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Aaron Rodgers’s Pat McAfee Appearance Was a Parting Gift to the Packers

The Jets are now painted into a corner with few other viable quarterback options unless Green Bay agrees on a trade.

Aaron Rodgers gave Green Bay a lot over his 18 seasons wearing green and gold. And even on his way out, as he dumped dirty details of what’s leading to his impending departure to Pat McAfee on Wednesday, he sent the Packers one last parting gift.


Combine Rodgers’s announcement with the logistics of the contract he signed last March, and you’ve got the Jets painted into a corner, and the Packers brass in a spot to lean back in their office chairs, smirk and play the waiting game with their friends in Jersey.

Here’s the thing—Now, the Jets can’t not do a deal for Rodgers. He told them, and the world, he wants to come. They’ve already signed Allen Lazard to a four-year, $44 million deal, and that addition might just be the tip of the iceberg. The two other veteran quarterback options that the Jets coaching staff had connections to, Derek Carr (via passing-game coordinator Todd Downing) and Jimmy Garoppolo (through head coach Robert Saleh), have long since come off the free-agent market.

If you’re the Jets, and you don’t get Rodgers … then what? Try to trade for Downing’s old friend Ryan Tannehill? Convince yourself that turning back to Zach Wilson is still an option, after everything that’s happened the last few weeks?

The Jets have to get Rodgers, and they have to go through the Packers to get him. Green Bay, meanwhile, has no such urgency. Rodgers’s $58.3 million option bonus for this year is fully guaranteed, but the Packers have until Sept. 1 to exercise it (Flexibility that was very smart to build into the contract). Also, because of the contract tangled up in cap machinations, his hit will actually rise (from $31.62 million to $40.31 million) when he’s traded, meaning keeping him doesn’t prevent any other business from being done.

Rodgers has left the Jets with few options but to trade for the four-time All-Pro quarterback.

Rodgers has left the Jets with few options but to trade for the four-time All-Pro quarterback.

They also already have their 2023 quarterback, Jordan Love, on the roster, so while it wouldn’t be ideal to have Rodgers hanging over Love’s offseason, it’s not like they’d be introducing someone new into that equation.

So whether it was purposeful or not, Rodgers handed GM Brian Gutekunst a hammer in his negotiation with Jets GM Joe Douglas. There’s obviously a deal to be done here. But where the fact that there’s only one suitor could’ve hurt Green Bay, the events of Wednesday swung things pretty hard back in the Packers’ favor.

What would a deal look like? I’ve said before—I think the Jets’ second-rounder (No. 43) and a conditional pick either next year (based on performance), the year after (based on performance and whether he plays in 2024) or both makes sense to me.

But the reality is, at this juncture, the Packers don’t need to feel compelled to do anything.

The Jets, on the other hand, have to do something.

• The Zach Wilson fallout for the Jets should be interesting too. The second pick in the 2021 draft has a relationship with Rodgers, so I think there’s a good chance they could co-exist. And with the similarities in play style, Wilson could learn plenty sitting behind Rodgers—and the Jets’ feeling, when they benched Wilson, was that he’d benefit from watching for a while, rather than seeing his mistakes metastasize in live game action.

I also think that’d probably be the ideal for the Jets, to continue developing Wilson, still on an affordable rookie deal, behind Rodgers.

The question is whether Wilson would a willing participant in such a setup. I don’t have the answer to that one.

• There’s definitely been pushback on where quarterback spending is going, and one reason why is teams are seeing the return on investments for the six franchises who gave outsized quarterback deals in 2022—the Packers, Browns, Cardinals, Raideres, Broncos and Rams. Three of those teams made the playoffs in 2021. None did in ’22.

So the call’s been, by a few teams, not to pay great money for merely good performance.

It was part of the equation in the Panthers moving up aggressively to get the first pick in the draft, where they’ll get cost control over their quarterback for the next five years. It also played in quarterback plans, as we mentioned it would a couple weeks back, in Atlanta, Washington and Tampa, where teams paired young non-first-round picks (Desmond Ridder, Sam Howell, Kyle Trask) with veterans who bring extensive starting experience (Taylor Heinicke, Jacoby Brissett, Baker Mayfield) to the table.

The idea is that doing that, rather than pursuing a Derek Carr, allows a team to better spend its resources—with tens of millions freed up by not paying a lot for a veteran at the position. That, of course, also puts a team in a position where its options are open if, be it in this year’s draft or next year’s draft or somewhere in between, a chance comes along to become great at the position rather than just good.

Anyway, I’ll be interested to see how it goes for those teams. Because while teams are always going to pay guys like Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow, the second level of the quarterback position is far more volatile, and could be affected by how things work out over the next 10 months for the Commanders, Falcons and Bucs.

• The Patriots are signing ex-Chief and Steeler Juju Smith-Schuster to the three-year, $33 million deal that their old slot, Jakobi Meyers, landed in Vegas, and I do think there’s some rhyme and reason to it. That slot position, from Troy Brown to Wes Welker to Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, has always been vital to that offense. And while Meyers is a really good player, he wasn’t ideal for the role.

Now, Smith-Schuster is more of an Anquan Boldin type of slot than a Welker or a Brown, but he’s effective in the role with his quickness, toughness and ability to run after the catch. So paying one, rather than the other, and having it be the guy they were less familiar with, I think is more a nod to the importance of the position in that offense than anything else.

The issue going forward, to me, is how reliant Mac Jones was on Meyers in critical spots. You’ll have to make up for that, which won’t be easy, but also isn’t reinventing the wheel.

• One thing to tie up on the Jalen Ramsey trade—the prospect of giving a bigger corner who’ll turn 29 this year a brand-new contract definitely hurt the Rams’ ability to get the best return for their former All-Pro.

My understanding is that, as he’s insinuated, he wanted to go to Miami all along, and that is why he was willing to go there with the Dolphins simply guaranteeing the next two years of his contract. Had he gone elsewhere, a team may have needed to tear up his Rams deal and wrote a new one to get him to report, and that was a bridge too far for some. So you can call that the palm-tree advantage that the Dolphins hold over others.

• For whatever reason, I’m not sure Ezekiel Elliott has ever gotten the credit he deserves. He won two rushing titles as a Cowboy, his presence was instrumental to Dak Prescott’s development and he’s third in franchise history (behind only Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett) and 43rd in NFL history in rushing yards.

He was also a champion of business. He made over $70 million at a position that’s been increasingly devalued, and his willingness to hold the line in 2019 should be a model for other running backs to get paid while you can.

• Georgia DL Jalen Carter had a rough Wednesday, showing up to Georgia Pro Day nine pounds over his combine weight, skipping the athletic testing, and not making it through position drills. I had two NFL guys on the ground tell me he looked out of shape. Add that to the arrest warrants from a couple weeks ago, and questions about his football character and fit in a team environment lingering from the season, and Carter has work to do.

A number of teams outside of the top 5 in the upcoming draft are doing work on him now, more than they did previously, to prepare for a possible draft night slide.

• I’ll be interested to see if Orlando Brown Jr., absent the kind of $20 million-per-year offer he was shooting for, decides to do a make-good, one-year deal somewhere. The right/left tackle question we’ve referenced has, indeed, been a problem—I think he’d probably get a good deal somewhere if he was more willing to play on the right side.

So maybe going somewhere as a one-year solution at left tackle would help his case. He’s still just 26, so it’s not like he’d be decrepit hitting the market in 2024.

• And now, we wait … on Lamar.