The New York Jets and Green Bay Packers are in a cat-and-mouse game over Aaron Rodgers trade talks
At the end of January, Pro Football Talk was the first outlet to state that the price for Aaron Rodgers might not be as high as speculated.
Today, PFT put out that the Packers are asking for “a first-round pick and more” for Rodgers.
Adam Schefter reported that the New York Jets want to trade a 2024 conditional fourth-rounder as they did for Brett Favre in 2008. The Packers are balking at this, naturally.
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First, there was an awful lot of smoke about what Rodgers even wanted to do and if the Jets and Packers knew what that was. Almost everyone was wrong. Now, the narrative has moved on to the trade price.
It would take a lot of naivete to believe everything in print at this point when it was this wrong up until now. The question is what is really going on.
I’ll be the first to admit that I do not know any more than anyone else does. However, reading the signs about the Packers’ cap situation and Joe Douglas’s general method of doing business, here’s my theory about what is happening with the trade.
Packers’ cap situation
It is important to understand that the Packers actually lose cap space in 2023 by trading Rodgers right now, at least per Over the Cap. Rodgers currently counts for $31.6 million against their cap, but if they were to trade him before June 1, his 2023 cap hit would be $40.3 million. That would leave the Packers with a loss of $8.69 million in 2023 cap space.
However, if the team waits until after June 1 to trade Rodgers, they can spread that $40.3 million hit over two years. His 2023 dead cap charge would be $15.8 million and then 2024 would be $24.3 million. That’s a much more digestible hit and would save them nearly $16 million in 2023 cap space.
Furthermore, this part of the equation is not really negotiable via a restructure. This is because the $40.3 million was already paid to Rodgers via a signing bonus that was spread out over 2023-26 for cap purposes. When he is traded, the remaining money accelerates onto the current year’s cap; if it’s after June 1, the 2023 portion of the bonus remains on the 2023 cap, but the 2024-26 hits take effect in 2024.
Therefore, it is to the Packers’ benefit, at least cap-wise, to trade Rodgers after June 1. As long as they trade him before Week 1, there is no particular harm done to their 2023 salary cap.
Connor Hughes of SNY and Trey Wingo, among others, have reported numerous times that there was a rough framework in place for a trade. However, according to Hughes, the Packers have now backed out and are asking for more than they originally did.
Part of that could be because Rodgers verbally committed to the Jets, which they perceive as removing the Jets’ leverage in a deal. Furthermore, they could have decided that the Jets are more desperate for Rodgers now that all of the viable free-agent starting quarterbacks have signed elsewhere.
It is also possible that after Rodgers criticized the Packers so heavily on The Pat McAfee Show, the Packers decided to do things on their terms rather than try to end things amicably with their quarterback of 18 years. This is pure speculation, but I don’t think it can be discounted as a possibility.
As stated earlier, Pro Football Talk is now reporting that the Packers are looking for a first-round pick and more for Rodgers. They also stated a few days ago that the Packers may be content to wait until after the draft to trade Rodgers.
This is my best guess as to what is actually happening.
As Rodgers stated, the Packers have dug their heels in the sand. They think the Jets and Rodgers are both in a bind and are therefore asking for more trade compensation. They assume that the Jets will cave and give more than they want due to the urgency to get this done.
Why not put out that they want a very high price to persuade the Jets to raise their offer?
However, Joe Douglas has proven himself to be a shrewd businessman, especially when it comes to trades (see: Darnold, Sam and Adams, Jamal). He knows that as much as the Jets are tied to Rodgers, the Packers are also tied down to a date: September 7, which is when Week 1 of the 2023 NFL season begins.
If the Packers do not trade Rodgers by then, they will be forced to pick up his $58.3 million option bonus, to be paid immediately. They will then have a dead cap charge of $99.1 million to trade him.
Obviously, the Jets do not want to wait until then, but they will hold out as long as possible to make it appear that they are willing to wait. Certainly, Douglas wants to get this deal done, but he is unwilling to be fleeced in the process.
If the Packers wait until after June 1, it won’t be ideal for the Jets in that they want their new quarterback in the building. However, there is a hidden plus side to this: the Jets will be able to keep all of their 2023 draft picks and add much-needed talent to surround Rodgers.
Meanwhile, Jets players can still work out with Rodgers in the offseason off of team premises. It’s not a preferred situation, but it’s not the end of the world.
What will actually happen
I do not know what will happen any more than anyone else does. Part of this depends on the Packers’ willingness to negotiate in good faith, as they appear to have already reneged upon a basic verbal agreement.
However, what I think will likely happen is that the Jets will come up a bit from their insistence on the fourth-round conditional pick, and the Packers will come down from their first-round pick demand. Neither one makes that much sense in this context.
