This is the third in a series of 2023 pre-draft explorations, looking across the NFL to see what offseason moves worked - and which didn’t - in an attempt get a better handle on effective roster building.
It should have come as no surprise that the hottest wide receiver market in many years would end up resulting in the trade of perhaps the best receiver in the game. With Aaron Rodgers signed to a $150M, 3-year contract in March of 2022, and his top wide receiver, Davante Adams slated to hit the market that offseason, the Packers opted to franchise tag and trade Rodgers’ top offensive weapon.
Green Bay sent Adams to the Raiders for a first round pick (#22) and a second round pick (#53) in the 2022 draft. The Raiders then promptly signed him to a 5-year, $141.5M deal.
Aftermath of the Trade
For his part, once in Las Vegas, Adams had a “typical” Davante Adams spectacular year, with 100 receptions for 1,516 yards and 14 TDs. In terms of yardage, he finished only behind Justin Jefferson and Tyreek Hill. The Raiders wanted one of the best WRs in the game, and they got it.
Even so, it wasn’t enough to make them relevant. The Raiders finished 6-11 and out of the playoffs. All indications are that they will be starting over at QB again, with Derek Carr unlikely to return next season.
The Packers used their first round pick from the Raiders (#22) to select linebacker Quay Walker from Georgia. Walker played in all 17 games for Green Bay - and started 16 - forcing 3 fumbles, accumulating 121 tackles (5 TFLs), and 1.5 sacks. He was an important addition to the defense, and an immediate rookie contributor.
Green Bay then paired its second round pick from the Adams trade (#53) with its original second rounder (#59) to trade up to #34 in an exchange with Minnesota. That pick was used - at least in part - to try to backfill Adams’ absence with another promising, young wide receiver: North Dakota State’s Christian Watson.
The first WR taken in the second round, Watson was actually the 7th wide receiver grabbed in the 2022 draft. He had a respectable year, starting 11 games for the Packers and catching 41 balls for 611 yards, adding 80 yards on the ground, and totaling 9 TDs - the most by any rookie WR.
Will Watson be the next Adams? The odds are probably against it, but he certainly appears to have the capacity to be an NFL WR2 with WR1 upside if he can continue his maturation. Even with the addition of Walker and Watson, the Packers failed to make the playoffs this season, finishing 8-9.
As was demonstrated in the previous installments of this series, trades are not zero-sum propositions. Meaning, they don’t necessarily have to have a “winner” and a “loser.” Sometimes both sides can “lose” (or “win”). In this case neither the Raiders nor the Packers made the playoffs. Adams will be catching the ball from someone else next year, and it’s entirely possible that Watson may be as well.
At 31 going into next season, the clock is ticking on Adams’ ability to remain a top end talent, while both Walker and Watson should - barring injury - continue to improve over the next several years. Who would you say got the better end of this bargain?
Would the Packers have made the playoffs with Davante Adams, assuming he would have played on the franchise tag?
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