Anyone expecting Aaron Rodgers to treat his departure from Green Bay differently than his Packers predecessor because of what Rodgers himself had to deal with as Brett Favre yo-yo’d back and forth on playing in Green Bay was sorely mistaken. The irony of Rodgers’ looming — “obnoxiously lingering” feels like a much more appropriate description at this point — decision is inescapable. Roughly 15 years ago, Rodgers himself floated in NFL purgatory as Favre waffled before ultimately being traded to the Jets on August 7, 2008. Unlike Favre, Rodgers is actually holding multiple franchises hostage. The Packers essentially told Favre to kick rocks after he decided to retire in March of 2008 and then changed his mind a few months later.”Favre had one chance, and one chance only, to salvage his career in Green Bay. He had to commit wholeheartedly for another season by early March,” longtime beat writer Bob McGinn wrote in the Journal-Sentinel in 2008.He didn’t, Rodgers took over and the rest is history. Rodgers is in a different boat, with the Packers reportedly preferring he either retire or express interest in playing elsewhere.
Rodgers, who promised “it won’t be long” until his decision is made, has earned the right to take his time in making a decision. He’s a first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback and one of the most exciting NFL players of his generation, regardless of positional value. But this is getting a little ridiculous, particularly in light of Tuesday’s flurry of free-agent rumors suggesting Rodgers might not only be the Jets quarterback of the future but their current general manager. (He also owns the Bears, making him the first QB/GM/owner of three different franchises in NFL history.)
ESPN’s Dianna Russini reported on Tuesday Rodgers provided the Jets a “wish list” of pass catchers he wanted the team to acquire, including a pair of former Packers turned free agents with a combined age of 70 years old.
Allen Lazard is one thing. He’s a possible replacement for Corey Davis if the former Titans first-round pick became a salary-cap casualty. And according to multiple reports, the Jets hammered out a deal to get the speedster a four-year, $44 million deal. According to Mike Garofolo of NFL Media, the Jets initially offered Lazard $9 million a year and came up significantly on that number in the last few days. The reason — Rodgers — should be obvious.But adding Randall Cobb — 32 years old, one of Rodgers’ best friends and a crafty veteran — with Elijah Moore on the roster seems fairly redundant. (It’s possible Moore could be going to Green Bay, which would change things on that end.) Marcedes Lewis is 38 years old! He is, like Cobb and Lazard, familiar with Nathaniel Hackett’s offense. So there’s some justification here. Odell Beckham Jr. is a weird one — why didn’t Rodgers ever campaign to get him to the Packers? And why does Rodgers want to load up his potential new team with a bunch of players from his old team that — in theory — lacked weapons?
Making matters even weirder: Rodgers has not committed to joining the Jets. It is possible, albeit unlikely, he could manipulate the Jets into signing all of his old compadres, getting them one last bite of the free agent apple, and then decide to retire, simultaneously jamming both the Jets and the Packers.
New York would have a bunch of elderly former Packers foisted on it and, more importantly, be stuck without a quarterback. The Jets are clearly over Zach Wilson, saw Mike White sign with Miami in free agency and consequently put all their eggs in the Rodgers basket. Fortunately for them, there’s no other competition in the NFL, barring some mystery team out of nowhere. But Rodgers doesn’t have to continue playing. He could easily decide he wants to retire and go hangout in a dark, ayahuasca-filled cave for a few years. Retirement would also stiff the Packers with a $40 million dead cap charge in 2023, although if Rodgers was willing to restructure the contract when he walked away, Green Bay could spread out the cap hit. A trade leaves the Packers with the same $40 million dead cap hit, unless the deal is consummated on June 2 or later. The Packers’ salary cap situation is fine; they have north of $20 million in space, even simply accounting for Rodgers returning and playing in Green Bay in 2023. It’s unclear if that’s an option the Packers would entertain. It doesn’t feel like it, but are they really just telling another Hall of Fame QB to kick rocks. Surely Rodgers wouldn’t steer a bunch of players to the Jets only to attempt to stick around in Green Bay.
Regardless, his decision will impact the Packers’ salary cap and their plan for Jordan Love. Certainly the Jets, with $11 million in cap room (pre-Lazard signing), will need to make some moves if they land Rodgers. Maybe just a single one: dumping the aforementioned Davis would free up $10 million in cap space, giving them (likely) more than enough to absorb the roughly $16 million cap charge Rodgers would come with in a trade. Still, they need to know their quarterback plan, they need to know their salary cap situation and they need to know if alternative options are required. That’s the crux of this whole thing: Rodgers is currently holding multiple teams hostage with his decision to drag out this decision. Free agency has started — “legal tampering” is underway as we speak — and the quarterback carousel is already spinning, even without Rodgers pushing his domino over. Jimmy Garoppolo signed a monster deal with the Raiders, filling the obvious quarterback void in one location where Rodgers could have potentially gone (Davante Adams’ presence in Las Vegas always made it an option, even as they slowly backed away, Homer Simpson bush dot gif style, from any interest in a trade with the Packers). The Jets lost a fan-and-locker-room-favorite backup in Mike White to the division rival Dolphins.
White wasn’t going to crack anyone’s top-100 free agent list and getting two years and $16 million from Miami is a bit steep. But his signing elsewhere serves as a reminder just how frozen the Jets remain here.The machinations with Favre were different since he retired in March. But the drama feels very much the same. Maybe we end up getting a resolution immediately after I write this story. Maybe Rodgers drags this out into the new league year or beyond. However it ends up, a Hall of Fame Packers quarterback appears to be maximizing the drama quotient en route to a stint with the Jets.So we beat on, quarterbacks against the current, borne ceaselessly into the past.