Aaron Rodgers will quarterback the Jets in 2023, just as Jordan Love will be the signal-caller for the Packers this season. Barring anything catastrophic, these are events that are sure to happen this fall.
When Rodgers officially becomes a Jet — one could argue that he’s already a Jet in spirit — is a matter that no one can determine at this time.
It could be today, or the weekend, or after a kumbaya session at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix later this month. Maybe it extends to NFL Draft day, with the trade from Green Bay trickling out nonetheless. Or maybe he goes into the summer with two stubborn franchises steeped in antipathy.
But here’s what I think: what Rodgers had to say earlier this week The Pat McAfee report didn’t affect when or how that trade was made any more than this column published Friday on CBSSports.com.
Does Rodgers plan to play for the Jets? Well yes. Was the giveaway the team-only meeting between Rodgers and Jets brass at a private airport?
The Jets have targeted Rodgers for months. Even Derek Carr had to know that when he had dinner with the team last month. Carr was the backup plan in case something went wrong with Rodgers, and when free agency loomed and the Jets were adamant about making a move at the most important position in all of North American sports, that was the biggest hint they needed. someone that the team felt very confident of getting their man.
Meanwhile, the Packers have known for some time that they would likely move on from Rodgers. Love will take over for Rodgers like Rodgers took over for Favre and team president Mark Murphy admitted as many days before Rodgers ever spoke to the streaming world.
“It’s a situation [letting Rodgers talk to the Jets] where I think we wanted to help Aaron get what he wanted and help the Packers,” Murphy said. “Hopefully it’s going to be a win-win situation for both sides. We’d like to have it resolved by the time free agency starts.”
Murphy, in no uncertain terms, addressed the issue of Rodgers to the Jets a fait accompli. He wanted it done before free agency started, as did I, though his reasons were likely for team-building purposes rather than being able to watch the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament unrestricted.
So before Rodgers spoke publicly, the Jets already wanted him and the Packers already didn’t want him. Seems like a little more than half the battle there.
Compensation was always going to be the issue. How much is a four-time NFL MVP worth on a huge contract to a needy team like the Jets? Should the Packers “do right” by a player who can rightly and stoically say he’s arguably the best player in franchise history?
If you think the Jets will be swayed by pressure from the public or their fan base…dude…listen to yourself. The Jets were born under pressure. Molded by it. I don’t think Boomer Esiason would consider a June business day started until his producer has turned away a dozen callers wanting to explain why Joe Douglas should regret the linebacker he took in the fifth round.
The Packers also shouldn’t be motivated by Rodgers trying to embarrass them. Since selecting Love in 2020, Rodgers has made it a hobby to not-so-subtly push general manager Brian Gutekunst.
The risky contract and frequent “will he or won’t he” wasn’t really part of Rodgers’ game until after this pick. He played with the team every chance he got: Stealing headlines in the 2021 NFL Draft, then forcing a contract adjustment before 2021 training camp that put a Last Dance-like end to his days with the Packers, and then the three-year mega extension last year in free agency. And somewhere in between all of that he won back-to-back NFL MVPs.
Rodgers has wanted to throw the Love pick in the face of the Packers’ brass ever since they drafted Love, and he’s done so—tastefully or not—to some degree of success. Talking about Ted Thompson’s senior days in direct comparison to Gutekunst (without mentioning Gutey by name), Rodgers twisted the knife. Everyone knew because everyone he has known it.
Sprinkled throughout his nearly hour-long interview were a few hints about how Rodgers wants that narrative to play out. He claimed he went into the dark thinking there was a 90/10 chance he would emerge and eventually retire, walking away from nearly $60 million in guaranteed salary in 2023 while still being one of the best people in the world at his job. Of course, we will never be able to control that.
But he also said that when he re-entered the light, something changed. A Damascus-like moment, if you will. The conversation was now – just now! and not at all before he went to that shelter—the Packers didn’t want him anymore. Now he had to train and decide whether to retire. Within weeks, Rodgers went from almost retiring to being the quarterback of the New York Jets.
All elite athletes seemingly have these moments that could charitably be called ahistorical. Pick any of the half dozen Michael Jordan’s said in “The Last Dance.” My personal favorite sport was Kobe Bryant saying the Hornets didn’t want him in 1996, so he was traded to the Lakers. Before Rodgers this week, the latest best in sports was the Georgia Bulldogs saying many doubted they would win the national championship.
I really believe Rodgers believes what he said. And that will be his fuel in 2023. It might be enough to keep him in New York for 2024, as the Packers are scheduled to host an as-yet-undetermined AFC East opponent in Lambeau that season.
Lord, I have seen what you have done for others…
Rodgers will be the Jets quarterback this year, whatever else he says or doesn’t say. The two sides will come to an agreement because they have to. That said, it won’t affect trade compensation, because that would make Gutekunst and Douglas ridiculous, and men in their position can’t afford to make them look pathetic.
They will understand and then Rodgers will have a lot to say.