Right now, as new free agent J.J. Watt considers returning to Wisconsin and Green Bay tries to free up enough salary cap space to make that return possible, Packers fans are left wondering what if. What if he actually joins the Packers? What’s the team’s ceiling if he signs? What’s the next move for the franchise if he doesn’t? At a typically dull point in the NFL offseason, it’s fun to wonder what it’d be like if a future Hall Of Famer and one of the greatest to ever play his position came to Titletown.
While we all wait and speculate how the Watt scenario will pan out, let’s look back at a blockbuster transaction that DIDN’T happen…but apparently came within days of becoming a reality. Today, Hall Of Fame tight end and Undisputed co-host Shannon Sharpe claimed he was just days away from joining the Packers during the 1999 season.
— shannon sharpe (@ShannonSharpe) February 18, 2021
Apparently, “a little birdie” told the eight-time Pro Bowler he was going to be traded to Green Bay in the days following Denver’s Week 5 game. Sharpe hints that a reporter told him sometime prior to that game at Oakland.
“I was going to get traded to Green Bay on a Tuesday, but I played in a game against the Raiders that Sunday and guess what happened. I broke my collarbone.”
After the injury, the reigning two-time Super Bowl champion Broncos—who had already lost John Elway to retirement that offseason and running back Terrell Davis to a knee injury in Week 4—could no longer trade their soon-to-be free agent All-Pro tight end. The Broncos missed the playoffs. Green Bay, left to rely on Tyrone Davis and Jeff Thomason after Mark Chmura’s 1999 season (his last in football) was cut short, went 8-8 and also missed the playoffs.
Instead of following in his big brother Sterling Sharpe’s footsteps and playing with the Brett Favre-helmed Packers, Shannon would miss the remainder of the ’99 season before signing with the Baltimore Ravens the following year and winning his third Super Bowl in 2000. It worked out well for him, but it ushered in some pretty lean years for tight ends in Green Bay.
We’ll never know how Sharpe would have fit on that Packers offense, if he would’ve changed the team’s playoff destiny, if he would have opted to stay after the year was through, or if his claim of nearly being traded is even true. But it’s interesting to think about what might have been. Plus it got you to think about something other than J.J. Watt in a Packers uniform for a few minutes, didn’t it? You’re welcome.
(And YES, we know the Super Bowl patch on the image above would have been for the 1998 season, not the 1999 season.)