Cardinals among winners of NFL Draft night with Rodgers not on 49ers

Apr 29, 2021, 8:34 PM | Updated: 9:39 pm

Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers looks to pass against the Los Angeles Rams during the NF...

Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers looks to pass against the Los Angeles Rams during the NFC Divisional Playoff game at Lambeau Field on January 16, 2021 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Rams 32-18. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Zaven Collins is not a household name. The average football fan in Arizona has never seen him play. He is the anomaly in an offseason full of star-power acquisitions and household names.

Doesn’t matter. The Cardinals were already big winners by the time they drafted a linebacker out of Tulsa, a hulking kid with zero offers from Power Five conferences coming out of high school.

That’s because Aaron Rodgers will not be playing for the 49ers.  At the moment, neither will Deshaun Watson.  And that’s a stroke of good fortune in the Valley, further proof that our luck is changing.

First, Rodgers. The disgruntled quarterback staged a hostile takeover of the league’s signature offseason event on Thursday afternoon. He confirmed through backchannels that he no longer wants to play in Green Bay, and that he is not returning to the Packers under any circumstances.

In effect, Rodgers declared a revolution on the NFL.  The age of athlete empowerment has reached professional football, just like the trend that has overtaken the NBA. At the moment, Rodgers is rumored to be heading to Denver, the first reigning MVP to be traded in the following offseason.

This comes after Matthew Stafford asked out of Detroit; after Watson demanded a trade out of Houston; and after Russell Wilson expressed his deep dissatisfaction with the Seahawks.

Rodgers would’ve been a perfect fit in San Francisco. He would’ve turned the 49ers into Super Bowl favorites.  He surely preferred a Bay area homecoming, having recently married an actress and successfully auditioned as future host of Jeopardy!

The 49ers traded much draft capital to move up to the No. 3 slot in the draft. As noted by one NFL expert, they gave up more than the Bears traded to acquire Khalil Mack; more than the Rams gave up for Jalen Ramsey; and more than the Cardinals gave up for DeAndre Hopkins.

They didn’t do that to draft Trey Lance out of North Dakota State, a prospect who competed in the FCS and has played one football game in the past 15 months. This is a failure that could haunt the organization for years to come.

During his meeting with the media, 49ers general manager John Lynch said he inquired about Rodgers, but was quickly shut down by the Packers, a team that apparently wanted no part of trading a quarterback legend inside the NFC, thereby giving Rodgers a knockout victory and the destination of choice.

If not for scores of massage therapists, the 49ers could’ve easily acquired Watson before Thursday’s draft. The Texans quarterback who also had the 49ers on his shortlist, before legal issues grounded his flight out of Houston.

Those are two near misses that could’ve changed the balance of power in the NFL. Two near misses that could’ve changed the way we view the short-term future of our NFL franchise.

That allowed Cardinals GM Steve Keim to happily draft a linebacker who might not excite people in the same way as J.J. Watt, A.J. Green and Malcolm Butler, but a freakish player who certainly improves the team’s linebacker room and overall physicality.

As for the NFL?  Buckle up.

The NBA changed forever when LeBron James left Cleveland to form a super team in Miami. It soon became an epidemic, where unhappy stars realized the power they truly possess. Soon, Kevin Durant was joining a team that won 73 games the previous season; Eric Bledsoe tweeted his way out of Phoenix, allegedly from a hair salon; while Anthony Davis and James Harden had no philosophical issues bailing on loyal, loving fanbases.

The trend is unsettling, disorienting and damaging to the fabric of the sport.  Unless you cheer for the Cardinals.

Dan Bickley

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