Having to part with a star player is difficult. When that player is one of the best all-around wide receivers in today’s pass-loving NFL, the awkward situation is usually unprecedented.
Speaking to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero at Sunday’s Annual League Meeting, Packers head coach Matt LaFleur opened up to the Raiders about the team trading star wideout Davante Adams.
“Sometimes you have to make tough decisions,” LaFleur said. “I definitely appreciate everything Davante has brought to our team. I mean, he’s the top receiver in the National Football League, so that was a tough question for me personally and for our organization.”
When asked if there had been any discussion of dissuading Adams from leaving, LaFleur replied, “Well, there really wasn’t anything to discuss. I mean they’re in contract negotiations and certainly it was just one of those deals where, as I said, a lot of difficult decisions had to be made.”
The trade to Las Vegas came after Adams told Green Bay he would not play under the franchise tag the Packers placed on the All-Pro wideout at 11 a.m. of the March 8 deadline. Adams signed a five-year, $141.25 million contract with the Raiders upon his arrival.
Adams, a second-round draft pick from Green Bay in 2014, is on hallowed ground after eight seasons with the franchise, ranking second all-time in catches (669) and touchdown receptions (73) and fourth at Receiving yards (8,121).
“To the Packers organization, I cannot thank you enough for seeing in me what no one else has,” Adams wrote in his farewell. “That phone call in 2014 was one of my most memorable moments and I promised myself at the time that I would do everything in my power to repay you for giving me a chance, always had my back and your faith in me never wavered. I am forever grateful to you for that.”
LaFleur, who was “hopeful” of keeping the Adams freehand, echoed that sentiment on Sunday.
“Well I think Tae and I have a great relationship,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of mutual respect. He’s certainly a guy who’s going to be difficult to replace and that’s why you never want to let such great players leave your team. But like I said, it’s just one of those deals , where there are some tough decisions to be made, unfortunately the National Football League has what is called a salary cap and you have to break that as well, so everything has been taken into account in these decisions.
Replacing Adams won’t be easy, if at all possible. A first-team All-Pro for the past two seasons, Adams is coming off a year in which he had career-highs with 123 receptions for 1,553 yards (11 TDs). Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who won his second straight MVP award in 2021, relied heavily on Adams to run precise routes, anticipate back-shoulder throws, create space on broken plays and be safe, especially in high-pressure situations .
“I think like any great quarterback, or quarterback in general, you want to have as many pieces around you as possible,” LaFleur said when asked about how Rodgers handled the trade. “Sure there will be opportunities, we’re still free and then we have the draft. In my experience, there can be a lot of movement before the start of the season.”
LaFleur added, “We really need to add some pieces to this space, and you know, we need to build our offense around what we have. You cannot look back and must go forward.”
The 2022 offseason was another whirlwind for LaFleur and the Packers organization. Last year’s antics didn’t stop the Packers from winning their third straight NFC North title and third straight 13-win season in 2021, but as the NFL’s business realities help moderate league parity, the drama holds out of season.
When asked if he often dreams of having a normal, quiet offseason, the Packers coach seemed to take it all in stride.
“Every night,” LaFleur replied with a smile. “But I know that’s not the reality of our league.”