The Jets are looking for a quarterback…again. This is the first in a three-part series exploring her options this offseason. The first part is a look at trading for Packers star Aaron Rodgers.
Jets fans are suddenly looking for clues on The Pat McAfee Show, researching ayahuasca and watching lots of Jeopardy! hoping for signs that Aaron Rodgers will be their next quarterback.
These fans may need to relax.
It could be a while before Rodgers’ future becomes clear and if that includes a deal with Gang Green. Rodgers and the Jets made a lot of sense, but some big questions remain: Would Rodgers want to play for the Jets, and would team owner Woody Johnson be willing to pick up the $59.465 million bill for Rodgers so he could play in 2023 can play?
Johnson said after the season that he would be “absolutely” willing to spend this offseason on a veteran quarterback if general manager Joe Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh let him know. However, Johnson may not have had a nearly $60 million price tag in mind.
Aaron Rodgers, Getty Images
As the Jets ponder their quarterback options this offseason, the Rodgers question looms. The opportunity to add a future Hall of Famer may be too good to pass up.
At the moment it’s all just speculation. The Packers have not indicated they are willing to trade with Rodgers. And Rodgers hasn’t said if he intends to play in 2023 and if he plays if he wants a trade. He has given very few hints as to what he is up to. It’s the third straight season of trying to read the tea leaves with Rodgers.
“All other ideas too [a] Trading and whatnot, it’s all guesswork until I decide what I want to do for myself,” Rodgers said on The Pat McAfee Show this week.
The conjecture got a boost last weekend when ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that there was a “real possibility” that both the Packers and Rodgers might consider a trade this offseason.
The Jets were logically connected to the Rodgers Sweepstakes. After their disaster last season with Zach Wilson, Saleh and Douglas need a “win now” quarterback in 2023. Rodgers meets the requirements. Johnson has shown that he enjoys acquiring shiny toys. Notably, in 2008 he acted for Brett Favre, Rodgers’ predecessor in Green Bay.
Could Johnson strike another deal with the Packers for an aging superstar?
The first domino to fall will be whether Rodgers is ready to join the Jets. Rodgers doesn’t have a no-trade clause, but no team would trade for him without an assurance that he wants to play for them. Some believe he would not be comfortable in the New York spotlight. The Jets are certainly in a better place than ever to attract a player of Rodgers pedigree. They have a top 5 defense. They have young guns like Garrett Wilson, Breece Hall and Elijah Moore. And they’re expected to revamp the offensive line this offseason.
The Jets are in the process of hiring an offensive coordinator, and Nathaniel Hackett, who worked with Rodgers at Green Bay and has received much praise from the quarterback, is one of the candidates. However, Hackett’s presence guarantees nothing. Just ask the Broncos. When they hired Hackett as their head coach last season, some believed Rodgers would follow him to Denver.
Saleh and Rodgers are somewhat familiar due to Saleh’s close relationship with Packers head coach Matt LaFleur. Rodgers said he congratulated Saleh when the Jets hired him while he was FaceTiming with LaFleur. Saleh faced Rodgers as a coordinator and head coach and got to watch him practice in the summer of 2021 when the Jets and Packers trained together in Green Bay.
New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh, former offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur (left) and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers during a joint NFL football practice session in 2021.AP
“When I saw him in a practice setting, I thought it was one of the coolest experiences for me,” Saleh said at the time. “You hear about Hall of Famers and you hear what their training habits are like and I just thought how he communicated with his teammates, how he spoke to his coaches, the respect and appreciation his teammates don’t just have for him have, but it is passed from him to his teammates, just a class. And everything people think about him is spot on, he’s A-1.”
From the Jets’ perspective, the biggest hurdle is money. A potential trade for Rodgers wouldn’t be a salary cap issue. The three-year, $150 million contract extension he signed in March is structured to keep the cap low over the next two years.
There is a good breakdown of Rodgers’ contract at overthecap.com. Basically, any team Rodgers plays for in 2023 would have the option of splitting Rodgers’ compensation into a base salary of $1.165 million and a bonus of $58.3 million. The bonus can be prorated over four years to lower the cap. His salary for 2024 has a similar option. His cap fees would total $48 million over the next two seasons.
Jets owner Woody Johnson’s commitment to pay for a big QB would be put to the test in a deal with Aaron Rodgers. Bill Kostroun for the New York Post
So the jets could make the cap work. The question is whether Johnson can make the money work. Although the bonus would be prorated for capping purposes, Rodgers would be due the $20.3 million within 10 days of the team exercising the option and the other $38 million before September 30.
While Johnson is a billionaire, the Jets are operating on a budget, and part of the appeal of drafting Zach Wilson in 2021 was having a quarterback play on a rookie contract and being able to allocate money elsewhere. The Jets certainly didn’t budget $60 million for a quarterback when planning for the 2023 season.
The Packers may be reluctant to trade Rodgers lest they face a $40 million fee. If they’re moving away from Rodgers, it’s because they’ve decided they’ve had enough and want to start Jordan Love. It won’t make much sense for them financially.
The other problems
Aside from monetary compensation, the Jets would also have to forego draft capital to acquire Rodgers. How much depends on who you ask. There was speculation in the media that the Packers would want two first-round picks for Rodgers. The league thinks that’s unrealistic. At 39, Rodgers is older than other quarterbacks traded in recent years. The acquiring team would take over its contract and take potential headaches off Green Bay when it comes to trade talks.
Any trade package would likely be based on how Rodgers performs in the upcoming season. A team could send a mid- and late-round pick to Green Bay in the 2023 draft and also dish out one or more picks in 2024 based on how many games Rodgers plays, if he wins MVP, and if the team makes the playoffs, the Super Bowl and wins the Super Bowl. A fourth-round pick could become a first-rounder if Rodgers hits certain marks in 2023.
A big question for the Jets is whether they think Rodgers is going back. He had one of his worst seasons in 2022 after winning MVP awards in 2020 and 2021. Rodgers threw 12 interceptions, his most in a decade, and didn’t have a single 300-yard pass play last season. The Packers went 8-9 and missed the playoffs.
Then there’s the question of how many years Rodgers wants to play. Is it all worth it for one season? He could be a short-term fix, but the team acquiring him would be looking for another quarterback in 2024. Rodgers has been flirting with walking away for a number of years.
Rodgers can drag this out and the Jets may not be able to wait. Other quarterbacks like Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo will find homes by mid-March. The Jets can’t be left without a partner at the end of the QB game.
“I have to figure out what I want to do,” Rodgers told McAfee, “and then we’ll see where all the parties are and what happens after that.”
It could get interesting.
Coming Tomorrow: Could Jimmy G or Derek Carr Be the Answer?