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Packers agree to trade Aaron Rodgers to Jets

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers leaves the Packers after 18 seasons. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)
9 min

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 tentatively agreed to the long-awaited trade sending the quarterback to the New York Jets, ending his decorated and sometimes controversial tenure with the franchise that drafted him in 2005.

Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst said Monday that “a lot of things have been agreed upon,” and the trade is expected to be completed before the draft begins Thursday night.

“There’s still things that need to be done,” Gutekunst said at a news conference in Green Bay, Wis. “It’s not finalized. But we do expect it to be done here in the next couple days.”

The Jets and Packers are expected to swap first-round draft positions, according to a person familiar with the tentative trade agreement. The Packers will move up two spots to No. 13, with the Jets dropping to 15th. Green Bay also will receive second- and sixth-round draft choices this week, plus a second-round selection next year that can become a first-rounder based on Rodgers’s playing time. The Jets receive a fifth-round pick in this year’s draft.

The long-running trade conversations progressed in recent days, said Gutekunst, who added that the Packers felt it was important to receive compensation for Rodgers in this year’s draft.

“Hopefully there’s some finality for everybody in it,” Gutekunst said.

Rodgers, 39, leaves the Packers after 18 seasons, four MVP awards and a Super Bowl title. He established himself as an all-time great while becoming a polarizing figure in recent years, sparking controversy for his stance on 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 behind him as he heads to the New York stage and attempts to elevate the Jets to prominence.

“How’s everyone feeling?” Jets owner Woody Johnson tweeted Monday.

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 March, that they were ready to move on.

Last month, a contingent of Jets officials that included Johnson, General Manager Joe Douglas, Coach Robert Saleh and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett traveled to California on Johnson’s private jet to meet with Rodgers. The Packers and Jets spent the time since 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 a March 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 decided three days after the meeting in California that he wanted to keep playing and wanted to play for Jets. The deal was held up by the Packers’ trade demands, Rodgers said then.

“I have so much respect for Aaron and the person [and] the player that he is,” Gutekunst said Monday. “There’s so much gratitude [for] what he’s done for this organization. It would have been nice to have those conversations. But at the same time, over the last few years it’s [been] understood that may not happen. . . . I know this: He’ll always be a Packer. . . . He’ll be one of the best to ever have done it around here.”

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. “… 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 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.

“I think where our team is at — obviously Aaron is up there in age,” Gutekunst said. “. . . I think he’s got some really good football left in him. But I think for us, as we got through the offseason and started talking about where we wanted to go, this made a little bit of sense for us. . . . I just think as we move forward, we’re really excited where Jordan can go. He needs to play.”

Packers Coach Matt LaFleur said at the annual league meeting last month 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 be a process, but it’s going to be exciting.”

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 following less than one full season as their head coach.

The Jets lost their final six games of the 2022 season to finish with a disappointing 7-10 record. 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 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 New York has 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 draft. Gardner was the defensive rookie of the year, and Wilson was the offensive rookie of the year.

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 record. Rodgers led the Packers to a Super Bowl victory in the 2010 season.

“I’m just really, really thankful,” Rodgers said in 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 had played for them.

Rodgers must rebound from an injury-plagued 2022 season. The Packers went 8-9 and missed the playoffs after a loss 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 had 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.”

The announcement Monday of the virtually completed trade came nearly six weeks after Rodgers’s declaration that he intended to play for the Jets.

“I felt it would get done, be done, all along,” Gutekunst said. “But at the same time, as long as it took, I think there were certainly times where you were kind of like, ‘Well, maybe it won’t,’ and how are we going to proceed going forward? But, yeah, there were moments.”