How deeply will Rodgers ponder retirement — or pretend to mull retirement — and how many nebulous progress reports will he provide to his pals in the sports entertainment business along the way? You thought you were done with this soap opera? You were wrong. Rodgers, now with a repaired Achilles’ tendon that gave way after four snaps on the MetLife Stadium synthetic turf, will undoubtedly be the story of the offseason as we find out whether his Jets career was really this short and star-crossed.
Those questions are already being asked in front offices around the league. I doubled back with several of the same executives who correctly predicted in this space that Rodgers was going to continue playing in 2023, only not in Green Bay. They also astutely projected a tepid-at-best market for Rodgers and made it very clear Rodgers was in no way worth the nearly $60 million owed to him for 2023, no matter where he played. Sure enough, Rodgers restructured his deal and gave millions back the Jets to facilitate other roster transactions before his ill-fated Week 1 debut.
Personally, I have serious questions about his desire to go through an arduous and consuming rehab, only to come back a year older, a year slower and a year further removed from what he was at his Hall of Fame best. But many within the industry disagree. They don’t see him having altered his deal and pushed more money into the future only to walk away from it after a few dropbacks. They don’t think his ego would allow him to go out like that — or his wallet. (We can discard the idea of him riding in to take over for Zach Wilson in the upcoming postseason; peep the Jets’ unrelenting upcoming schedule).
“Check out the way they redid his deal,” said one general manager, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not permitted to comment on players contracted to other teams. “They owe him a lot of money for next year. He’s not going to just let them off the hook. He’s a quarterback, but more than anything, he’s a businessman. He’s not going to let that go.”
One longtime personnel executive of another team, under similar restrictions, shared a similarly strong sentiment: “No f—–g way is he walking away from that contract. That’s not how this ends.”
Rodgers is owed more than $38 million next season should he want to play football, as part of his $75 million in total guarantees, and let’s be real: Even at age 40 — which Rodgers will turn in December — given how badly Wilson has performed over the totality of his career, the likelihood of the Jets reaching the playoffs or developing a better alternative to Rodgers is scant. Sure, there is chatter about the Jets looking at Kirk Cousins as a possible salvation, and several executive I spoke to think the Vikings will struggle this season to the point that their quarterback could become available.
But many also believe the Jets will be so deep in the hole that even they realize it would be silly to deal away yet more picks for another aging, rental quarterback when they still have one under contract.
With their stingy defense — and a gift victory handed to them by Bills quarterback Josh Allen in Week 1 — the Jets probably will win too many games to be in position to take an elite college passer in the top five of next year’s draft. And, well, Rodgers probably ain’t going quietly himself, regardless. “Remember, he has the no-trade clause, too,” as the GM pointed out. Indeed, Rodgers loves to have his checkmates in place well before required.
Rodgers was never going to be worth $60 million for this season, and he’s not going to be worth $38 million next season, either. But I would bet on the Jets having to pay him all of that — or very close to it — one way or the other.
Another New York quandary
After six quarters of scoreless football, looking as hapless as any team at a time when anemic offensive play was running rampant, the New York Giants finally busted out in Arizona to overcome a 21-point deficit and earn a win. It came at a price, however; running back Saquon Barkley is hurt yet again and was out for Thursday’s loss to the San Francisco 49ers, as was a good chunk of New York’s offensive line. The result: a 30-12 loss and a second high-profile beating against an NFC contender.
It’s already prompting questions about some roster choices that seemed bizarre at the time. A franchise that surprised the football world a year ago — and seemed to be ascending — may be hard-pressed to tread water in 2023. Numerous executives anticipated a weak market for Barkley and quarterback Daniel Jones; Barkley had no obvious suitors besides the Giants (who put a franchise tag on him), and the deal Jones got from New York, some execs said, far exceeded anything he would have landed had he been forced to actually test the market.
That duo is costing the Giants over $56 million this season alone, with Jones owed another $36 million fully guaranteed in 2024. “If they played this right, I think they keep the quarterback and the running back, on multiyear deals, for less than they’re paying them this year alone,” the GM said. “They really screwed that up. I don’t think they win nine games with that roster this year, and Barkley is up at the end of the season, and that will be the end of that.”
A longtime contract negotiator from another NFL team believes had the Giants not tagged Barkley, he would he back on a deal worth around $8 million a year, while if the Giants had placed a nonexclusive tag on Jones — like the Ravens did with former MVP Lamar Jackson (which never resulted in a qualifying offer from another team) — he would be back at far less than the $40 million a year he’s owed between this season and next. “Rookie GM that didn’t know the player market value and wrong negotiating strategy,” the negotiator said of Giants GM Joe Schoen.
Notes from around the league
The Rams are off to a better start than most projected, but there are still plenty of coaches and general mangers who believe Sean McVay will be ready for a reset — and a career in broadcasting — by 2024. . . .
There is also a running debate in league circles as to whether Chicago’s Matt Eberflus or the Chargers’ Brandon Staley is the first coach fired this season. Both of their teams are 0-2, and both are underdogs on the road this week; at least one of them won’t make it to Halloween at this rate. . . .
The Ravens’ defense has allowed just 14 offensive touchdowns since Week 8 of last season, coinciding with the arrival of linebacker Roquan Smith in a trade. Baltimore also leads the NFL in red-zone defense in that span, allowing a touchdown on just 30.6 percent of red-zone drives. Even without top corner Marlon Humphrey and top safety Marcus Williams last week, they held the Bengals to 5.4 air yards per attempt. Baltimore’s young defensive coordinator, Mike Macdonald, is starting to generate some buzz and rightfully so.