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Packers agree to trade Aaron Rodgers to Jets

Packers agree to trade Aaron Rodgers to Jets

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers indeed will have a second act to an NFL career that is certain to earn him a Hall of Fame spot. The Green Bay Packers have agreed to the long-awaited trade sending him to the New York Jets, ending his decorated and sometimes controversial tenure with the franchise that drafted him in 2005.

The trade agreement was tentatively in place Monday, according to a person familiar with the negotiations. The deal includes a swap of choices in Thursday night’s opening round of the NFL draft, with the Packers moving up two spots to No. 13. The Jets will send additional draft picks to Green Bay, including a second-round selection Friday and a second-rounder next year that can be converted to a first-rounder based on Rodgers’s playing time.

Rodgers, 39, leaves the Packers after 18 seasons, four league MVP awards and a Super Bowl title. He established himself as an all-time-great quarterback while becoming a polarizing figure in recent years, sparking a national controversy related to coronavirus vaccinations. His football future became an annual offseason drama that played out again in recent weeks, culminating with a lengthy trade process.

Now he must demonstrate that his days as a productive player are not done, as he heads to the New York stage and attempts to elevate the Jets to prominence.

Rodgers entered the offseason weighing his options between retiring, remaining in Green Bay or seeking to play elsewhere. But the Packers had made it increasingly clear, Rodgers said in a broadcast interview in mid-March, that they were ready to move on.

Last month, a contingent of Jets officials that included owner Woody Johnson, General Manager Joe Douglas, Coach Robert Saleh and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett traveled to California on Johnson’s private jet and met with Rodgers. The Packers and Jets spent the time since that meeting awaiting Rodgers’s decision and then haggling for weeks over the trade details.

Aaron Rodgers, still a Packer, says his ‘intention’ is to play for the Jets

“I still have that fire, and I want to play,” Rodgers said during an appearance on the Pat McAfee Show. “And I would like to play in New York. It’s just a matter of getting that done at this point.”

Rodgers said he’d decided three days after the meeting in California that he wanted to wanted to keep playing and wanted to play for Jets. The deal was held up thereafter by the Packers’ trade demands, Rodgers said then.

The deal mirrors the Packers’ trade of Rodgers’s Hall of Fame predecessor, Brett Favre, to the Jets in 2008. That trade ended Favre’s 16-season tenure in Green Bay, which had become acrimonious in the late stages, and paved the way for Rodgers, a first-round draft pick three years earlier, to take over as the starter. Favre spent one season with the Jets before finishing his career with two seasons with the Minnesota Vikings.

“Obviously, we’re very fortunate to have back-to-back Hall of Fame quarterbacks,” Packers president Mark Murphy said in an interview last month with Green Bay’s WBAY-TV. “It was very early in my tenure so I remember it very well with Brett’s situation. … Very few players play for only one team. Obviously Brett had a great career. Aaron had a great career here. Regardless of what happens, Aaron will be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He’ll be in our Hall of Fame. And we’ll bring him back and retire his number. But this is just one of the things that you go through as a team. Again, we want to try to achieve something that’s good for both Aaron and us.”

Murphy said in another broadcast interview the same day that Rodgers would remain with the Packers “if things don’t work out the way we would want them.”

The trade clears the way for Jordan Love, a 2020 first-round draft selection, to become the starter in Green Bay. Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst said at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis that Love, who has made one start in his three pro seasons, “needs to play.”

Packers Coach Matt LaFleur said at the annual league meeting in late March in Phoenix: “We’re excited about Jordan and how he’s been able to progress as a quarterback, how he’s matured as a man. It’s going to be a different role for him, certainly. And I think we all have to kind of temper our expectations. … It’s going to a process. But it’s going to be exciting. … It’s going to be everybody around him trying to play at the best of their ability so that he can go out there and perform as good as he possibly can.”

With the Jets, Rodgers will be reunited with Hackett, a close ally who formerly was the Packers’ offensive coordinator. The Jets hired Hackett in January after the Denver Broncos fired him in December after he spent less than one full season as their head coach.

The Jets lost their final six games of the 2022 season, finishing with a disappointing record of 7-10. Saleh, in his second year as the team’s coach, twice benched Zach Wilson, who has failed to develop into a franchise quarterback after being chosen second in the 2021 NFL draft.

The Jets have not reached the playoffs since making their second straight appearance in the AFC championship game in the 2010 season, with Rex Ryan as their coach and Mark Sanchez as their quarterback. Their lone Super Bowl appearance came when they beat the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III on Jan. 12, 1969, with Joe Namath at quarterback.

But they have a talented roster filled with standout young players after selecting cornerback Ahmad (Sauce) Gardner, wide receiver Garrett Wilson and tailback Breece Hall in last year’s NFL draft. Gardner was named the NFL’s defensive rookie of the year. Wilson was honored as the league’s offensive rookie of the year.

Gardner said on a live stream earlier this offseason that there would be “package deals all over” if the Jets were to add Rodgers, perhaps a suggestion that some of Rodgers’s most trusted Packers teammates could join him with his new team. The Jets signed free agent wide receiver Allen Lazard, who’d spent his entire five-year NFL career with the Packers. Rodgers said in mid-March that he’d discussed some players with the Jets but it was “ridiculous” to characterize those discussions as demands.

Nathaniel Hackett is headed to the Jets. Could Aaron Rodgers follow?

Rodgers’s 59,055 career passing yards are the ninth-most in NFL history; his 475 touchdown passes are the fifth-most ever. His career passer rating of 103.6 is the second-highest ever, placing him behind only the Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes. Rodgers’s four MVP awards are one shy of Peyton Manning’s league record. He led the Packers to a Super Bowl victory in the 2010 season.

“I’m just really, really thankful,” Rodgers said in mid-March. “I got to be the starting quarterback of the Packers for 15 years. I got to be in the organization for 18 years.”

The Jets inherit a contract under which Rodgers will be paid a guaranteed $59.5 million for the 2023 season, pending an expected reworking. By trading Rodgers, the Packers must absorb a $40.3 million salary cap hit in the 2023 season. That’s about $8.7 million more than Rodgers would have counted against the Packers’ salary cap if he’d played for them.

Rodgers must rebound from an injury-plagued 2022 season. The Packers went 8-9 and missed the NFC playoffs with a defeat to the Detroit Lions in the final game of the NFL’s regular season. Rodgers threw 12 interceptions to go with his 26 touchdown passes. He’d won the NFL’s previous two MVP awards.

“I’ve got nothing but love and appreciation for what Aaron has done for so many in our organization,” LaFleur said at the league meeting. “Obviously [we] have experienced a lot of great times together, won a lot of football games together. Ultimately [we] didn’t bring home a Super Bowl, which will always be disappointing. But he’s done so much for myself, my family, our coaches’ families, so many people in the organization, other players. A lot of people have been rewarded, quite frankly, because of his ability to go out there and play and play at such a high level.”

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