Monday, May 29 2023

The New York Jets and the Green Bay Packers should have a deal by now, right? They have been talking about an Aaron Rodgers trade for weeks. The quarterback has signed off on a scenario that sends him to New York.

What’s the holdup?

It’s never easy to trade a quarterback — especially not an elite one with a Super Bowl win on his résumé. But after 18 years, the Packers seem to have moved on, with Green Bay CEO Mark Murphy saying the team would trade Rodgers “unless things don’t work out the way we want them.” Still, it’s never simple moving a player you no longer want when that player is as valuable as Rodgers.

So let’s dive into some of the specifics that are holding up this deal.


Trade compensation

What to know about the Packers’ side of the deal 

In a world in which Russell Wilson commanded two first-round picks, two second-round picks, a fifth-round pick along with multiple players and Matt Ryan was traded for a third-round pick, the compensation for 39-year-old Aaron Rodgers lies somewhere in the middle. 

Packers CEO gives update on Rodgers

Nick Wright, Chris Broussard and Kevin Wildes discuss Packers CEO Mark Murphy’s latest comments on Aaron Rodgers’ potential move to the Jets.

Reportedly, the Packers aren’t seeking multiple firsts for the four-time league MVP. And how could they? Rodgers likely won’t be in New York for very long. The Packers understand that — but it’s not their problem, either. Rodgers is still an elite quarterback, just a year removed from one of those aforementioned MVPs. We wouldn’t be doing this circus if he weren’t elite. Even in a “down year” last season — in which he played with a broken thumb for most of it — Rodgers threw for 3.695 yards and 26 touchdowns against 12 interceptions. 

You want to know the stats for Jets quarterbacks last year? Among seven players who threw a pass for New York, the season totals were 4,040 yards, 15 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

The free-agent quarterback market has dried up. The top QBs in this year’s draft class will undoubtedly be gone by pick No. 13, and given New York’s recent track record in the draft, trading up isn’t a real option either. The Jets are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Rodgers is by far their best option and Green Bay knows that. Not to mention, the Jets have already secured one of Rodgers’ best friends in new offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and his best Packers target recently in Allen Lazard

New York has to get this deal done at this point. Jets general manager Joe Douglas’ job likely depends on it.

That means Green Bay is justified in wanting one first-round pick. Throw in one or two Day 2 picks and that should suffice. If not a first-round pick, perhaps one of the Jets’ rookies of the year? Both Garrett Wilson and Sauce Gardner are as close to sure things as you can get — but it’s understandable that the Jets would be hesitant to trade a young player who will likely be good for the next decade for a guy they could feasibly not have for more than a year.

Yes, it’s in the Packers’ best interest to trade Rodgers, too. But it’s not dire. The Packers are cap compliant as it currently stands. They can carry the contract they gave Rodgers last offseason. The worst-case scenario, which is admittedly hard to stomach, is that they pay Rodgers $60 million to ride the bench. But again, they can carry his contract. Plus, there’s nothing stopping them from restructuring his salary, either. Their only significant loss this offseason was Lazard, so they maintain status quo for the most part.

And sure, that scenario is not ideal coming off a season in which they didn’t make the playoffs for the first time under head coach Matt LaFleur. There will have to be logistics worked out. They make take a step back this coming season. But it’s not dire. 

And it just might be for the Jets.

What to know about the Jets’ side of the deal 

New York doesn’t want to meet Green Bay’s demands. And that’s because the Packers can look out at the rest of the league and plainly see there’s no other suitor. 

Eventually, Green Bay will need to trade Rodgers. Everyone knows he’s going to New York. And while, yes, the quarterback options are fading from the market, they are all signing with teams that were once quarterback-needy. The Jets are already the only option for Rodgers. But once we get through the draft, it will only solidify New York’s point that it is the only suitor for the Packers QB. 

So in other situations, the Jets would have to give up more for Rodgers. A first-round pick would be a bargain. But the Jets are reading the room. They’re seeing — they’re at least imagining — that they can conjure some leverage out of this situation.

Is Aaron Rodgers not worth a first-round pick after all?

Many teams not in the sweepstakes reportedly believe that Aaron Rodgers is not worth a first-rounder. Colin Cowherd breaks down the QB’s true worth.

In this particular situation, it’s hard to imagine the Jets giving up more than a pair of second-round picks and a player. But as mentioned above, the Packers might view that as a low-ball offer for an elite QB. And so the Packers are going to hold out until they get something better from New York.

Contract/Salary Cap

What to know about the Jets’ side of the deal 

The Jets can create enough space to fit Rodgers’ contract, which includes $59.5 million in salary in 2023. It will be a substantial undertaking, given they currently have just $10.8 million in cap space. And while that large number is cumbersome for the Jets, it’s worth it to them. 

It also provides a point of leverage for New York. Because if Rodgers wants to play, the Packers don’t want to carry that number on their salary cap for the 2023 season. They want to move him and his money off their cap to begin planning for their future. So that’s what might create some urgency from Green Bay’s side to get a trade done.

What to know about the Packers’ side of the deal

The Packers have no incentive to move quickly on this.

Rodgers’ dead cap hit goes down significantly if he’s traded after June 1. Specifically, it goes down from around $40 million to $15 million in 2023 with a carry-over of $24 million in 2024. But it saves Green Bay $15 million this year. That leaves the Packers with more room to maneuver in the immediate future in the absence of extra capital the trade could yield this year.

Also, Green Bay doesn’t need a quarterback. The Packers have Jordan Love champing at the bit to get on the field, and they believe in him, too. So, while an extra first-round pick this year would be nice, it’s not as if they need it to acquire a quarterback. They can afford to cash in on capital in 2024, when they’ll still have a sizable dead cap hit from Rodgers to balance out. Younger talent means cheaper talent, after all.

Packers take big losses in offseason

Craig Carton takes a look at the offseason moves around the league and ranks which teams have been winning and losing based on their moves.

The Packers can also afford to wait until after June 1 given that no decisions need to be made on Rodgers until training camp, when his option comes due. Meanwhile, the Jets have every incentive to get Rodgers in as soon as possible to get him comfortable with his new team. He may be familiar with Hackett’s offense, but other than Lazard, Rodgers is not familiar with the Jets’ personnel.

Plus, if Rodgers is designated as a post-June-1 trade and Green Bay does indeed save that $15 million off its cap, the Packers could be inclined to use that money to offset some of Rodgers’ contract anyway and make the deal sweeter for the Jets — in return for more capital or players, of course.

This is a complex trade, no doubt. But would you expect anything less in a deal involving Aaron Rodgers?

Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports. Carmen had previous stops with The Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, including 2020, which added the title of Super Bowl Champion (and boat-parade participant) to her résumé. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.

Prior to joining FOX Sports as the AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @McKennAnalysis.

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