the Rams’ supremacy. With both quarterbacks back and current rosters as they are, their teams are the betting favorites to win the conference, according to Caesars Sportsbook. If Rodgers is involved in attracting more talent to Green Bay, the Packers’ chances could increase even further.

After 10 years in Seattle, Russell Wilson will decamp to Denver to replace the Broncos’ rotating quarterback roster.

It will be a fresh start for Wilson, who publicly expressed frustrations with Seahawks management last season over his desire to be more involved in personnel decisions. Behind a below-average offensive line, Wilson took plenty of sacks and had seen most of his teammates in back-to-back Seattle Super Bowl appearances in the 2013 and 2014 seasons leave without improved substitutions.

Wilson missed three games last season with a finger injury, and Seattle suffered its first losing season since joining, forcing both teams to make a switch.

Enter the Broncos, who have failed to find a long-term successor since Peyton Manning’s retirement and have started 11 quarterbacks since 2016. Denver’s franchise is up for sale this offseason and should get new life thanks to changes around the organization, which is expected to push for a new stadium in the coming years.

Denver’s stellar receivers, along with new head coach Nathaniel Hackett, a former Packers offensive coordinator, had forced rumors that the Broncos would be Rodgers’ top contender this offseason. Instead, wides Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton should benefit from Wilson’s precision and ability to buy his targets time to open up the field.

They should help reinvigorate the AFC West run, where the Chargers have added passing thrower Khalil Mack to an explosive defense, and where Kansas City’s offense is still setting the tempo.

James C. Tibbs