Aaron Rodgers’ New Role: Why the Jets QB Can Embrace Being a Game Manager Post-Achilles Injury

In 2024, the Jets and Aaron Rodgers are looking to do what they couldn't in 2023. Why could it be fine for him to be just a game manager this year?

One of the biggest storylines of the 2023 NFL offseason was the New York Jets acquiring future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers in a trade. However, with his season cut down to just four snaps, the world never got to see a Rodgers-led Jets team.

Now, in 2024, the organization and Rodgers are looking to do what they planned a year ago. However, he’s getting older. Will Rodgers still be the MVP-caliber player he once was? Does it even matter if he is?

Revisiting Aaron Rodgers’ Catastrophic Achilles Injury

Take it back to Week 1 of last season, with the Jets facing the Buffalo Bills on Monday Night Football. Under the spotlight, Rodgers’ debut had tons of hype. Unfortunately, after four pressure-filled snaps, he was hit by Bills pass rusher Leonard Floyd, ultimately tearing his Achilles.

Without throwing for a single yard, Rodgers’ season was already over. Over the course of the season, the Jets would fluctuate through starting quarterbacks while Rodgers attempted to recover in time for a potential postseason run.

That never happened, though. In fact, according to Rodgers via the I Can Fly podcast, he even thought the injury might end his career.

“I was really thinking, ‘This is it. You don’t come back from this injury,'” said Rodgers, who is 40 years old.

Rodgers’ Last Season With Green Bay

After winning MVP in back-to-back seasons (2020, 2021), Rodgers’ final season with the Green Bay Packers didn’t live up to expectations. In 2022, he passed for 3,695 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. His 91.1 rating was the lowest of his career as a starter.

Additionally, Rodgers’ 12 picks were the second most in a single season of his career, after he threw 13 in his first season as a starter.

Long story short, it wasn’t what Rodgers or the Packers wanted. As a result, things went sideways.

The Packers had former first-round pick Jordan Love waiting in the wings, and Rodgers wanted a fresh start. Over the course of the 2023 offseason, the Jets continued to work until they acquired Rodgers, ending what was an 18-year career in Green Bay.

History of Players Performing After Achilles Injuries

Historically, NFL players coming back from Achilles injuries have been a mixed bag, with some returning like they never left and others failing to return to form. Yet, in recent years, players have returned and performed better than in previous decades, mainly thanks to new research and medical advances.

Some players who suffered torn Achilles and never looked the same include Cam Akers, Tarik Cohen, James Robinson, and Marlon Mack. Rodgers’ situation is a bit different in that he’s 40 and a quarterback.

You can go all the way back to Dan Marino, Vinny Testaverde, and Johnny Unitas to find some examples. Both Marino and Testaverde returned for several seasons, but neither quarterback was nearly as old as Rodgers, with Marino 32 years old and Testaverde 35. Kirk Cousins tore his last year as well and is in the same situation as Rodgers.

It’s really not known how Rodgers could come back. For one, he could once again play at a high level. But there’s also the chance that he comes back and struggles — potentially even more than in 2022.

Rodgers’ Contract Details With Jets

Prior to his trade to New York, Rodgers had signed a three-year, $150 million contract, which included a $40.8 million signing bonus and 100% of the deal guaranteed. Following his trade, Rodgers revised his contract in an effort to help the Jets build around him.

MORE: Retirement or Jets? Aaron Rodgers Explains Offseason RFK Jr. Decision

His current contract is now worth $112.5 million over three years, with $75 million of it fully guaranteed. Rodgers has a guaranteed option bonus worth $35 million in 2024 and another option bonus that can be exercised in 2025.

Rodgers is currently set to be a free agent following the 2025 season.

Does Rodgers Have the Best Weapons of His Career?

Rodgers’ weapons during his time in Green Bay were a big topic of debate. For one, the Packers never spent a first-round pick on a skill player during his time there. Nevertheless, he still played with Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, and James Jones.

Still, Rodgers never really had a deep, talented wide-receiver room around him in a single season. As a result, his weapons with the Jets could be considered the best of his career.

To start, Rodgers has Breece Hall, Israel Abanikanda, and Braelon Allen at running back. At wide receiver, Garrett Wilson, who has already emerged as a star, leads the room. He’s joined by third-round pick Malachi Corley and free-agent signing Mike Williams. Some other names in the room include Jason Brownlee, Allen Lazard, and Xavier Gipson. Finally, at tight end, Rodgers has Tyler Conklin and Jeremy Ruckert.

Why does this matter?

Well, it’s simple. If the Jets’ weapons can flourish, it can take the pressure off of Rodgers. Coming off his injury, there’s a good chance he won’t be the player he once was. But if the weapons can help out, Rodgers can play as a game manager and just help New York win games — something they struggled to do in 2023.

Can the Jets Revamped Offensive Line Keep Him Upright?

Arguably, the most important question of all concerns the offensive line. Rodgers’ 2023 season was cut short because of poor line play that led to immense pressure. Those struggles didn’t stop when he left the game, either.

Going into 2024, the Jets return just two starters from the 2023 season — center Joe Tippmann and right guard Alijah Vera-Tucker. This offseason, they’ve signed two new tackles, Tyron Smith (left) and Morgan Moses (right). New York also signed left guard John Simpson and drafted tackle Olu Fashanu in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft.

On paper, this new offensive line is a significant upgrade with solid depth. However, the majority of the line is up there in age, meaning that they could play well or potentially face some regression.

KEEP READING: 2024 NFL Offensive Line Rankings: Where Do the Jets Rank?

Another note is at left tackle. Smith is the current starter, and that’s a major upgrade. However, he’s had major injury struggles in recent years and could possibly face one again in 2023. If that happens, Fashanu would be thrown into the fire.

Could he handle it? Potentially so. The Jets hope they won’t have to rely on him too soon, though.

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