April 1, 2022 | SPORTS | By Charlie Rounaghi | Illustration by Iris Guo
With the NFL Draft a month away and the league’s 103rd season set to kick off this fall, this year’s off-season has often headlined the front-page of sports journalism, with some of the biggest names in the league on the move.
The quarterback position, arguably the most important in the sport, is seemingly in the midst of an ever-changing shuffle this offseason. Many teams in the league are making big moves with the hype of vying for a chance to play in the postseason and to ultimately lift the Lombardi Trophy.
Luckily for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, their search for a quarterback was cut short when Tom Brady, 44, announced that he would return for next season after only a 40-day retirement. After leading the league in passing yards and touchdowns last year, Brady’s return immediately brings the Buccaneers to the same place they were a year ago: in contention for another Super Bowl.
In Wisconsin, Green Bay Packers fans experienced a stressful couple of months waiting for their superstar quarterback to decide his fate. After a year full of speculation about his future, Aaron Rodgers finally announced his decision to sign a contract extension with the Packers, cementing the majority of his career to be played on the team that drafted him.
Dominoes began to fall across the league after teams learned of Rodgers’ unavailability as a free agent. Rodgers’ teammate and top wide receiver, Davante Adams, was a culprit of this effect, as he was sent to the Las Vegas Raiders for two draft picks shortly after Rodgers signed his extension.
Adams joins an arsenal of weapons available to quarterback Derek Carr and the Raiders, including wide receiver Hunter Renfrow and tight end Darren Waller. By utilizing these weapons, the Raiders will have an explosive offense to compete with in an already loaded AFC West division.
Unlike Rodgers and Brady, the world had not seen nor heard from quarterback Deshaun Watson in over a year, following numerous allegations of sexual misconduct directed towards the star player. After a grand jury in Texas did not find enough evidence to charge Watson for these allegations, Watson waived his no-trade clause so his Houston Texans could send him to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for a plethora of draft picks.
Watson still faces 22 lawsuits in civil court, and the NFL is still reviewing all the evidence, possibly deciding on a suspension. Off the field, this is a very messy situation. On the field, however, the Browns added a young, top-five quarterback who is an immediate upgrade over former starter Baker Mayfield.
Moving over one state to the west, the Indianapolis Colts also received an upgrade at the quarterback position. After a successful 14 seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, quarterback Matt Ryan is now a Colt. Ryan won league MVP with the Falcons in 2016 and was on his way to be the Super Bowl MVP that season until his team infamously blew a 28-3 lead against the New England Patriots.
In Indianapolis, Ryan will be paired with emerging star running back Jonathan Taylor and an elite, top-10 defense. If Ryan can return to MVP-form for a Colts team that has all the tools to make a deep playoff run, they could be a tough team to beat.
Aside from the March Madness carousel of revolving quarterbacks, several other big-name players are also on the move. Outside linebacker Von Miller signed with the Buffalo Bills, the defending Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams added wide receiver Allen Robinson II, and Tyreek Hill was traded to the Miami Dolphins for five draft picks and inked a four year, $120 million contract, making him the highest-paid receiver in NFL history.
Although the NFL free agency period started less than a month ago, the significant number of league-altering transactions that have already been conducted brings optimism that we may see more of them occur before next month’s draft.