The Jets would love to compare Rodgers to Brett Favre, but this is not 2008 anymore. With the backdrop of the trades for Matthew Stafford, Russell Wilson, and Deshaun Watson, it’s difficult to say that all Rodgers would command is a conditional fourth-rounder. The comparison is not apples to apples due to the age difference, but still, QB trade prices have risen since Favre was dealt.
Additionally, Favre was traded in August, when the Packers had their backs against the wall; that is not the case here.
From the Packers’ end, asking for a first-round pick for a 39-year-old QB coming off a down season who may only play for one year and is owed $58.3 million in cash before September is outrageous. If they expect to get that pick for Rodgers, they are in fantasyland. This is more likely a negotiating ploy.
All along, there has been widespread speculation from more objective sources (meaning, those who are not spreading the Packers’ or Jets’ propaganda) that a fair price would be a 2023 second-round pick and a conditional 2024 third- or fourth-rounder.
I imagine that the two teams will arrive at a price somewhere near there. The Jets may want to lower that 2023 second-rounder to a third-rounder, and there is some haggling to be done.
I do not think this will drag out until after the draft, as the Packers will likely concede if the Jets are willing to give them some 2023 compensation. If the return is only going to be a 2024 pick or picks, the Packers really have no incentive to do this until after the draft.
Perhaps Douglas will dig in his own heels and refuse to concede even an inch of 2023 compensation, but that would take true willingness not to have Rodgers in the building until midsummer or later.
One thing I am fairly certain will not happen: Douglas will not allow the Packers to fleece him. He understands that they may be trying to build up leverage, but it’s not really getting them anywhere. They have moved on from Rodgers, and he has moved on from them. Rodgers can threaten to retire today and accelerate a $40.8 million cap hit onto their 2023 cap if they play too dirty.
It is worth keeping in mind that all the reports about possible compensation are most likely leverage plays from either the Jets or Packers. Take them with the grain of salt they deserve.
Thanks for the good work Rivka.
So, Rodgers does actually count against the Packers 2023 cap for $31.6m, outside of all the other trade/retire scenarios and cap hits. That’s not meaningless inasmuch as to sign FA’s a team has to actually have the cap space to do so. I understand GB, like most teams, used restructuring to free some space, but $31m for a player you know won’t be playing for you is a deterrent.
In the end, I see this getting done, as early as next week, with us giving up #43 this year and a conditional third or fourth next year. I’m not sure it’s realistic, but I would want the 2024 pick to be forfeited if AR decides to retire.
I’m not so sure public opinion is driving either GM more than the other. Who has harsher demands and more pressure on him, Joe D with a fanbase that is conditioned to expect the worst, or Gutekunst who has the expectations surrounding one of the NFL’s most successful franchises and is “fan-owned”?
Ok, so, capwise, GB can’t move him until 6/1, but tradewise they want to get it done before the draft. Can they do the deal before the draft but designate it as a post 6/1 deal? It seems to me GB has the leverage. They are probably not going anywhere this year anyway. They could just eat the cap hit, suck this year giving them a great draft pick next year. Rodgers isn’t going to stick around and do this again next year. If it doesn’t happen this season he’ll probably just retire, since he said he was 90% of the way there before the darkness.
You cannot designate a trade as post-6/1; that works only for two cuts per year.
Green Bay has done a great job of shaping the narrative in the wake of Rodgers’s press conference. It seems that most of the public is convinced that they have the leverage, which does, in fact, give them the leverage.
In fact, Green Bay is desperate for Love to succeed. They need him to be good in his first year as a starter for a few reasons:
Therefore, they want 2023 draft picks. It does not behoove them to wait. Furthermore, any compensation they get in the 2024 draft is not likely to be premium because the Jets will presumably have a later pick. Right now, the Jets have the 13th pick in each round, which is a much more attractive trade piece for Green Bay.
Furthermore, if Rodgers is on the roster in September, they will owe him $58.3 million in cash and be unable to trade him due to a $99 million dead cap charge. You do not pay a player $58.3 million to sit around. There is a time limit on this. They cannot carry him on the roster in 2023. Their president said as much.
The points: Green Bay wants and needs to win with Love; they cannot carry Rodgers in 2023; they want 2023 draft picks. Therefore, this will most likely get done prior to the draft.
Rivka…thanks as always for the sane analysis and not the WFAN style chatter that seems to permeate most other places. This may already have been addressed, but I think there are layers of leverage here for GB that changes with time. The Packers leverage of time diminishes with each passing week; JD and Rogers likely have a contingency to account for not being able to be in the facility. The Packers likely want 2023 draft compensation; that leverage diminishes the closer you get to the draft. Post-Draft, GB likely will dig in until September week 1, that’s where the Jets starts to lose their real leverage…unless they’re willing to roll with Zach for at least 1 week. By week 1, GB’s leverage is totally gone unless they are willing to swallow the $90M+ cap hit…out of spite. All thru this, Zach gets a chance to get valuable reps with hopefully a better OC and to rebuild some layers of trust with his team-mates.
