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By: Rivka Boord
The New York Jets and Green Bay Packers are in a cat-and-mouse game over Aaron Rodgers trade talks
At the end of January, Pro Football Talk was the first outlet to state that the price for Aaron Rodgers might not be as high as speculated.
Today, PFT put out that the Packers are asking for “a first-round pick and more” for Rodgers.
Adam Schefter reported that the New York Jets want to trade a 2024 conditional fourth-rounder as they did for Brett Favre in 2008. The Packers are balking at this, naturally.
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First, there was an awful lot of smoke about what Rodgers even wanted to do and if the Jets and Packers knew what that was. Almost everyone was wrong. Now, the narrative has moved on to the trade price.
It would take a lot of naivete to believe everything in print at this point when it was this wrong up until now. The question is what is really going on.
I’ll be the first to admit that I do not know any more than anyone else does. However, reading the signs about the Packers’ cap situation and Joe Douglas’s general method of doing business, here’s my theory about what is happening with the trade.
Packers’ cap situation
It is important to understand that the Packers actually lose cap space in 2023 by trading Rodgers right now, at least per Over the Cap. Rodgers currently counts for $31.6 million against their cap, but if they were to trade him before June 1, his 2023 cap hit would be $40.3 million. That would leave the Packers with a loss of $8.69 million in 2023 cap space.
However, if the team waits until after June 1 to trade Rodgers, they can spread that $40.3 million hit over two years. His 2023 dead cap charge would be $15.8 million and then 2024 would be $24.3 million. That’s a much more digestible hit and would save them nearly $16 million in 2023 cap space.
Furthermore, this part of the equation is not really negotiable via a restructure. This is because the $40.3 million was already paid to Rodgers via a signing bonus that was spread out over 2023-26 for cap purposes. When he is traded, the remaining money accelerates onto the current year’s cap; if it’s after June 1, the 2023 portion of the bonus remains on the 2023 cap, but the 2024-26 hits take effect in 2024.
Therefore, it is to the Packers’ benefit, at least cap-wise, to trade Rodgers after June 1. As long as they trade him before Week 1, there is no particular harm done to their 2023 salary cap.
Connor Hughes of SNY and Trey Wingo, among others, have reported numerous times that there was a rough framework in place for a trade. However, according to Hughes, the Packers have now backed out and are asking for more than they originally did.
Part of that could be because Rodgers verbally committed to the Jets, which they perceive as removing the Jets’ leverage in a deal. Furthermore, they could have decided that the Jets are more desperate for Rodgers now that all of the viable free-agent starting quarterbacks have signed elsewhere.
It is also possible that after Rodgers criticized the Packers so heavily on The Pat McAfee Show, the Packers decided to do things on their terms rather than try to end things amicably with their quarterback of 18 years. This is pure speculation, but I don’t think it can be discounted as a possibility.
As stated earlier, Pro Football Talk is now reporting that the Packers are looking for a first-round pick and more for Rodgers. They also stated a few days ago that the Packers may be content to wait until after the draft to trade Rodgers.
This is my best guess as to what is actually happening.
As Rodgers stated, the Packers have dug their heels in the sand. They think the Jets and Rodgers are both in a bind and are therefore asking for more trade compensation. They assume that the Jets will cave and give more than they want due to the urgency to get this done.
Why not put out that they want a very high price to persuade the Jets to raise their offer?
However, Joe Douglas has proven himself to be a shrewd businessman, especially when it comes to trades (see: Darnold, Sam and Adams, Jamal). He knows that as much as the Jets are tied to Rodgers, the Packers are also tied down to a date: September 7, which is when Week 1 of the 2023 NFL season begins.
If the Packers do not trade Rodgers by then, they will be forced to pick up his $58.3 million option bonus, to be paid immediately. They will then have a dead cap charge of $99.1 million to trade him.
Obviously, the Jets do not want to wait until then, but they will hold out as long as possible to make it appear that they are willing to wait. Certainly, Douglas wants to get this deal done, but he is unwilling to be fleeced in the process.
If the Packers wait until after June 1, it won’t be ideal for the Jets in that they want their new quarterback in the building. However, there is a hidden plus side to this: the Jets will be able to keep all of their 2023 draft picks and add much-needed talent to surround Rodgers.
Meanwhile, Jets players can still work out with Rodgers in the offseason off of team premises. It’s not a preferred situation, but it’s not the end of the world.
What will actually happen
I do not know what will happen any more than anyone else does. Part of this depends on the Packers’ willingness to negotiate in good faith, as they appear to have already reneged upon a basic verbal agreement.
However, what I think will likely happen is that the Jets will come up a bit from their insistence on the fourth-round conditional pick, and the Packers will come down from their first-round pick demand. Neither one makes that much sense in this context.
The Jets would love to compare Rodgers to Brett Favre, but this is not 2008 anymore. With the backdrop of the trades for Matthew Stafford, Russell Wilson, and Deshaun Watson, it’s difficult to say that all Rodgers would command is a conditional fourth-rounder. The comparison is not apples to apples due to the age difference, but still, QB trade prices have risen since Favre was dealt.
Additionally, Favre was traded in August, when the Packers had their backs against the wall; that is not the case here.
From the Packers’ end, asking for a first-round pick for a 39-year-old QB coming off a down season who may only play for one year and is owed $58.3 million in cash before September is outrageous. If they expect to get that pick for Rodgers, they are in fantasyland. This is more likely a negotiating ploy.
All along, there has been widespread speculation from more objective sources (meaning, those who are not spreading the Packers’ or Jets’ propaganda) that a fair price would be a 2023 second-round pick and a conditional 2024 third- or fourth-rounder.
I imagine that the two teams will arrive at a price somewhere near there. The Jets may want to lower that 2023 second-rounder to a third-rounder, and there is some haggling to be done.
I do not think this will drag out until after the draft, as the Packers will likely concede if the Jets are willing to give them some 2023 compensation. If the return is only going to be a 2024 pick or picks, the Packers really have no incentive to do this until after the draft.
Perhaps Douglas will dig in his own heels and refuse to concede even an inch of 2023 compensation, but that would take true willingness not to have Rodgers in the building until midsummer or later.
One thing I am fairly certain will not happen: Douglas will not allow the Packers to fleece him. He understands that they may be trying to build up leverage, but it’s not really getting them anywhere. They have moved on from Rodgers, and he has moved on from them. Rodgers can threaten to retire today and accelerate a $40.8 million cap hit onto their 2023 cap if they play too dirty.
It is worth keeping in mind that all the reports about possible compensation are most likely leverage plays from either the Jets or Packers. Take them with the grain of salt they deserve.
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Originally posted on Jets X-Factor