We have had a full day for the Jets’ trade for Aaron Rodgers to settle. Rodgers’ Jets introduction to the media is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.
As always, my thoughts could change at any time, but here are some preliminary impressions I have about the trade.
Media praise is nice, but this is about winning.
Anybody who has followed the Jets through the years knows that a splashy, headline grabbing move like this will receive a lot of praise in the local and national media. You’ll see meaningless phrases like, “The Jets are relevant again,” thrown around liberally.
The Jets have a long history of winning the offseason with big moves like this. Pundits on ESPN won't stop talking about how much they have improved. The back pages will be full of hype. Talk radio will buzz nonstop.
None of these things are inherently bad or mean the move is necessarily heading for failure. I’m just past the point where I’m going to get excited about a player transaction. I have been through this before. Heck, many of us have been through this with a legendary Packers quarterback.
If you want to be excited, I certainly don’t want to stop you. I only care about the team winning games in the autumn and winter, not the media hype from a big move in the spring.
Why was the price so high?
There is no exact formula to determine how much a player costs. There are just a number of factors that combine to determine the price.
Here are the factors that should have been relevant for Rodgers. He is a legendary quarterback with a Hall of Fame resume.
He is also 39 years old and has seriously considered retirement in recent years. How long he will play is a mystery, but there is a real chance 2023 will be the final season of his career. Last season when he was 38 was the least productive year of that career.
There was no other team interested in trading for him. He publicly stated the Jets were the team he wanted to play for. The Packers could not possibly bring him back.
I am still looking at these factors and trying to figure out why the Jets had to pay such a premium. Almost all of them suggest he should have come at a discount.
You can certainly be happy that the Jets got Rodgers. I think it is difficult to argue the Jets were effective negotiators here, though. They had pretty much everything working in their favor. Yet the Packers got the kind of price usually reserved for star players in their prime.
It certainly seems to me like the Jets blinked in this stare down with the Packers.
The reality is the Jets never made it seem credible they would walk away and go with a Plan B even though a number of credible backup options existed. Even if Rodgers is your top choice, you at least have to let the other team think you’re willing to go in another direction.
We will never know how strongly ownership dictated the team’s course, but this all suggests to me like ownership had blinders on and was set on getting Rodgers no matter what it cost.
Expectations should be sky high.
We can debate whether a Super Bowl win is essential for this trade to be considered a success or if an MVP level season with a deep Playoff run should suffice.
What does seem clear is expectations should be very high. The Jets could have been competitive with a number of alternatives at quarterback. Heck, they were competitive last year with arguably the worst quarterback play in the league. The Jets could have been a Playoff contender with a number of other quarterbacks as well.
Why do you trade a first and a second round pick to rent a former MVP for a year or two? You are swinging for the fences. Nine to ten wins isn’t enough to vindicate this deal in my book.
But is the roster good enough to meet them?
The Jets certainly prepared their offseason hoping to maximize their brief window with Rodgers. A number of contracts were restructured, lowering 2023 cap hits for players at the expense of raising them in the future. The Jets made aggressive plays for a number of big name free agents including Fletcher Cox, Orlando Brown, Calias Campbell, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jake Brednel. The team struck out on all of them.
There were good reasons for many of these misses. Cox and Brendel wanted to stay with successful teams. Beckham got a contract from Baltimore that would have been irresponsible to match.
These facts, however, won’t upgrade the roster around Rodgers. You can understand why the Jets failed to land these players and still acknowledge there are still some pretty glaring holes on this team on both lines and question marks at the skill positions behind Garrett Wilson. There’s only so much you can hope to do in the Draft.
The perils of 15 vs. 13
Part of the trade was a pick swap in the first round of the 2023 Draft. The Jets dropped two slots from 13 to 15.
In a normal scenario, this wouldn’t be a big deal. The difference between the typical 13th pick and the typical 15th pick isn’t large. It still might not be.
However, it is worth noting the trade moves the Jets from picking just in front of the New England Patriots to just behind them. Like the Jets, the Patriots happen to have a big need at tackle. One must hope this move down two slots doesn’t end up looming large on Draft night.
