Absent a ruling from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell barring the Minnesota Vikings from employing Brett Favre in 2008, the Minnesota Vikings appear to be the odds on favorite to land the in-limbo Green Bay quarterback.
In his nearly daily update on the Favre situation, Green Bay Packers' general manager Ted Thompson, along with Packers' head coach Mike McCarthy, all but ensured that the Packers will be left with little to show for all of their efforts to frustrate Favre's return to the NFL this season.
Responding to questions about Favre's status with Green Bay, McCarthy stated that Aaron Rodgers was the team's starting quarterback and that Favre would be welcome back in a back-up role.
Clearly, Favre has no intention of returning to the NFL only to sit behind what is essentially a rookie quarterback in Rodgers. We've discussed the difficulties for the Packers of such a scenario in a recent column, but the difficulties are far deeper than just the nuisance that Favre could be as an entrenched back-up.
Last week, Thompson seemed convinced that Favre was merely bluffing about a comeback, but hedged his bets by hitting Minnesota with a tampering charge, thereby seeking to keep Minnesota from signing Favre under any circumstances.
Those previously unthinkable circumstances now appear imminent. When asked whether the Packers would consider trading Favre to a division rival, Thompson was emphatic and quick in his response. "No," he said. Thompson intimated that the Packers' best options were to trade Favre out of the division or to retain Favre. When asked if releasing Favre were an option, Thompson again replied in the negative. "I just don't see the business sense in that," Thompson replied.
The business sense in releasing Favre is simple, it would seem. The Packers already have considerable cap space allocated to two young quarterbacks in Rodgers and rookie Brian Brohm. Retaining Favre at a cap hit of $13 million plus makes zero cap sense when combined with the deleterious effect having Favre on the sidelines is likely to cause. And that's only in 2008. Bringing back Favre and forcing him to watch Rodgers go through the growing pains would only add to the bottom-line misery as fans began opting out.
Clearly, the Packers need either to bring Favre back as the starter or rid themselves of him. The difficulty with trading him is that he can make it known to every team to which the Packers prefer to trade him--i.e., the New York Jets and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers--that he has no interest in playing for them. That leaves the Packers' two most-likely trading partners unwilling to offer much for Favre and likely to move him for only a bit more once obtained. That all seems like more hassle than it is worth at this point in the season.
Then there are issues of need and cap space. Tampa Bay has plentiful cap space, but they also have money invested in Jeff Garcia. The Jets, meanwhile, are well short of the $13 million that they would need to add Favre without considerable restructuring of other players' salaries. That lack of flexibility would require the Jets to gain an accommodation from Favre prior to any trade. And that doesn't appear likely, given Favre's insinuation that he has no interest in playing for the Jets.
As for which other teams might interest the Packers, the list appears short, with few teams both flush with the necessary cap space to sign Favre in a trade and also in need of a starting quarterback. Unfortunately for Green Bay, most of the teams with sufficient cap space also either have an established quarterback or are building around a young quarterback and are too far removed from making a Super Bowl run for it to make much sense to bring Favre in for a season or two, thereby delaying the inevitable rebuilding process. Only Tampa Bay fits what Green Bay needs in a trading partner outside the NFC North.
In the NFC North, meanwhile, there are two teams for which Favre appears willing to play, even if it means taking a pay cut. Chicago and Minnesota both have talent on defense enough money to make it worth Favre's while to play for them, with Minnesota clearly more skilled at several positions and in a better overall position from the standpoint of claiming to be a quarterback away from making a run at a championship to entice Favre into the fold.
Ultimately, Green Bay might well be left with no better business decision--at least from Thompson's perspective--than to release Favre. And if one is to take a leap of faith and take Favre at his ever-changing word, there seems to be no more logical and probable of a destination for the quarterback than Minnesota.
Up Next: Will the drama end? Plus, cap issues and line pains.