The Heat’s on the Jets After Making Aaron Rodgers’s Absence Unexcused

New York likely wanted to avoid a credibility problem with the front office and coaching staff with the rest of the roster. Plus more on Haason Reddick, Amari Cooper, Ja’Marr Chase and Drake Maye.
Rodgers's absence from mandatory minicamp wasn't excused by Saleh and the Jets.
Rodgers's absence from mandatory minicamp wasn't excused by Saleh and the Jets. / Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

NFL minicamps are in full swing, and so too are minicamp absences. Speaking of which …

• Key word: Unexcused.

Because Aaron Rodgers is Aaron Rodgers, anything of even marginal consequence he does is news in New York (and beyond). So even if the New York Jets had rubber-stamped his decision not to show for mandatory minicamp Tuesday, we’d be talking about it. But the fact that they didn’t excuse him from the three-day camp turns the temperature up on the situation. 

A lot.

The next question—given that the Jets’ football operation is captained by a couple of pretty smart, rational people in coach Robert Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas—why would they open Pandora’s box like this rather than just let Rodgers do whatever Rodgers is doing?

As I see it, there’s really only one plausible reason: Because excusing Rodgers for this unnamed event would create a credibility problem for the front office and coaching staff with the rest of the roster. In other words, it’d have to be something that, say, Jermaine Johnson or D.J. Reed or Ali Vera-Tucker (or whoever else) wouldn’t even try to use as a reason for being absent.

Otherwise, again, the Jets would have been better off just excusing the absence.

Now, is this a big deal in the long run? Probably not. Rodgers, as Saleh said, was an engaged attendee of the Jets’ offseason program in the two months leading up to the minicamp, and has been far more present with the Jets than he was over his last five years with the Green Bay Packers.

Still, if the Jets had excused this absence, and chalked it up as a “personal matter,” this is a one-day story. That they didn’t excuse it promises to make it a lot more than just that.

• While we’re there, we can tie the absence of Haason Reddick from the New York Jets with Browns receiver Amari Cooper’s decision to hold out from minicamp in Cleveland.

Both guys have been highly productive, are in contract years, and remain in pursuit of the kind of lucrative late-career deals that few veterans have the staying power to get. Also, in both cases, the market at the player’s position has escalated significantly.

Cooper’s deal at $20 million per year, and with $20 million due this year, puts him 20th among receivers—with Justin Jefferson making $15 million per year more than him, and Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jaylen Waddle making more than $8 million per year in front of him. The deal Reddick did in 2022 with the Philadelphia Eagles, $45 million over three years, is even more outdated—Nick Bosa moved the edge rusher market like Jefferson did with receivers, to $34 million in APY last summer, and Brian Burns and Josh Allen got over $28 million in APY.

The Jets and Browns have a couple of options here. They could add a sweetener (incentive package) for this year to get the guy to report. The other option, of course, would be giving these guys what they really want, which would be new deals reflective of the market at their positions.

• Ja’Marr Chase’s situation is much different—and ties more directly to Jefferson’s. First, he’s at the same level as his former LSU teammate. And, second, he and Jefferson are so close—with Chase planning on waiting for his buddy to do his deal—to set a baseline for what it’ll cost the Bengals to keep him. Now that the floor is in place (four years, $140 million including $110 million guaranteed for Jefferson), the sides can start working on getting the star receiver locked up long-term.

That, to me, is why that situation probably never warranted a holdout, from Chase’s perspective.

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin
Tomlin signed a three-year extension with the Steelers. / Michael Longo/For USA Today Network /

• Credit to the Steelers for extending Mike Tomlin for another three years, through the 2027 season. It’s, of course, easy to look at Pittsburgh, and see that the Steelers have a grand total of zero playoff wins over the past seven seasons, and think Tomlin may have lost a few miles off his fastball.

But there’s the context of the quarterback and offensive coordinator situations to consider with Tomlin, and the fact that they did make the playoffs in four of those seven years.

And, then, there’s the fact that Tomlin still has no problem reaching his players, even after 17 years in Pittsburgh, which is a result of his relentless effort to keep up with the times. One example I always think is a good one is how every year, on his pro day trip, he goes to see the recruiting staffers and social-media managers at major college programs to try to learn what younger kids are consuming and reacting to. He uses his own kids as resources in that regard, too.

Tomlin has plenty of passion not just for football, but for leadership, as well. Which is one reason why I’m excited to see what he’ll do with OC Arthur Smith, and quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Justin Fields this fall. It’s also why, in my humble opinion, this was a smart contract for the Steelers to do.

• I mentioned last week that Drake Maye has continued to make steady progress—incrementally taking steps in Patriots OC Alex Van Pelt’s offense. Where they see his progress most is when Maye is able to tie his feet to his throwing motion to the play call, so he’s playing in rhythm. It’s not consistent, which is to be expected, due to the ex-North Carolina signal-caller really having almost no footwork training prior to being drafted.

But in those moments, he looks like a guy worthy of being taken with the second pick in the draft.

How consistent his fundamentals become will likely determine how willing the team is to put him on the field, plus making sure the changes they’re making with a pretty raw prospect really take is paramount. And regression can happen fast, especially with a player who is out there before he’s ready.

• Atlanta Falcons coach Raheem Morris on the team’s offensive plans, via the team website: “In the simplest form you can put it, get the ball to Bijan [Robinson] as much as possible in the most ideal situations as possible.”

And I’m excited to see it. Robinson has some stylistic similarities to Christian McCaffrey, and we’ve seen what McCaffrey’s done in a similar scheme in San Francisco.

• I’ll say it again: I think the San Francisco 49ers will make a very real effort to sign receiver Brandon Aiyuk before the start of training camp. My buddy Mike Silver from The San Francisco Chronicle reported that negotiations are at $26 million APY. I’d guess that a deal might get done in the range of Waddle and St. Brown, who are good comps for Aiyuk.

• And to finish, I love the return of Marcedes Lewis to the Chicago Bears, and not just because it gives us 40-somethings someone to root for. Between Lewis and Keenan Allen, the Bears have gotten some really good resources into the offensive meeting room for Caleb Williams.

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Albert Breer