Aaron Rodgers wants to play for the New York Jets. The Jets want him to be there. The Green Bay Packers also want to trade the veteran quarterback to finally play 2020 first-round pick Jordan Love. Therefore, it should be easy to adjust everything and make it happen, shouldn’t it?
Well, maybe not.
In the last couple of weeks, but especially since Rodgers went on the Pat McAfee Show to confirm his intention to play for the Jets, the trade compensation and who has the leverage between the two teams is a hot topic of conversation.
“I haven’t been holding anything up,” Rodgers said on The Pat McAfee Show. “At this point, it’s been compensation that the Packers are trying to get for me and kind of digging their heels in.”
Nobody has disclosed what the Packers exactly want, nor what the Jets are willing to give up. But the gap might be significant. Adam Schefter reported that Green Bay could mention the Matthew Stafford package, which involved two first-round picks.
But later Tom Pelissero, who is very connected in Green Bay, reported that this is not the Packers’ asking price.
However, general manager Brian Gutekunst is probably asking for at least one first. On the other hand, Jets GM Joe Douglas is trying to keep as many assets as possible to build around Rodgers. Some NFL people think the compensation shouldn’t involve more than a couple of mid-round picks.
The difference in leverage is a big point of contention now. Who has the advantage? Who blinks first?
ESPN’s Mina Kimes brought up a good point arguing that the worst-case scenario for the Jets is much worse than it is for the Packers.
New York doesn’t have many options. Derek Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett, and Taylor Heinicke signed elsewhere. Former starter Mike White went to the Miami Dolphins. Lamar Jackson could be in play, but the Jets don’t have the cap flexibility to realistically make an offer the Baltimore Ravens wouldn’t match. Right now, the most realistic decent options would be trading for Ryan Tannehill or signing Carson Wentz. Zach Wilson would have a shot to be the starter.
For the Packers, the worst-case scenario would be Aaron Rodgers saying he wouldn’t retire or come back — which is highly unlikely, by the way. In this case, the Packers could be forced to find a last-minute trade partner to offload Rodgers’ deal before his $58.3 million signing bonus kicks in before Week 1. Rodgers doesn’t have a no-trade clause, so Green Bay could send him anywhere for a conditional seventh-round pick that turns into a first or second if/when he comes back. It’s obviously a crazy situation that might not happen, but the Packers still have a pathway to get out of his deal.
Brian Gutekunst’s job is safe right now, at least while nobody knows just how good Jordan Love is. And his effort to get maximum compensation is seen as a sign of strength among Packers fans and the upper levels of the organization. The worst move he could make, one that could jeopardize his job moving forward, would be getting a bad trade package in return. After missing 75% of Love’s rookie deal with him on the bench, the Packers must capitalize on the trade to have an advantage in moving to the younger quarterback.
However, Joe Douglas is also under pressure. New York is a cold-blooded market, and he made a big mistake by drafting Zach Wilson with the second-overall pick two years ago. Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh are forced to make it work, especially after Rodgers went on a popular show to say he wants to play there.
Imagine the Jets going into Week 1 with Zach Wilson or Carson Wentz as the starter because they didn’t want to give up proper compensation for Rodgers? If things go south, as they probably would in this case, the Jets would squander a really good roster, and the leaders’ would almost certainly lose their jobs as a consequence.
With each passing day, Jets fans and the New York media get more impatient. They want Aaron Rodgers as soon as possible. Trading for him would allow the front office to build around him with more security and knowing what capital they would have — both in terms of the draft and the salary cap after an eventual contract adjustment.
The Packers are in no hurry for now, though. They would obviously want some trade compensation for this year’s draft, but that’s the first deadline for them. That means Green Bay has at least one month to make it happen. And if negotiations don’t evolve in this one month, the Packers could still wait and trade Rodgers after June 1. In this case, Green Bay would be able to spread Rodgers’ dead money over two years. So, instead of having a $40.3 million cap hit in 2023, the Packers would have $15.8 million in dead money in 2023 and $24.5 million in 2024. That means Green Bay has no problem waiting. But the Jets do.
The Packers have two problems to solve in terms of leverage. The first is that, currently, there are no other suitors for Rodgers. And second is that Rodgers wants to play for the Jets, and nobody would trade for him without assurances that he would accept. But if the negotiation gets ugly, Green Bay could expand the market and see what happens. The Jets don’t have a real alternative, and their fans are ready to get Rodgers on the team.
It’s a complicated situation, and it will eventually get done because it’s good for everyone. But the Packers have more leverage, and Gutekunst is right to try to extract as much value as possible for Aaron Rodgers.