The Packers don’t have leverage in a potential Aaron Rodgers trade to Jets. He does.
With one sentence, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers ignited a big argument for leverage this NFL offseason.
“I was going to play and I intend to play for the New York Jets.
With that statement on Wednesday, league analysts, talent evaluators, and presumably everyone following the NFL news cycle plunged into a furious debate: who is now cornered and how will they get out of it?
The advantage of the Packers is obvious. Jets want and need Rogers is desperate. Almost any other quarterback option other than Lamar Jackson is out of the question. Nominating Zach Wilson in 2023 would be a malpractice when it comes to a potential Super Bowl-level roster, so the need for Rodgers is essentially at its peak. When a quarterback’s need and appetite are at this level, the team that controls him is in a predatory position.
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Conversely, the Jets have a mind of their own when it comes to leverage. First of all, Rodgers has a titanic contract and a limited window that virtually no other team in the league is interested in importing. They know that on Thursday they are the only game in town when it comes to the Packers trade. In such a situation, why would they trade a package if there is no competition?
Rodgers has gone public about who he’s going to play for in 2023, which has led to a patient game of poker. The big question is: who needs to move on first? With Rodgers publicly announcing his next team, the Jets are pretty sure of the answer to that question.
Here’s how this debate is basically viewed: Packers vs. Jets, with a subheading of who can wait the longest.
This is also the main mistake here.
Leverage not in the hands of the Jets or Packers. It’s in Rogers’ hands, as it has been for weeks. When it comes down to it, the only person who can corner Green Bay is its current quarterback. He wears the number 12 and is ready to set sail. He’s also more than willing to sit back and look at his current franchise.
This is the person we need to focus on right now in these trade talks: Aaron Rogers.
Why? There are three nuances to all this that Rogers understands. And they all play into the hands of his next team, not the current one. Among them:
Rogers knows the Packers don’t want him back. He knows the front office wants to move forward with backup quarterback Jordan Love, who is on track to have the franchise pick his fifth-year option in May. He didn’t need to have Packers CEO Mark Murphy talking about him in the past tense in recent days, but it certainly helped when it came to some clarity about Green Bay’s future. That future will be incredibly uncomfortable when it comes to the mere thought of Rodgers returning in 2023 — a scenario that is only possible if Green Bay General Manager Brian Gutekunst prioritizes a vendetta against Rodgers over developing a quarterback who he is a first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. If Gutekunst wants to play that chicken game, Rogers will be in it. Count on it.
Rodgers knows his stated intention to play for the Jets in 2023 and the actual salary structure of his post-season make him a nasty option for any other trade contender. No one goes off the air to suddenly knock over an apple cart and become the dark horse of a third team trying to get involved in trade negotiations. Planes are a lonely destination. Rogers knows this. The Jets know this. The packers know this. This is not like Matthew Stafford in 2021 or even Russell Wilson in 2022. There are not many options. The Packers are looking at one trading partner, not completely untenable ways to cut Rogers and gobble up more than $94 million in future pay cap fees or hold him hostage in 2023 with the entire NFL world watching and judging.
Rogers and all stakeholders, including the Jets, Packers and the rest of the NFL, know that it is absurd to demand any kind of compensation for wild trading. Rogers, 39, is looking out the window of one season (or two at the most) left at the end of his prime. If the Packers really wanted a mega deal for him, they should have come forward in 2021 and sought a trade with the Denver Broncos. It was time for a big deal. Now? After Rodgers had a bad season and then questioned his will to keep playing? Its cost is far from what it would have been 12 months ago. Everyone knows this, and it drastically affects anyone else’s willingness to risk throwing the dice at him now. The time of peak compensation came in January last year. Now Green Bay has to deal with this.
All this is important for the parties involved. It doesn’t make sense for a crowd of Twitter jockeys or pundits to be so confident that Green Bay will have a mountain of leverage in the next few months. There are no packers. They relinquished this lofty position when they publicly stated that they wanted to remove Rodgers from the roster. Once that happened, it became a game of patience, public perception, and a willingness to be vicious enough to do something that another being wouldn’t do.
Rogers is going to win on all these fronts. And he’s going to help the Jets win with him. He wants to move to New York, but if the Packers want to test him and bluff about a possible return to the Green Bay fold, they need to know he will call that bluff. He will return at this point, only to embarrass Gutekunst, Murphy, and anyone else who publicly suggests that he is no longer needed. This is a real lever in this situation. This is real power.
When all this is over, Green Bay will end up settling for much less than this ridiculous vague theory that Rodgers deserves two first-round picks. He is not. The Packers and their quarterback have had enough of a fight to know for sure. The sooner Green Bay realizes this fact, the sooner a deal can be struck and everyone can move on with their lives.
In the meantime, the clock is ticking and everyone is looking at each other. Which side blinks first is a matter of time and patience. And both will eventually go to the Packers.