It is safe to say that most football fans know about the biggest change on the New York Jets’ roster in 2023. After a 2022 campaign that fell short of the playoffs, in no small part because of poor quarterback play, the Jets traded multiple early draft picks to the Green Bay Packers to acquire future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
How much does the upgrade from Zach Wilson/Mike White/Joe Flacco improve the Jets? A year ago, the team had one of the top defenses in the NFL but still had a losing record for the seventh consecutive season. One might think adding a top-flight quarterback would have a major impact. Oddsmakers seem to agree, as the Jets’ odds to win the AFC improved from +425 to +225 between the start of the offseason and May 1, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
Whether directly or indirectly, Rodgers has had sway over the Jets’ roster decisions. The team has imported a pair of his favorite receiving targets from Green Bay, Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb to join Garrett Wilson and Corey Davis in the team’s receiving corps. Mecole Hardman was also added from Kansas City.
While it feels a bit silly to say something like, “Other than the biggest trade of the last decade in the NFL the Jets had a quiet offseason,” it is an accurate statement on a level. The 2023 Jets will look a lot like the 2022 Jets everywhere except quarterback and wide receiver. There were some minor moves. Sheldon Rankins and Lamarcus Joyner are out on defense. Quinton Jefferson and Adrian Amos are in.
The Jets will hope that a lot of their improvement comes from the development of young players and returnees from injury. Last year, Garrett Wilson won Offensive Rookie of the Year, but his teammate Breece Hall might well have taken the prize if not for a midseason knee injury. The Jets will likely bring Hall back slowly, but he was looking like one of the most explosive offensive talents in the league at the time of his injury. With Rodgers in place, the run game will need to carry less of the load.
Mekhi Becton has essentially missed the last two full seasons, but he is a former top-15 pick and had a solid rookie season back in 2020. A Becton return could be a big deal for the offensive line.
Jermaine Johnson was selected in the first round of the 2022 draft by the Jets. While Wilson, Hall, and Sauce Gardner looked like stars as rookies, Johnson’s performance was closer to that of a typical first-year player. He saw time rotationally and made a handful of plays. The Jets are hoping he can develop into a quality starter to take an already good pass rush to the next level.
Finally, second-round pick Joe Tippmann will try to supplant incumbent starter Connor McGovern at center. The Jets think highly of Tippmann. His size, strength, and movement ability are a rare combo, and the offensive line is a big question mark for the Jets. With Rodgers approaching 40, protection up front is no small matter. Tippmann and Becton providing the team with two young impact talents up front could make the season. If neither player is ready to produce, it could materially impact the outcome of a year where the Jets have high expectations.
The Jets have the longest current playoff drought in the four major North American sports. Clearly they think Rodgers will help them end that, but sites are set higher.
The Jets also have gone more than five decades since their last championship. Can a future Hall of Famer deliver the ultimate prize? We will see, but that is why they got him.