As noted here many times before, including the night Jordan Love was drafted, the Packers’ transition away from Aaron Rodgers has stark parallels to the team’s transition away from Brett Favre 15 years ago. In both cases, a first-round quarterback apprenticed behind a Hall of Fame quarterback for three long years before Green Bay decided to hand the keys to the franchise over to the younger player and trade the older player to the Jets. Now, of course, Love is in the role Rodgers played 15 years ago, while Rodgers is in Favre’s role.
Although they were and are completely different people (I can vouch for this from my time working for the Packers), Rodgers and Favre “retired” from the Packers in a very similar ways. Neither was feeling the love from the current Green Bay front office as much as they had from a previous one. Favre missed the stewardship of Ron Wolf; Rodgers missed that of Ted Thompson. Both quarterbacks took special care to thank the “backroom” of the organization who have worked there forever (training and equipment staff, security, etc.). And again, both had their replacements drafted three years before leaving the team, all the while playing at a high level. The parallels are uncanny.
Before the pending trade to the Jets, Rodgers’s comments last week confirmed what had been predicted for months, even if it has not sunk in completely for the vast Packer Nation: This is the end of Rodgers’s time in Green Bay. One of the greatest—if not the greatest—players in franchise history is moving on. In the simplest terms: It is time.
I can relate, having left the Packers myself after almost 10 years. It was both time for me to move on and time for the team to move on from me. I had negotiated all the player contracts there were to negotiate and done all the cap management I needed in a lifetime. There was not much of a learning curve or growth cycle left there. And also for me, I saw life as much bigger than working for a team—been there, done that. Working in the NFL was a chapter of my life, not a life. But, like Favre and Rodgers, I cherish my time in Green Bay with fond memories of the staff and people there.
And I have, as everyone knows, remained a loyal and biased Packers fan. The news about Rodgers is sad. Green Bay is losing an icon. Packers fans will now have to experience the NFL the same way all other fans have: without consistently having a franchise quarterback for three decades.
Rodgers has made virtually every game interesting. He still possesses a true mastery at the position. He continues to make some of the most amazing throws ever on a football field, and no one who has ever played toys with opponents on offside and 12-men-on-the-field penalties like he does. The Rodgers era has been a wonderful one for Packers fans, and I speak for millions who will miss him.
Leverage in the pending trade
With the apparent inevitability that Rodgers will be traded to the Jets, there has been a bit of debate as to whether the Packers or the Jets have the upper hand in their ongoing, yet apparently stalled, trade negotiations. There are differing opinions, but I base mine off what I have learned through experience (and now teach) regarding the concept of leverage. Here is my definition of where it rests: Leverage lies with the negotiating party that is most satisfied with the status quo. Thus, let’s examine which team that is in this case.
The Jets desperately need a quarterback. New York has waited out this trade as all the other options—Jimmy Garoppolo, Derek Carr, Baker Mayfield—signed elsewhere. The Packers have had their quarterback in the building for three years.
The Jets flew their owner, head coach, general manager and assistant coach out to California to beg Rodgers to be their next quarterback.
The Jets just signed Rodgers’s preferred receiver, Allen Lazard, who at his press conference said that he looked forward to playing with Rodgers (despite the quarterback being, at the moment, a Packer). The Jets have stoked the fires of their fan base with Rodgers’s pending trade.
The Packers have no cap or cash issues with Rodgers’s contract. There is no money due to him until September. Indeed, it will cost them more in cap space ($40 million) with him off of the roster than on it ($31 million).
Based on the above, it certainly appears the Packers have the leverage in this negotiation.
I have not heard any realistic arguments about the Jets’ leverage. I’ve heard theories that Rodgers could show up to the Packers’ offseason workouts or even training camp. (Please.) Or that Rodgers could retire and Green Bay would get nothing. (The Packers would love for him to retire having played for only them, while also relieving them of $60 million he’d be due.) Or that he would sit on the roster all season so that the Packers would have to pay him. (Again, please.)
The problem with Rodgers’s contract, especially for the Jets, is that there is no decision point early in the offseason, no big roster bonus or anything like that. Thus the Packers can wait. I am not talking about waiting for months—this will be resolved long before it gets to the point of Rodgers’s showing up at Packers camp. If it were to get to that point, there is not enough blood pressure medication out there to sustain Jets fans.
Having said all of this, the one thing the Jets have going for them is they are the only suitor for Rodgers. But even with that, the Packers have no urgency to move him. None. The Jets are not going away, despite what anyone may think.
So what is holding up the trade? There could be lots of things, such as which players besides Rodgers are part of it, but I mainly believe it’s about 2023 draft compensation. This is the first half of what the trade compensation will look like and, in my opinion, is much harder to resolve than the second half. As to the second half of the trade, that could be one ’24 draft pick that stair-steps rounds (from, say, fourth to third to second to even first) depending on Rodgers’s performance—playing time, reaching the playoffs, statistical categories—in ’23. The ’24 draft is the easy part; the hard part is what the Jets give up in ’23.
Finances are always a concern, as are Rodgers’s intentions on playing past this year, if that has been discussed. Perhaps the Jets want the Packers to pay off some of the $60 million due to Rodgers this year, something that would warrant a higher draft pick. Perhaps the Packers want more compensation in 2025 if Rodgers plays in ’24. A lot could be going on, but it is clear both sides are digging in their heels on this trade.
I am not saying this will go on for a month, or that the Packers will extract multiple first-round picks. But the Packers are clearly not taking what the Jets are offering now, and Green Bay’s leveraging power means it will get more than that from New York at some point.
Because, at the end of the day, here is the bottom line on this trade: Can you imagine Jets GM Joe Douglas saying to his owner, coach, offensive coordinator, Lazard and fan base, Sorry, the Packers wanted too much. We’re going to pass on Rodgers.
Neither can I.