Aaron Rodgers basically threw down the gauntlet on the Pat McAfee Show Wednesday:
He will be a New York Jet in 2023, or he will retire.
And considering the Green Bay Packers will incur a $40 million dead cap charge if Rodgers hangs it up, there’s a huge incentive for them to facilitate a trade to the Jets.
“They want to move on, and now, so do I,” Rodgers said.
Aaron Rodgers Trade Will Reset AFC East
Rodgers said that the Packers and Jets have known since last Friday that he wants to play for Gang Green — which was a reversal from before he went into his isolation retreat.
Prior to going into the darkness, Rodgers claimed Wednesday that he was “90%” sure he wanted to retire after 18 NFL seasons.
But he had a change of heart after spending time alone with his thoughts, and after meeting with Jets brass in Southern California last week, he decided he wanted to play in New York.
MORE: History Repeats Itself — Will a Jets Trade for Aaron Rodgers Work Out Better Than Brett Favre?
Considering the finances involved, it’s only a matter of when, not if, a deal gets done. So for the sake of this exercise, let’s assume a Packers-Jets trade happens.
Are the Jets now the team to beat in what, on paper, is the best division in the NFL — and perhaps the best division since the last expansion in 2002?
New York Jets
Rodgers speaks, and the (betting) markets move. They have the second-shortest odds to win the AFC East, per Caesars, at +180. (The Bills are still the favorites but at just +130.)
And certainly, he’s a massive upgrade at quarterback. Zach Wilson has been horrendous as a pro and was the No. 1 reason the Jets missed the playoffs in 2022.
The Jets’ defense was and will continue to be championship-quality.
The offense will certainly be better with Rodgers throwing to Garrett Wilson, but the issues on that side of the ball went beyond just the quarterback. New York ranked only slightly better in yards per carry (4.2) than they did in yards per pass (5.9) last year.
The bigger question: Will Rodgers’ arrival alone be enough to close the 5 1/2-game gap between the Jets and Bills from 2022?
New York also has to deal with the NFL’s sixth-hardest strength of schedule (.545, based on 2022 records), with nine games against playoff teams from a year ago.
Has the Bills’ championship window already closed? Pacman Jones, who was a guest on McAfee’s program Wednesday, seems to think it has.
There’s a possibility of regression after three straight division titles and three straight playoff losses short of the Super Bowl.
And certainly, the Bills’ roster has been diminished this offseason, with the loss of Tremaine Edmunds and potentially several more starters via free agency.
But they are keeping Jordan Poyer, so that’s helpful.
Plus, the offense still has Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, Dawson Knox, Gabe Davis, and will likely add a running back in the coming days. The Bills are still plenty dangerous.
But they’ll be tested. Their schedule strength (.542) ranks seventh, and they will face 10 playoff teams from last season this fall.
The Dolphins might be the most-improved team in the division, and only partially because they’ve added Jalen Ramsey via trade and David Long in free agency.
Their biggest move this offseason was convincing Vic Fangio to become their defensive coordinator, and he alone could turn an underachieving unit into one of the best in the NFL.
Caesars lists the Dolphins at +375 to win the AFC East — which, honestly, seems pretty fat to us.
MORE: Miami Dolphins Free Agency — A Closer Look at Chris Grier’s 2-Year Plan
They played Buffalo basically even in three meetings in 2022, including in the playoff game started by seventh-round rookie Skylar Thompson.
Perhaps those odds reflect skepticism that Tua Tagovailoa will stay healthy this fall. But if he does, the Dolphins are as dangerous as any team in football.
New England Patriots
Bill Belichick, you’ve got your work cut out for you.
The division might already be out of reach, even with Bill O’Brien in the fold to fix a broken offense.
Mac Jones is the worst quarterback in the division, and it’s probably not particularly close. He needs help on the outside — a reality that Belichick reportedly understands.
NFL Media reports that the Patriots “have remained engaged” with free agent wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and JuJu Smith-Schuster. It will probably take the Pats signing both for New England’s offense to scare anyone.
Certainly, the Patriots’ defense will be a handful, as it always is. But that probably won’t be enough against the NFL’s third-toughest schedule (.549).