After six weeks of waiting, Aaron Rodgers is leaving behind his brilliant legacy in Green Bay and heading to the bright lights — and massive expectations — of the Big Apple.
The New York Jets agreed on a deal Monday to acquire the four-time NFL MVP from the Packers, according to a person with knowledge of the trade.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the teams have not officially announced the deal.
The Jets will receive Rodgers, the No. 15 overall pick and a fifth-rounder this year from the Packers, according to another person with knowledge of the trade. In exchange, Green Bay will get the 13th overall selection, a sixth-rounder and a conditional 2024 second-round pick that can become a first-rounder if Rodgers plays 65% of plays for New York next season.
The 39-year-old Rodgers spent a few days in February contemplating his life and playing future during an isolation retreat in Oregon – while fans and media speculated about what he would decide.
He emerged and deliberated some more before deciding on March 10 he intended to play again — and for the Jets.
And then he and the sports world waited — and waited — for the Packers and Jets to finally complete a deal.
“I’ve made it clear that my intention was to play and my intention was to play for the New York Jets,” Rodgers said during an appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show” on YouTube and Sirius XM on March 15.
The Jets sent a contingent that included owner Woody Johnson, coach Robert Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas to Rodgers’ home in Southern California in early March. A few days later, Rodgers decided he wanted to continue his playing career by joining the Jets.
Several weeks of negotiations appeared to be stalled at times, with fans — and the teams — wondering when or if the trade would be completed.
“We’re anxious,” Johnson told reporters at the league’s annual meetings on March 28. “I guess, as we look forward, we’re optimistic. But we have a plan, so we’re willing to stick with our plan. And I don’t think anybody is hyperventilating at this point.”
It took a while, but the sides were finally able to agree on compensation. And the deal puts the one-time Super Bowl champion in New York after Zach Wilson, the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2021, struggled mightily in his first two seasons.
New York was 7-10 last season, finishing on a six-game losing streak that extended the NFL’s longest active playoff drought to a franchise-record 12 straight years.
With the Jets, Rodgers reunites with offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to try to jumpstart an offense that was among the NFL’s worst under coordinator Mike LaFleur, the younger brother of Matt, Rodgers’ coach in Green Bay the past four years. Rodgers joins some promising young playmakers on offense, such as wide receiver Garrett Wilson, the AP offensive rookie of the year, and running back Breece Hall.
“There’s a lot of reasons why the Jets are attractive,” Rodgers said during his appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show.” “But there’s one coach that has meant as much to me as any coach I’ve ever had. And he happens to be the coordinator there.”
Saleh acknowledged a few times this offseason that the Jets were looking for a veteran quarterback to add to a team that features a top-five defense. And Johnson said he was “absolutely” on board with paying an established signal caller — “the missing piece,” he called it — if Douglas could get him.
They ended up getting one of the NFL’s greatest quarterbacks.
Rodgers said shortly after the season ended that he was making up his mind on whether he wanted to return to the Packers for a 19th season, retire or request a trade. Meanwhile, the Jets explored a few quarterback options, including meeting with free agent Derek Carr at their facility and then again at the NFL combine in Indianapolis.
But after Carr agreed to terms to sign with New Orleans, it became even more apparent that New York would be all in on Rodgers — as long as he wanted to play there.
It’s reminiscent of the stunning trade the Jets made in 2008, when they acquired Brett Favre — who also turned 39 a few months later — from the Packers. And, coincidentally, clearing the way for Rodgers to start in Green Bay.
Rodgers was the league MVP in 2020 and 2021, but didn’t perform as well last season while playing with a broken right thumb and dealing with the absence of star wideout Davante Adams, who was traded to Las Vegas. He had his lowest passer rating as a starter (91.1) and threw 12 interceptions, his highest total since 2008. The Packers went 8-9 and missed the playoffs to end a string of three straight NFC North titles.
Rodgers led the Packers to their last Super Bowl title in the 2010 season. Rodgers never got the Packers back to the Super Bowl, but he helped make them annual contenders. The Packers have lost in the NFC championship game four of the last nine seasons.
“I’ve got nothing but love and appreciation for what Aaron has done for so many in our organization,” Matt LaFleur said last month during the NFL meetings in Phoenix.
Rodgers’ departure marks a sea of change for the Packers after they’ve had about three decades of Hall of Fame-level quarterback production in Favre and Rodgers. Next in line is Jordan Love, a 2020 first-round pick who has made only one career start.
Rodgers acknowledged the move caught him by surprise. He skipped the Packers’ 2021 mandatory minicamp in a standoff with team management before reporting to camp and producing a second straight MVP season. (He also won the award for 2011 and 2014.) But the sides had patched things up afterward.
When he was asked last June at the Packers’ mandatory minicamp whether he expected to finish his career in Green Bay, Rodgers replied: “Yes. Definitely.”
Then came a 2022 season that didn’t go according to plan.
Rodgers now will be tasked with leading a franchise that hasn’t been in the Super Bowl since Joe Namath led the franchise to a victory in its only appearance in January 1969.
And quarterback issues have often been among the key culprits in the struggles since. That has especially been the case during the Jets’ current playoff drought.
Saleh said the Jets remain committed to developing Wilson, the second overall pick in 2021. But the 23-year-old will do so as a backup to Rodgers, who was Wilson’s idol while growing up in Utah.
Wilson joked the day after the season ended that he’d welcome a veteran starter coming in to claim his job and said he plans to “make that dude’s life hell in practice every day.”
Little did he know then “that dude” would be the quarterback he tried to emulate as a youngster — who’ll now be in New York trying bring the Jets to another long-awaited Super Bowl.
—Dennis Waszak Jr., The Associated Press