The Packers got their price for Aaron Rodgers … and more
The Packers demanded first-round value in exchange for Aaron Rodgers. The Jets gave that and more.
After months spent decoding vagaries and cryptic remarks, enduring hours of a tank-topped bro lob softball questions at a four-time MVP quarterback, and debating the notion of leverage, the long national nightmare has ended. On Monday, the Green Bay Packers finally agreed to terms on a trade to send Aaron Rodgers to the New York Jets, leaving only a physical exam and some paperwork on the teams' respective to-do lists.
In exchange for Rodgers, the Jets agreed to send their 2023 first-rounder (No. 13 overall), a '23 second-rounder (No. 42), a sixth-rounder (No. 207), and a '24 second-rounder that converts into a first-rounder if the veteran signal-caller plays at least 65% of the offensive snaps in New York during the upcoming season. In addition to Rodgers, the Packers will send their first-rounder (No. 15) and a fifth-rounder (No. 170), both in this week's draft.
Importantly, the reported trade does not require Green Bay to absorb any additional money from Rodgers into their 2023 salary cap.
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From the point where it became clear that Rodgers would play for the Jets this season, Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst drew a line in the sand. Green Bay would not accept anything less than first-round compensation (or a package of commensurate value) in exchange for the superstar quarterback. New York, clearly believing that Gutekunst would deal away Rodgers for a nominal cost out as a goodwill gesture, balked, kicking off the waiting game that has subsumed the football world for the better part of the offseason.
But despite the claims to the contrary, Gutekunst read the chess board perfectly. Because Rodgers dragged out his decision-making process into late March, all of the Jets' viable alternatives had come off the board. Derek Carr signed with the New Orleans Saints. Jimmy Garoppolo reunited with Josh McDaniels on the Las Vegas Raiders. Even Mike White, the part-time starter who New York head coach Robert Saleh said the team expected to re-sign, left to join the division-rival Miami Dolphins.
No amount of bluster or fronting on the part of the Jets or the New York media could change that simple supply-demand reality. The team knew it couldn't go back to Zach Wilson, a former No. 2 overall pick whose consistently poor performance made the play of Sam Darnold and Davis Mills look aspirational.
With that serving as the backdrop to the Rodgers trade negotiations, it comes as little surprise that the Packers emerged with the upper hand and the first-round value they demanded all along.
Still, that the Packers extracted even more for Rodgers and did so multiple days ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft represents a massive feather in Gutekunst's cap. Not only can the personnel department more feasibly land one of the true blue-chip prospects on Thursday, but the team also added considerable insurance for new starting quarterback Jordan Love. Should Love seriously falter and force Green Bay to pivot to a new quarterback a year from now, the extra draft capital will come in handy.
While the soon-to-be 40-year-old Rodgers could theoretically fall short of the 65% snap threshold required for the Jets to relinquish next year's first-rounder, he has only done so twice in his 15 seasons as a starter. While not guaranteed to make it through another season mostly unscathed, Rodgers playing the vast majority of snaps in 2023 seems like the most probable outcome. But even if he misses that mark, that probably means New York had a disastrous season with the Packers receiving an early second-rounder as a result.
Should Love crash and burn, the Packers' first-rounder will likely end up within the top 15 again. Between that selection and the one coming from the Jets, Green Bay has positioned itself well to jump to the top of Day 1 if needed. And, of course, should Love instead provide proof of concept and establish himself as a franchise signal-caller, the additional draft capital from the Rodgers trade can help jumpstart another contention window.
All of which comes back to Gutekunst and his resolve. With rare exception, there is no easy way to transition from a future Hall of Fame quarterback, especially when that player can still perform at a high level. The Packers GM has no guarantee that moving on from Rodgers won't blow up in his face either. But if Green Bay had to trade their longtime starter, Gutekunst needed to ignore all the outside pressure and secure the best deal for his team. In that regard, he accomplished his mission.