The perils of 43 vs. 42
This is a very small nitpick, but the Jets had two second round picks prior to the trade. They happened to fall back to back at 42 and 43. The Jets sent 42 to Green Bay.
Perhaps the teams worked out some sort of informal agreement that the Packers wouldn’t take a player the Jets really want. Perhaps the player the Packers want won’t interest the Jets at all. It still would have been nice to not give Green Bay the potential to steal a player from the Jets with the pick.
Zach Wilson still (probably) isn't the future.
It seems likely the Jets will hold onto Zach Wilson and hope he grows over the next year or two watching Rodgers on the sideline.
Still I am surprised by the number of people in the national media who seem to think the Plan A is to turn back to Wilson after Rodgers steps away.
The Jets' hope all along has been that they could get Zach Wilson on board for a developmental year or two behind Aaron Rodgers—Mentioned it a few times the last couple months (https://t.co/aMZewfgYL9). That Wilson and Rodgers have a relationship already really helps. https://t.co/ASS5QmV8pw— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) April 25, 2023
Let’s be serious here. After investing the second overall pick in Wilson, the Jets benched him 20 starts in. They then make a very expensive trade to bring in a replacement starting quarterback. The Jets can say whatever they want externally or leak anything they want to the media. Their actions tell the story. They have moved on from realistic hope of Zach Wilson being the guy. If Wilson surprises them, great, but surely this is not something they are banking on.
This isn’t mortgaging the future, but it comes with a big cost.
I think analysis in the NFL is too often melodramatic. We overuse phrases like “mortgaging the future.” The truth is it’s almost impossible to truly mortgage your future with the way the league works today. Any bad cap situation can be cleared out in a year or two. Your entire roster can be turned over in two to three years.
Giving up a first round pick and a second round pick certainly won't mortgage the future for the Jets in the sense they will be completely unable to compete.
On the same note, sometimes analysts act like a move has no cost unless it mortgages the future. This is also untrue.
Through this process the absolute worst argument made for a Rodgers trade went something like, “Who cares if the Jets trade a bunch of Draft picks? They always pick busts anyway.”
This treated the picks as inherently valueless when anybody with the slightest amount of football sense could tell you the problem was the decision makers squandering the picks.
It’s odd that anybody would doubt the value of top Draft picks on a team which rostered the Rookie of the Year on both sides of the ball. We saw first hand what impact an early Draft pick can have on a team.
The picks the Jets are trading to Green Bay are valuable for the same reasons the picks they got for Jamal Adams and Sam Darnold are valuable.
Of course you have to give something to get something, and the trade could work out quite well for the Jets. Let’s just acknowledge that the Jets are sacrificing a lot to bring Aaron Rodgers to New York.
The perils of the short window.
One of the concerns I have with the trade is the short window Rodgers be with the Jets. It isn’t enough to be good in the NFL. To win a championship, you need plenty of luck along the way. An NFL season’s success is ultimately built on the things you can control and those you can’t.
Bad luck that destroys a season can strike anywhere and at any time. Poor injury luck, a bad matchup in the Playoffs, a tough schedule, a bad bounce, and a bad call can end everything.
Over the course of many years, luck evens out. If you told me the Jets were getting Aaron Rodgers for five years, I’d feel good about my chances to win a Super Bowl. If you gave the Jets Rodgers for ten, it would be a surprise to see them not get at least one.
For just a year or two? An awful lot will need to fall into place beyond this team’s control to go all the way. Anything from a random wind gust to an awkward movement in a training camp practice could have an outsized impact.
The upside is there.
I promise I’m not trying to be a downer. I think this deal has a disproportionate amount of risk for the Jets. There is plenty of downside and cost.
Still, if things fall into place the Jets could conceivably have a special season. Perhaps they get a motivated Rodgers with an ability to turn back the clock. Perhaps their defense stays at the top of the league. Perhaps that bad luck hits all of the other teams, and everything breaks the Jets’ way. Dreaming about that is what the offseason is for.
We certainly are due some fortune.