GREEN BAY — Among the various plot lines Aaron Rodgers wanted to emphasize during his 57-minute appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show” on Wednesday was he is not the reason the Green Bay Packers haven’t traded him to the New York Jets yet.
Rather, the four-time NFL MVP insisted it’s the Packers not being willing to accept the Jets’ trade terms that is keeping him in Green Bay — for now, anyway.
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“I made it clear my intention was to play and my intention was to play for the New York Jets,” Rodgers said. “I haven’t been holding anything up. At this point, it’s been compensation that the Packers are trying to get for me, and (them) kind of digging their heels in.”
A league source said Wednesday evening the sides remain in talks about trade compensation, but no deal is imminent.
And clearly, since the new league year began at 3 p.m. Wednesday and Rodgers remained on the Packers’ payroll, reports had the teams already agreeing on trade compensation even before the Jets met with Rodgers in California last week were inaccurate.
So what might it take to break the stalemate?
The State Journal reached out to three current NFL executives with other teams, all of whom were asked what was realistic for the Packers to ask for in the trade, given general manager Brian Gutekunst and team president/CEO Mark Murphy’s clear desire to move on from Rodgers and make 2020 first-round pick Jordan Love the starter at quarterback.
“That’s a looooong conversation,” one replied.
“No clue,” replied another. “This is about as unique a situation as I can think of.”
That’s because both the Jets and Packers have varying degrees of leverage in trade talks.
Rodgers’ remarks on Wednesday no doubt got the Jets’ fan base — not to mention their wealthy owner, Woody Johnson, who was among those who flew to California to woo Rodgers — excited.
And surely the Jets would like to have Rodgers on their team as soon as possible so they can start prepping for what they undoubtedly think could be a Super Bowl season with Rodgers at quarterback.
At the same time, Murphy’s comments at the WIAA girls state high school basketball tournament last week were a very public admission the Packers have no interest in bringing Rodgers back.
With the $58.3 million guaranteed option bonus the Packers owe Rodgers — payable anytime between Friday and the first week of the 2023 NFL season — cutting him outright would be devastating to their salary cap.
And the last thing the Packers want is to have an unwelcome future first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer, still under contract at a burdensome number, returning to the team and forcing it to make him the highest-paid backup quarterback in NFL history at more than $60 million next season.
Having Rodgers carrying a clipboard and lying in wait behind Love to struggle would be untenable and downright farcical.
Plus, while the Packers can certainly be patient and wait Rodgers out given the timing of the option bonus payment, Gutekunst would obviously prefer draft-pick compensation for the 2023 NFL Draft, with the Jets coming off a 7-10 season, rather than picks in 2024, when they’ll presumably have a much-improved record with Rodgers under center.
Although there was a report earlier this week the Packers were seeking two first-round picks for Rodgers, a league source said Wednesday evening the team’s asking price isn’t that high.
Earlier this month, a report from Sports Illustrated suggested the Packers might have to settle for a combination of picks that would not include the Jets’ 2023 first-round pick, which is No. 13 overall.
One NFL executive said Wednesday night the Packers were more realistically going to end up with the Jets’ second-round pick (No. 43 overall) and an additional future compensatory pick based on how Rodgers performs with the Jets. Adding a current player to the mix also is possible.
In any event, the Packers aren’t going to get the king’s ransom for the 39-year-old Rodgers that the Seattle Seahawks received from the Denver Broncos last offseason or the compensation the Detroit Lions got from the Los Angeles Rams got for Matthew Stafford in 2021.
In exchange for Wilson, the Seahawks netted two first-rounders, two second-rounders, quarterback Drew Lock, tight end Noah Fant and defensive tackle Shelby Harris.
The Broncos stumbled to a 5-12 record, and ex-Packers assistant Nathaniel Hackett was fired as the team’s coach before season’s end. Hackett is now the Jets’ offensive coordinator.
The Seahawks, meanwhile, went 9-8 behind backup quarterback Geno Smith, made the postseason as a wild card and lost in the first round to the San Francisco 49ers.
For Stafford, the Lions acquired first-round draft picks in 2022 and 2023, a third-round pick in 2021, and quarterback Jared Goff.
Stafford, in turn, led the Rams to the Super Bowl LVI title, while the Lions were one of the NFL’s most-improved teams in 2022, finishing 9-8 and beating the Packers in the regular-season finale at Lambeau Field to deny the Packers a playoff berth.
Mike Tannenbaum, who was the Jets GM in 2008 when the team acquired Rodgers’ predecessor, Brett Favre, in a trade, said the Jets are going to be understandably reluctant to pay too hefty a price without any assurance Rodgers will be their quarterback beyond the 2023 season.
“I think for me, the biggest thing in this one is I would really want to make sure that I was going to have Aaron Rodgers for more than one year,” Tannenbaum, who now analyzes the NFL for ESPN and The 33rd Team, said during an interview on “Wilde & Tausch” on ESPN Wisconsin last week.
“What you don’t want from the Jets’ perspective is, let’s say you give up this year’s first-round pick. You don’t want no player and no pick come next year. So, that’s a real challenging situation.”
When Tannenbaum acquired Favre from the Packers in August 2008, the conditional draft pick New York gave up turned out to be a third-round pick because the Jets missed the playoffs after they fell apart following an 8-3 start, going 1-4 the rest of the way after Favre suffered a a torn biceps in his right (throwing) arm.
Had Favre led them to Super Bowl XLIII, the Jets would have owed the Packers a first-round pick.
“To give up a third-round pick on a one-year deal, that wasn’t ideal, but it was something you could live with,” Tannenbaum said.
Just what the Packers and Jets are willing to live with remains to be seen. But Rodgers clearly is convinced his days with the Packers are over, despite what he sees as a temporary delay in his departure from Titletown.
“It’s a business. I’m not naïve to that. It is what it is,” Rodgers said. “I just have a lot of gratitude for the time there, but now it’s time to do the right thing.
“I don’t think there’s a scenario where they’re like, ‘Well, we want this and the Jets aren’t willing to give it to us, so we’ll take you back.’ That’s not the reality.”
The Packers officially announced the re-signing of cornerback/kick returner Keisean Nixon, whose one-year deal is worth a base value of $4 million with a $1.85 million signing bonus and $1.35 million base salary, ESPN’s Rob Demovsky reported. … The Packers also announced they’d re-signed tight end Tyler Davis, who wasn’t tendered as a restricted free agent. … Right tackle Yosh Nijman, meanwhile, received a second-round restricted free-agent tender worth $4.304 million. If Nijman gets a contract offer from another team, the qualifying offer gives the Packers the right to match the offer or receive a second-round pick in return.