With Easter on the horizon, it’s fair to say the New York Jets placed all of their eggs in one basket when it comes to Aaron Rodgers being their quarterback in 2023. But what happens if the Jets and Green Bay Packers somehow fail to make a trade for the future Hall-of-Famer?
Let’s examine the quarterback alternatives for the Jets if the Aaron Rodgers trade falls through.
Of course, the Jets and Packers both need to get a Rodgers deal done. New York’s options at quarterback are dwindling, and the team has made it clear that Rodgers is and always has been its No. 1 choice to unseat Zach Wilson. It’s clear the Packers do not want Rodgers anymore and are ready for the Jordan Love era to begin.
Even newly signed Jets wide receiver Allen Lazard is confident Rodgers is coming to New York.
"It feels good that 12 is going to be my quarterback again"
– Allen Lazard on Aaron Rodgers pic.twitter.com/lqtSN2Zo6k
— Jets Videos (@snyjets) March 17, 2023
But Rodgers claims the Packers are “digging in” trying to maximize the trade return. And Green Bay can wait, in theory, until Week 1 of the season since none of Rodgers’ near $60 million is due before then. That would be a poor strategy, but shows the Packers can out-wait the Jets, who likely want Rodgers ASAP so that he can join offseason workouts and get acclimated to his new team.
So, there’s a slim chance this trade doesn’t happen. But a chance nonetheless.
That said, let’s look at the quarterback alternatives for the Jets if the Aaron Rodgers trade falls through.
4. The Jets could run it back with Zach Wilson as starting QB
This is the nuclear option for the Jets. The reason why their offseason is centered around finding a veteran quarterback is because Wilson failed miserably his two seasons as the starter, including a regression in 2022 when he was benched twice.
Zach Wilson will be ready to fight for QB1.
(via @snyjets) | #TakeFlight pic.twitter.com/kFwWQsxxL2
— Sunday Night Football on NBC (@SNFonNBC) March 16, 2023
Not only would this not sit well with the fans, but there’s a good chance there’d be a mutiny in the Jets locker room. So often this offseason we’ve seen Sauce Gardner, Garrett Wilson, Breece Hall and others playfully recruiting Rodgers on social media. No Jets player is tagging Wilson in their tweets nor saying anything supportive of the 23-year-old. It’s like Wilson is persona non grata on his own team.
Coach Robert Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas have each said New York will work with Wilson to bring out the best in him and help the young QB fix his mechanical issues. Plus, Wilson will be on the roster next season. But there’s no way those two men, whose jobs are hanging in the balance and need a playoff appearance in 2023, are going to pin their futures on Zach Wilson.
The nuclear option, indeed.
3. New York could sign a free agent to play QB
Now that we’ve moved beyond Wilson, let’s get to the free agent option. Problem there is Carson Wentz might just be the only viable free agent QB left, and he’s not going to get it done for the Jets.
Sure, arguments can be made that Wentz is an upgrade over Wilson and could lead a playoff run. But he was benched with the Washington Commanders last season and would be heading to his fourth team in four years. Wentz is only 30, but no one appears to want to touch him anymore. And let’s be honest, when you’re tied to Rodgers and Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo all offseason, no one’s going to want to hear the Jets let superior signal-callers slip through their fingers just to end up with Wentz.
There’s also Matt Ryan, who at 37 looks pretty much done as an NFL starter after being released by the Indianapolis Colts. And there’s Teddy Bridgewater, who’d be a nice backup, but not a game-changing No. 1.
2. The Jets could trade for their new quarterback
The Jets might find more plausible options going the trade route as opposed to free agency.
Problem is, like with the Rodgers trade, the Jets do not want to deal their first-round pick (No. 13 overall) in this year’s draft. And if they can’t swing a deal for the guy they really want, what makes the Jets think they have the stomach to trade for their fourth or fifth option, at best?
From NFL Now: #Titans GM Ran Carthon says QB Ryan Tannehill will be a Titan. It may be best for both sides for that to happen. pic.twitter.com/w0jZZWVHvI
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 28, 2023
The Tennessee Titans do not seem inclined to trade Ryan Tannehill, who would be a solid pick up for New York. But the Jets could explore that option. Matthew Stafford is coming off injury and is owed a ton of money (like Rodgers), but the Super Bowl winner is rumored to be available from the Los Angeles Rams. Perhaps Kirk Cousins, who famously decided against signing with the Jets in the past, could be had from the Minnesota Vikings.
Each veteran comes with question marks, serious salary cap hits and the hassle of dealing away picks and players on top of paying significant salary. But any of them would be a better option for New York than running it back with Wilson.
1. New York could try to land Lamar Jackson
It would cost the Jets two first-round picks and a ton of guaranteed cash to acquire Lamar Jackson, but he’s far and away the best QB out there. The Baltimore Ravens slapped the franchise tag on him and it would take a massive fully-guaranteed contract for the Ravens to let Jackson walk–not likely.
Fun fact: Last year, Lamar Jackson finished with a higher passer rating from inside the pocket than Cousins, Rodgers, and Brady. pic.twitter.com/DcINWx1rv3
— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) March 9, 2023
But if the Rodgers trade falls through, wouldn’t the Jets have to see if they could pull this off? They’d have to come up with some kind of poison pill in a Jackson contract that would make Baltimore walk away. And in the end, they’d likely put a lot of time into a fruitless chase.
New York would be in desperation mode if the Rodgers deal falls through, though, and desperate times call for desperate measures.