Mar 15, 2023
ESPN Staff Writer
- Longtime Jets beat writer for New York Daily News
- Syracuse University graduate
ESPN Staff Writer
- Covered Packers for Green Bay Press-Gazette from 1997-2013
- Two-time Wisconsin Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers said Wednesday on “The Pat McAfee Show” that he intends to play for the New York Jets this season.
Rodgers said he made the decision on Friday and is not holding up a trade, which still isn’t finalized. The two teams and Rodgers remain in contact, sources said, as they try to work through the final stages of a potential deal, which would include restructuring Rodgers’ contract and agreeing on trade compensation.
The Packers are willing to trade Rodgers, but there are still things to work out and negotiations are ongoing, a source told ESPN on Wednesday.
“I made it clear my intention was to play and to play for the New York Jets, and I haven’t been holding anything up. It’s the compensation that the Packers are trying to get. … The Packers want to move on and have let me know that in so many words,” he said.
Rodgers, who went on a four-day darkness retreat to contemplate his future, said he was 90% sure he was retiring when he went on the retreat. He said that when he left the darkness, something changed with the Packers’ previous stance of wanting him to play his whole career in Green Bay and that he wished the team was more direct with him at the beginning of the offseason.
Rodgers said he will always love the Packers organization but that it’s clear it’s time for a change.
“I f—ing love that city. I love that organization and always going to have love for that organization. The facts are right now they want to move on, and now so do I,” he said.
He said his decision to leave Green Bay was “bittersweet.”
“I got to be the starting quarterback of the Packers for 15 years. … So, I love you, Green Bay. Thank you. I’m as sad as some of you are, but we’ll meet again.”
Rodgers said other teams have expressed interest in trading for him. He didn’t mention the teams, but he did say there was “one specific player” he’d like to reunite with. He seemed to be referring to Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams, his former Packers teammate. The Raiders agreed to sign Jimmy Garoppolo, so they’re out of the veteran quarterback market.
“There are a lot of reasons why the Jets are attractive,” Rodgers said. “There’s one coach who has meant as much to me as any coach I’ve ever had.” He was referring to recently hired Jets offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, the Packers’ coordinator from 2019 to 2021. During that period, Rodgers won his third and fourth NFL MVPs.
Rodgers took umbrage with the perception that Hackett was hired by the Jets for the main purpose of recruiting him to the team. That, he said, would “diminish the ability he has to coach. … It’s a total disservice to Nathaniel Hackett and what he has accomplished in his career.”
Only a year ago, Rodgers seemed destined to finish his career in Green Bay. After contemplating retirement following the 2021 season, he signed a three-year, $150 million contract extension in March 2022.
Rodgers’ contract includes $59.465 million guaranteed in salary and bonus this season. Most of it is made up of a $58.3 million bonus that is due no later than Week 1 of this season. The Packers would absorb $40.3 million in dead money on their salary cap if they trade Rodgers before June 1. Because his bonus money is prorated, Rodgers would count $15.8 million against the Jets’ salary cap in 2023 and $32.5 million in 2024, cap-friendly numbers for a player of his stature.
“I got to the be the starting quarterback of the Packers for 15 years … So, I love you, Green Bay. Thank you. I’m as sad as some of you are, but we’ll meet again.” Aaron Rodgers
A contingent of Jets officials, including owner Woody Johnson, general manager Joe Douglas, coach Robert Saleh and Hackett, flew to California last week to meet with Rodgers.
Rodgers shared some details of his meeting last Tuesday with Jets officials. It was a four-hour discussion that took place at his home in Malibu. He joked that the Jets’ contingent left cars parked on the street, attracting paparazzi.
In addition, several Jets players tweeted at Rodgers to recruit him, including cornerback Sauce Gardner, who promised he would burn the cheesehead he wore to celebrate New York’s victory over the Packers last season at Lambeau Field. Gardner later fulfilled the promise by burning the cheesehead in a video posted to YouTube.
Rodgers, 39, has supplied the Jets with a wish list of free agents he’d like them to pursue and acquire, and it includes Odell Beckham Jr., sources told ESPN’s Dianna Russini. Another player on that list, Packers free agent wide receiver Allen Lazard, agreed to a four-year, $44 million contract with the Jets on Tuesday, a source confirmed to ESPN.
Rodgers, however, said Wednesday that the notion that he provided the Jets with a wish list is “ridiculous.” He did, however, say the Jets asked him about players he had played with, but he made no demands.
“My only demand is for transparency,” he said.
Explaining the so-call wish list, Rodgers said, “Did they ask me about certain guys that I’ve played with over the years? Of course. Did I talk glowingly about teammates that I love? Yeah. Why wouldn’t you?”
In addition to Lazard, the Jets have expressed interest in wide receiver Randall Cobb and tight end Marcedes Lewis, both free agents. Rodgers mocked the perception that he’s insisting on certain players.
“People want these things to be so true that like, I’m in this meeting dressed in ceremonial regalia, giving them some sort of handwritten [note] on parchment to demand a list of people they need to sign,” he cracked.
Beckham’s asking price probably is too rich for the cap-strapped Jets.
“I mean, first of all, who wouldn’t want Odell on their team?” asked Rodgers, who has a friendship with the well-traveled star.
Packers president Mark Murphy made clear last week that Rodgers’ return to the team wasn’t the organization’s first choice and they hoped to find a “win-win situation” for the four-time MVP and the team.
The Jets’ Super Bowl odds have been improving steadily over the past week at sportsbooks. On Wednesday, after Rodgers announced his intentions, the Jets were 14-1 to win the Super Bowl at Caesars Sportsbook. At that price, only five teams — the Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers, Buffalo Bills, Philadelphia Eagles and Cincinnati Bengals — had better odds than the Jets, who entered the offseason at 30-1 to win the Super Bowl. They began the week at 17-1 at Caesars.
Also Wednesday, the Jets moved to bolster their defensive line by re-signing defensive tackle Solomon Thomas, a source told ESPN, confirming a report by NFL Network. Thomas returns after signing a one-year contract with the Jets before last season after playing in 2021 with the Raiders.
ESPN’s David Purdum contributed to this report.