The NFL is a copycat league. But, can it be considered copying if the original team to try it wound up following a 7-win season with a 5-win season, despite committing to a quarterback in year two of a 5-year, $242-million deal?
The strategy being followed? Bring in bait to catch Aaron Rodgers.
On Thursday, the New York Jets hired Nathaniel Hackett for their vacant offensive coordinator position, thus not only filling the vacancy towards the 29th ranked offense and officially upping the ante in the Aaron Rodgers’ sweepstakes.
For context, Hackett served as the offensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers in 2020 and 2021, which led the Packers to the best scoring offense his first year, back-to-back 13 win seasons, and most importantly back-to-back MVPs for #12.
And even though he had won the MVP two seasons before (2011 & 2014), this era was arguably the best years of his Hall of Fame career, throwing for 8,418 combined yards on a 69.8% completion percentage, and most notably 85 touchdowns to just 9 interceptions.
This also led Rodgers to the highest AAV contract in NFL history, as he signed a 3-year, $150.8 million deal ahead of the previous season.
Yet, despite having $50 million basically guaranteed every season, he enters the off-season with plenty of uncertainty on his future.
Whether this means demanding a trade, returning or retiring, Rodgers seemingly could go anywhere. And it is not a new storyline that the Super Bowl champion has not always had a smooth relationship with the leadership personnel in Green Bay.
So, as the Broncos attempted ahead of the previous off-season, the Jets do the same, which may have even more pull due to the underwhelming production of the Packers this past season.
But, as mentioned with the record-setting contract signed last year, a $31.6 million cap hit is no small accounting task.
So, how could the Jets manage to trade for Rodgers while not giving up too much talent, and staying under the cap?
Here is a hypothetical trade that could potentially work out for both sides, if Rodgers decides to depart.
Green Bay receives: 2023 First Round Draft Pick, 2024 First Round Draft Pick, DE John Franklin-Myers, CB Justin Hardee
Green Bay gives: QB Aaron Rodgers (retained 33.3% of 2023 salary)
New York receives: QB Aaron Rodgers
New York gives: 2023 First Round Draft Pick, 2024 First Round Draft Pick, DE John Franklin-Myers, CB Justin Hardee
Currently (with mostly projections for the 2023 season via Spotrac) the Jets are $2.6 million over the salary cap. So this move would hypothetically leave them just over $10 million over the cap, which could be solved by pre-training camp cuts or restructuring contracts.
But, judging by the rumored desires of 2-first round picks for Rodgers, and the positional needs following an underwhelming year defensively, this could be the best deal for both sides.
The Packers last year ranked 17th league-wide defensively last year, despite having one of the best secondaries in the NFL, and a linebacker room of Preston Smith and Rashan Gary who combined for 14.5 sacks and 32 quarterback hits, despite Gary only playing 9 games.
Their biggest issue on the defensive line, specifically in stopping the run, without much pressure given either.
John Franklin-Myers is one of the highest-paid Jets in 2023, and rightfully so after playing in 33 games in the past 2 years with 11 sacks, 10 tackles for losses, 33 quarterback hits, a forced fumble, and an interception.
Trading him ahead of June 1st would leave a dead cap total of $1.2 million, thus saving $11.1 million in cap.
For Justin Hardee, the Packers clearly do not need cornerback reassurance necessarily. However, it is one of the best depth positions to have, and while the Packers’ first choice would most likely be an inexpensive, young receiver, New York does not have one that turns heads outside of Garrett Wilson, who is most likely untouchable.
Plus, coming off his first career Pro Bowl season, Hardee has looked to thrive in New York’s scheme, which could be transmittable towards Joe Barry’s system.
And while that seems like a haul, the details of the deal mean little in comparison to how impactful Rodgers would be on whichever team he desires.
While the decision is largely up to where he would like to go, the Jets have had such little luck finding a quarterback that the asking price should never be too much. A window of two, or maybe even one year to win a championship before Rodgers’ talent regresses, he sustains an injury or decides to move on should be worth it for the ultimate prize, even if it impacts the youthful growth of this team.
If anything, look at the Rams’ scheme for example. While it looks as though it’s going to be a dim decade for Los Angeles to recover from their ‘all-in’ formula, the banner flies forever. And for a franchise yet to hang a banner since 1969, it’s all worth it for a ring.