First, and let's get this out of the way up front, Favre is 36 going on 12. Got it? You can call this personal character trait charming, charismatic, passionate, competitive, immature, selfish, stupid, whatever. It's all of those things. Favre's just a guy who will be in middle school his entire life. If you're into that, cool. If you're not, stay away.
Which brings us to our subject: Now that Green Bay has decided to pass on Favre's services, the Packers simply must trade him. All three of the Packers' NFC North opponents would start Favre if they had him, and the Minnesota Vikings would be extremely likely to make a determined run at signing him if he ever becomes available as a free agent. The Vikings with Favre would be an NFC Championship favorite, and they also happen to be the Packers' opening week opponent. Ouch.
Hence, this principle is so foundational that it goes beyond a mere rule and must be considered a given: You don't release Favre, because you can't ever allow him to wind up with an NFC North team. EVER. In fact, you might even put a "no-re-trade" clause in any deal you write, just to prevent your trading partner from flipping Farve to the Vikings for a blockbuster offer.
With that out of the way, here's...
RULE NO. 1:
BRETT FAVRE CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO STEP FOOT ON THE FROZEN TUNDRA OF LAMBEAU FIELD IN ANOTHER TEAM'S COLORS DURING THE 2008 SEASON
That's the Packer's nightmare scenario, and it's why they'll think short-term first. Screw 2009. Just don't allow Brett to stalk them on their home turf.
That removes non-division home opponents Dallas, Atlanta, Indianapolis, and Houston from the list of possible trade partners. Gone. No matter what they offer.
RULE NO. 2:
WRITE OFF THE PACKERS' 2008 ROAD OPPONENTS WHILE YOU'RE AT IT
Brett playing against your team is just a no-win situation for the Packers' front office. So add Tampa, Seattle, Tennessee and Jacksonville to your "off-limits" list.
RULE NO. 3:
FLAG ALL POTENTIAL PLAYOFF OPPONENTS
Favre isn't likely to accept a trade to a non-contending team, which means you'll have to be very careful about trading him within the NFC. We've already removed seven NFC teams, and of the remaining eight only two are potential contenders that would have reason to consider trading: The Arizona Cardinals and the Carolina Panthers.
Favre would start for both teams, and would likely make either the odds-on favorite in its respective division.
Could the Packers trade him to Phoenix or Charlotte? Sure. But that added risk -- that Green Bay wins the North only to host Favre in a playoff game -- will have to add a punitive premium to the Packers' trade requirements. In other words, if the Cards or the Panthers want him, they'll have to offer an absurd package of draft picks.
CONCLUSION: BRETT FAVRE IS HEADING TO THE AFC
There are five American Conference teams in the running, one of which makes perfect sense as his next employer and another that could turn a Favre signing into a cascade of good fortune. Read on...
The potential AFC trade partners, in ascending order of probability:
BUFFALO: They beefed up their line, receivers and RB in 2007, but the defense is pedestrian and they've got a second-year QB. Favre could fit here, but the Bills aren't likely to win the tough AFC East in 2008, and let's face it: It's Buffalo. Even guys from Green Bay don't really want to play in Buffalo.
KANSAS CITY: The Chiefs took Montana. Would they take Favre? They have no QB to speak of and he'd make them instant contenders in the West, but the Chiefs are more than one player away from being a quality team and I doubt GM Carl Peterson will pursue him aggressively.
BALTIMORE: Favre isn't likely to make the playoffs with this team-in-transition, but there's enough talent left that he might not refuse a
trade if one were made. Would GM Ozzie Newsome deal for a 36-year-old QB who's not likely to play
for more than a couple years? Not likely. Then again, there's still enough defense here for the Ravens to make a 2008 push, if they don't have to give up more than some conditional 2009 picks.
SAN DIEGO: The Chargers had more talent than anyone in the NFL last season and underachieved mightily during Norv Turner's first year. Was QB Philip Rivers to blame? Probably not -- but something about this team's chemistry isn't quite right, and there was obvious bad blood between the QB and de facto offensive leader LaDanian Tomlinson. Plugging Favre into this equation could produce fireworks, but it would irreparably damage the club's relationship with Rivers. In other words, if A.J. Smith deals for Favre, it will be the result of a decision that Rivers is not the team's long-term solution at quarterback. More on that later...
Which brings us to the...
***MOST LIKELY TRADE PARTNER***
NEW YORK JETS: No team has made more numerous or more ridiculously optimistic off-season FA moves, and every single one of them is geared toward winning sooner rather than later. The fatal flaw? The Jets lack a legit NFL starter at QB.
Not only could the Jets install Favre as the instant starter, they could probably pay him nothing because of the endorsement deals Favre would get as the top celebrity QB in the media capital of the world.
Does this make sense for the franchise? Well, they'd have to mortgage their future to get Favre under the salary cap even if he gives them favorable terms, and they've already created a looming cap hell over the past five months. Then again, when you go all-in on a poker hand, you don't suddenly fold right before the showdown. The Jets are gambling everything after 2010 on catching the Patriots in 2008-09, and Favre offers their best chance of making that bet pay off.
WHAT WOULD IT COST?
Because of the factors explained above, "Who's asking?" will be what sets the market for Favre. For the two possible NFC partners, acquiring Favre would cost them a package of picks that would likely include a 2008 first rounder, plus additional stuff. The Packers' philosophy: If these guys are going to get him, it's got to hurt them and help our franchise.
This changes if Favre is dealt to an eligible AFC team. In that situation, Green Bay will be a motivated seller. I would be shocked if the Packers rejected a 2008 3rd-rounder from the Chargers or Jets.
Why? Because it gets him out of the conference, it "works" in a PR sense by respecting his wish to go to a contender, and it moves him rapidly out of their hair. The longer this plays out, the worse things get for Green Bay, and the last thing the Packers want is Favre refusing to report to an iffy trade partner, deepening the acrimony and intensifying the media attention.
Obviously, if Favre landed some place like Buffalo without a no-retrade clause, the Bills could make out like bandits by quickly re-dealing the quarterback to Minnesota, which would likely give up multiple high picks to acquire him. A team could make a killing shopping Favre to a motivated buyer, which is why Green Bay needs to be careful with the small print.
And if, as I predict here, Favre winds up in New York, that would make a minor deal for Chad Pennington all but inevitable. Would other teams like an experienced quarterback like Chad for their backup? Sure. And who cares, really?
But the most exciting scenario involves San Diego. If the Chargers trade for Favre, they're essentially deciding to shoot the moon in 2008 and reload the QB position for the future. That means they'll be putting a relatively successful, better-than-average, 26-year-old veteran starting quarterback on the open market, and that's a situation that almost never happens in the NFL. Every front office in the league would have to re-consider their basic assumptions if Rivers suddenly became available.
In fact, the trade market for Rivers could easily reverse the top two spots in this list. If Chargers GM Smith discovers that he can get a franchise QB price for Rivers -- say a package of high picks and starter-quality players from Carolina, where the quarterback remains a college football legend -- he might be willing to offer the Packers more for Favre. A double switch like that has all the markings of the most logical, creative deal out there.
Of course, history teaches that the most logical and creative deal is seldom the deal that gets consummated in the NFL. This isn't baseball, you know...