FLORHAM PARK, NJ — Aaron Rodgers wants to leave the Green Bay Packers and play for the New York Jets. That’s what the Jets want too. The Packers are willing to make a trade.
So what is the delay?
It is a complex transaction, perhaps unprecedented. You’re talking about an all-time great quarterback with a huge contract. Those factors alone would make it difficult. That he’s 39 years old and has already said he was strongly considering retiring last month makes it more difficult to set a fair price. He can run away in a year. That’s why the Jets don’t want to relinquish their first-round pick of 2023 (13th overall). At the same time, the Packers don’t want to trade a franchise icon for second and third day draft picks.
Leverage is in the eye of the beholder. The Jets are seemingly boxed in on Rodgers as they don’t see a viable option on their roster and the quarterback market is depleted. (Baltimore Ravens star Lamar Jackson is available, but wears the non-exclusive franchise tag.)
The Packers are boxed in because they seem committed to fourth-year quarterback Jordan Love and eager to leave Rodgers. President Mark Murphy recently unveiled the team’s hand, speaking of Rodgers in the past tense: “He had a great career here.”
An AFC executive called it “a unique situation”, saying he would expect the two sides to find common ground before issuing ultimatums.
Let’s take a look at the key questions surrounding the Jets-Rodgers-Packers saga:
Is there a sense of urgency for all parties to close a deal?
Not really. There are no financial deadlines on the near horizon and the Jets will not begin their off-season program until April 17. The actual training will not start until the end of May. Mid-June is the mandatory mini camping.
“It’s in everyone’s best interest to get it done as quickly as possible,” said former NFL executive Mike Tannenbaum, now an ESPN front office analyst. “Usually you need a deadline. Maybe the off-season program is the first deadline.”
Ideally, the Jets would like to have Rodgers in the building next month to get comfortable, start the process of building chemistry with new teammates, and help install a new offense. At the same time, it is not a doomsday if he is not there for the voluntary training sessions. After all, he already has a feel for the offense, having played with the Packers under offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett.
There is no guarantee that he will be there anyway. Rodgers, who has skipped the voluntary part of the off-season in recent years, was non-committal about whether he would participate with the Jets, telling “The Pat McAfee Show” on Wednesday that “it’s one step at a time. I’m still in a contract [with the Packers].”
For the Jets, the benefit of getting a deal done sooner rather than later is peace of mind knowing their QB1 is locked up. No stress, no headache.
So when is the first true pressure point?
It’s April 27 — the first night of the tour. When it comes to that, the Jets will have leverage, as the Packers believe they want harvest compensation that will help them in 2023. If the Packers have to wait until 2024 to reap the benefits of a trade, it could be a diminished return, assuming the Jets improve their record and have a lower draft pick than 13th in 2024.
From a public relations standpoint, it probably wouldn’t be a good look for the Packers. Essentially, they’d be letting one of the most iconic players in franchise history spin to the wind while immediately leaving draft capital on the table.
In the midst of all this, they must make a decision before May 1 on Love’s fifth year option (2024), which is $20.3 million, fully guaranteed. This is a secretly important deadline. If they commit to Love for 2024, the Packers could try to launch the idea that it will allow them to keep Rodgers for another year and go to Love in ’24. That would be a hard sell given their glowing comments about Love and Rodgers’ reluctance to return. He made it clear in the McAfee interview that he is done with Green Bay.
Aren’t the Packers crushed by waiting?
Not at all. The truth is that waiting has a financial benefit.
Currently, Rodgers is counting $31.6 million on the salary cap. If the Packers trade him before June 1, his cap will rise to $40.3 million – and they should carry that all season. If they wait past June 1 to deal him, the cap hit will be spread out over two seasons: $15.8 million this year and $24.5 million in 2024. That would give them about $25 million in additional cap space for 2023. yield to other areas of the grid.
In other words, if this stare-down drags past the draft, the Packers will have no motivation to trade before June 1. And if they wait that long, what’s stopping them from postponing until the start of training camp at the end of July? ? It would be a blow to the Jets if they open camp without their suspected QB1.
When is the hard, must-do deadline for a transaction?
The first game of the regular season (Sept. 10).
Under his existing contract, Rodgers has a $58.3 million option bonus (fully guaranteed) that must be exercised before the opening game. (The actual money will be paid in two installments, the last on September 30.) It’s hard to imagine the Packers paying that much money to a player they don’t want on the roster. If they don’t pay, the cap hit would be astronomical.
Could they swallow hard, welcome him and pay the money? Technically yes, but it’s hard to foresee this happening.
The likelihood of the deadlock reaching this point is highly unlikely. If so, the Packers are in dangerous territory with no influence. And of course, Rodgers’ value to the Jets would decrease because he would show up without training camp. This scenario wouldn’t make sense to anyone.
What is reasonable compensation for Rodgers?
Everyone seems to have an opinion.
If the Jets remain steadfast in keeping their 2023 first-round pick, the two teams will have to get creative to make it work. It could be a firm pick (or picks) in 2023, plus a conditional pick (or picks) in 2024 or 2025. Those terms could be based on individual and team performance and whether Rodgers returns for the 2024 season.
In 2008, the Packers traded Brett Favre to the Jets for a 2009 conditional fourth-round pick that improved to a third-round pick based on playing time. Had the Jets made the playoffs, it would have gone to a second round. If they had reached the Super Bowl, it would have been a first round. They may be willing to do something similar for Rodgers.
Tannenbaum, who negotiated the Favre deal for the Jets, said fair compensation for Rodgers would be a 2023 second round pick and a 2024 second or third round conditional pick.
There is always a chance that players are involved. The Packers could use a wide receiver after losing Allen Lazard to the Jets. The Packers’ Matt LaFleur coached receiver Corey Davis when they teamed up with the Tennessee Titans. Davis could be considered expendable with the arrival of Lazard.
There’s also the thought that instead of a first-round pick, the Packers could ask for a player who was once highly rated on their draft board. The Jets have several players that could appeal to them. With a surplus of defensive goals, Jermaine Johnson – a late first round pick in 2022 – might do the trick.
An important part of the discussions is the remaining money on Rodgers’ contract. In all, he owes $59.5 million in guarantees for 2023, and the Jets almost certainly want the Packers to pay a portion of that. The more the Packers agree to pay, the more compensation they will receive in the form of draft picks and possibly players.
“I still have that fire and I want to play, and I would love to play in New York,” Rodgers said Wednesday. “It’s just a matter of, you know, getting that done right now.”
ESPN Packers reporter Rob Demovsky contributed to this report.