Interesting take, especially the retirement aspect. I like you, know nothing but I do believe Joe has a contingency plan. I’ve heard Stafford, which I’d be fine with, what is your take on how this plays in public opinion if it’s not Rogers in the end? Do you the the Jets get slammed or do you think if it’s not Rogers and it ends up being Stafford or even Cousins they will be applauded for not caving?
At this point I’m more on board with acquiring Rogers thank I thought I would be but I’m not married to the idea he’s the only satisfying option.
I don’t think the Vikings will trade Cousins. Stafford’s deal is an albatross, but he’s coming off an arm injury and is also 35 at this point. Both of those guys are in the Derek Carr tier in my opinion, and I’m not all that willing to trade assets for them. They just don’t have the upside of a championship. At best, they make the Jets a playoff team with a roll of the dice.
I think the Jets would be slammed publicly if Rodgers didn’t go through because they passed over Carr.
Good point about Carr, just wondering if they don’t get Rogers. I mean it could happen. It would be interesting. I don’t think they are anything more than a playoff team just by adding Rogers. If he’s interested and investing in the team they could be dangerous but I’d have to see that before I believe it.
AR is generally getting roasted in the public square with this move so I suspect if his body is right, he’ll be quite motivated. As far the Jets, they’ll get slammed no matter what they do. It is amusing the general animosity the rest of the league seems to feels toward a team that does so little winning.
Nice analysis and summary as usual, Rivka!
I wonder whether Rodgers could retire, then a bit later come out of retirement and play for the Jets?? That would be amazing get-back against the Pack, and a giant win for the Jets. Must be some sort of language in the League rules that prevents that, though.
Yea i wonder that too. But id imagine that if someone was to retire, while still under contract, then unretire… theyd probably be bound to whatever team still held his rights/contract. Otherwise it would happen often, it would be used as a tool for players to get off of teams and force their way to the team they want.
But if not, yea thatd be awesome
That is correct. It’s why Sean Payton had to be traded from the Saints to the Broncos.
Good clarification about some general facts. I think the incentive to get this done before the draft lies with the Packers. The draft obviously can’t be undone, and I can’t see the Packers punting on a potential return and opportunity to start their rebuild when the Jets and Rodgers each have so many different levers they can pull. After the draft, the Jets can back out and leave them stuck with Rodgers and his cap hit, whatever year it happens in, and no compensation at all. I doubt Green Bay tries to make it ugly, but if they do, Rodgers can also retire and unretire in perpetuity, essentially holding their cap situation hostage indefinitely. The Jets can pivot to Lamar, Zach Wilson, or a stopgap, as much as that might irritate fans. The Packers can’t pivot back to Rodgers. He wouldn’t cooperate even if they tried. A $60 million backup/distraction isn’t sound business. Even if Green Bay could get another trade partner, nobody is going to make a trade and take on $60 million if Rodgers is firm that he won’t play for anyone but the Jets, which seems clear right now. And like you said, Joe D isn’t going to cave. It will probably take some pick in 2023 and a 2024 conditional pick that can escalate to a first rounder, but that 2023 is likely going to be a third or lower in my opinion. Both teams have some soft deadlines, but the Jets deadline seems softer and much less complicated to me.
It depends on how you look at it. Theoretically, it hurts the Jets not to have their QB situation resolved more than it does the Packers not to have extra assets. They seem to really like Jordan Love; I believe that this is genuine and not propaganda.
Obviously, it would be ideal for them to get more draft picks to build around him, but the Jets don’t seem to want to give that, anyway. If that’s the case, the Packers have little incentive to move on.
Regarding the retirement/unretirement scenario, that could happen if the two sides really don’t care about making things acrimonious. I don’t believe it will ever get that far, even if the Packers did wait until after the draft.
The Packers know that the Jets can’t really back out. What are their other options? If they did draft Hendon Hooker or another QB in the second round, that would be a big-time leverage hit for the Packers, but I don’t think they’re going to do that. It’s pretty obvious that the Ravens are going to match offers for Lamar. Zach Wilson is not an option for this front office if they want to keep their jobs. The viable stopgaps have already signed elsewhere.
It’s possible that it’ll be a third in 2023 and a conditional 2024 pick. It’s also possible that it’s a 2023 second but the Packers send back a later pick (like a 4th or 5th).
I’m sure GB is quaking in their boots at the threat the Jets would roll with Zach.
They will be quaking about taking on a 60m salary cap hit when Rodgers turns up for the season.