Hall of Fame G.M. Ron Wolf recently decried “diva” quarterbacks who want to disregard long-term contracts and secure trades to new teams. They’re not “divas”; they’re instead recognizing the power they have, and they’re using it.
Whatever the label, the trend likely won’t be ending any time soon.
This year, NFL teams already have traded three quarterbacks despite long-term contracts. The Eagles shipped Carson Wentz, who wanted out of Philly, to Indianapolis. The Lions sent Matthew Stafford, who wanted out of Detroit, to L.A. The Rams sent Jared Goff, who didn’t really want out of L.A., to Detroit.
Wolf’s concerns relate to a trio of quarterbacks who have yet to be traded, but who reportedly would like to be: Deshaun Watson of the Texans, Russell Wilson of the Seahawks, and Aaron Rodgers of the Packers. It feels like each of them, sooner or later, will get their wish to play for new teams.
So who’s next? It’s hard to imagine there won’t be a next wave, especially as Tampa Bay’s handling of Tom Brady demonstrates the potential upside of embracing a franchise quarterback and treating him like something more than a clock-punching employee.
When young quarterbacks enter the NFL, the question becomes one of pass-fail. And if they pass, we assume they’ll stay put. Brady’s instant success in Tampa Bay will cause more franchise quarterbacks, obsessed with winning, to think about where else they can go in order to better achieve their goals.
I considered naming names, floating possibilities of young (and not-so-young) quarterbacks who may decide they’ve had enough of where they are, and who may want something more and may be willing to try to engineer it. But that effort easily could be misinterpreted as something more than wild-ass guesses, which they basically would be.
Also, I don’t really need to name names. Anyone who pays attention to the NFL needs to simply look at the teams that have good quarterback situations and ask a simple question: What would it take to make the established quarterback try to force his way out?
This year, quarterbacks from five teams — more than 15 percent of the league — wanted out. The three who want out but have yet to get what they want are among the five best quarterbacks in all of football. The others include Patrick Mahomes, who’s under contract into the next decade, and Tom Brady, who accelerated this trend by leaving the Patriots, landing in Tampa Bay, and instantly winning a Super Bowl.
Ready or not, like it or not, it’s here. The teams that realize it, and that properly handle their franchise quarterbacks, won’t have to worry about it. The teams that persist in the old-school belief that a multi-year agreement automatically means that the quarterback will bite his tongue and “honor his contract” and continue to spin his wheels despite his input being ignored will find themselves with players who want to play for a team that will take a more modern and realistic view of the relationship between franchise and franchise quarterback.