Somehow an off-season for Aaron Rodgers that began with a multiday stop in a darkness retreat isolation chamber to decide his next career move has only gotten weirder now that Rodgers has announced his intention to be traded to the New York Jets.
Immediately, Rodgers’s decision to go to Gang Green triggered a big storyline: that he’s following in the footsteps of his legendary Green Bay quarterback predecessor, Brett Favre, whose departure from the Packers to the Jets following the 2007 season was similarly fraught. Favre lasted only one tumultuous year in New York, during which he made headlines for texting dick pics to broadcaster Jenn Sterger. The Jets that year started 9-5 only to lose their final two games and miss the playoffs. Favre departed shortly thereafter for the Minnesota Vikings, where he had a slightly better swan song that nearly landed him in another Super Bowl.
To be sure, Rodgers opting to go to the Jets likely has little to do with Favre. The Jets just happen to need a quarterback, and since they’re already strong on defense and in the running game, it’s a fine fit for a skilled QB perhaps looking to do a little less than he’s been called on to do in the past. That the Jets happen to have needed quarterbacks both in 2008 and 2023 speaks to the perennially struggling status of the franchise more than anything else. Nevertheless, there are certainly echoes of Favre’s departure present here. Rodgers and the Packers have been on the outs for a couple years now, and as with Favre, Green Bay has had another QB, Jordan Love, waiting in the wings for multiple seasons.
2022 marked Rodgers’s lowest passer rating over a full season as a starter. He threw for fewer yards in 17 games than any 16-game season he has played, except for two years where he missed significant time due to injury. He posted the second-highest interception total of his career. Last season was also the first time the Packers missed the playoffs in four years, punctuated by a season finale loss to the lowly but seemingly ascendant Detroit Lions to bounce Green Bay from postseason contention. All in all, a pretty crummy year for a four-time MVP.
Last season was always going to be a strange one for Rodgers and the Packers. Rodgers had explored a trade during the last off-season, narrowing his search reportedly to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans, and Denver Broncos. Eventually he made his way back to Green Bay, except with a depleted receiving corps after top wideout Davante Adams was traded to the Las Vegas Raiders.
From the week one blowout loss to the Vikings, it was readily apparent that the Packers’ receiving corps was a liability. Only rookie Christian Watson showed moderate improvement over the course of the season. So it makes little sense that Rodgers has reportedly sought a wish list of acquisitions from the Jets that includes former Packers Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, and Marcedes Lewis, as well as free agent receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., who didn’t play during the 2022 season.
The Jets, in fact, signed Lazard to a four-year, $44 million contract on Tuesday, and have expressed interest in Cobb and Lewis. As much as this would serve to confirm reports about Rodgers heading to New York and naming his supporting cast, he wants to clear the air. Rodgers sent a text to ESPN’s Adam Schefter telling him to lose the quarterback’s number over the free agent wish list report. Schefter is notoriously subservient to team and league officials, so despite Lazard’s signing, it’s fair to question whether that was true.
In terms of what it will take to get Rodgers to the Jets, the last question remains what the details of the trade will be if it gets hashed out. Schefter started out Wednesday morning saying that Green Bay would undoubtedly be seeking multiple first-round picks. Tom Pelissero of NFL Network shut that down a few hours later, suggesting the teams are close and the Packers are not actually seeking multiple firsts.
The available quarterbacks in free agency have already been moved aside from Rodgers, and with the Jets picking in the middle of the first round in the NFL Draft, their chances of getting one of the top rookies are looking slim. This means the Jets have to bite the bullet and fork over more than the franchise would like to get their man.
Should they, Rodgers will likely hear questions about how he will tackle the intense scrutiny put on him by the ravenous New York press. Given that a large chunk of the media has been targeting him for two years over his vaccine stance, there’s little doubt he’s used to it. And if he has further problems, we know he is good at lashing out at access reporters over text.