Quarterback Aaron Rodgers said on “The Pat McAfee Show” Wednesday that he plans to play for the New York Jets this season.
Rodgers said he made the decision on Friday and does not hold up a transaction, which has still not been finalized. The two teams and Rodgers remain in contact, sources said, as they try to work through the final stages of a potential deal, including restructuring Rodgers’ contract and agreeing trade compensation.
The Packers are willing to trade Rodgers, but there are still things to be worked out and negotiations are underway, a source told ESPN Wednesday.
“I made it clear that my intention was to play and play for the New York Jets, and I didn’t hold anything back. It’s the compensation the Packers are trying to get. … The Packers want to move on and got me that in so many words,” he said.
Rodgers, who went on a four-day darkness retreat to think about his future, said he was 90% sure he was going to retire when he went on the retreat. He said that when he left the obscurity, something changed with the Packers’ previous stance of wanting him to play his entire career in Green Bay and that he wished the team was more direct with him at the start of the offseason.
Rodgers said he will always love the Packers organization, but it’s clear it’s time for a change.
“I love that city. I love that organization and will always have love for that organization. The facts are now they want to move on, and now I want to too,” he said.
He said his decision to leave Green Bay was “bittersweet”.
“I have to be the Packers’ starting quarterback for 15 years. … So I love you, Green Bay. Thanks. I’m as sad as some of you, but we’ll meet again.”
Rodgers said other teams have expressed interest in trading for him. He didn’t name the teams, but he did say there was “one specific player” he would like to reunite with. He appeared to be referring to Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams, his former Packers teammate. The Raiders agreed to sign Jimmy Garoppolo, so they’re out of the veteran quarterback market.
“There are many reasons why the Jets are attractive,” said Rodgers. “There is one coach who has meant as much to me as any other coach I have ever had.” He was referring to recently hired Jets offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, the Packers’ coordinator from 2019 to 2021. During that span, Rodgers won his third and fourth NFL MVPs.
Rodgers took offense to the perception that Hackett was hired by the Jets for the main purpose of recruiting him to the team. That, he said, would “diminish the ability he has to coach. … It’s a total disservice to Nathaniel Hackett and what he’s accomplished in his career.”
Just a year ago, Rodgers seemed destined to close out his Green Bay career. After considering retirement after the 2021 season, he signed a three-year, $150 million contract extension in March 2022.
Rodgers’ contract includes a $59.465 million guaranteed salary and bonus this season. Most of it consists of a $58.3 million bonus to be paid no later than Week 1 of this season. The Packers would take $40.3 million in dead money to their pay cap if they trade Rodgers before June 1. Because his bonus money is prorated, Rodgers would count $15.8 million toward the Jets’ salary cap in 2023 and $32.5 million in 2024, cap-friendly numbers for a player of his stature.
“I have to be the Packers’ starting quarterback for 15 years… So I love you, Green Bay. Thanks. I’m as sad as some of you, but we’ll meet again.”
A contingent of Jets officials, including owner Woody Johnson, general manager Joe Douglas, coach Robert Saleh and Hackett, flew to California last week to meet with Rodgers.
Rodgers shared some details of his meeting with Jets officials last Tuesday. It was a four-hour discussion that took place at his home in Malibu. He joked that the Jets’ contingent parked cars on the street, attracting paparazzi.
In addition, several Jets players tweeted for Rodgers to recruit him, including cornerback Sauce Gardner, who promised to burn the cheesehead he wore to celebrate New York’s victory over the Packers at Lambeau Field last season. Gardner later fulfilled the promise by burning the head of cheese in a video posted to YouTube.
Rodgers, 39, has given the Jets a wish list of free agents he would like, including Odell Beckham Jr., sources told ESPN’s Dianna Russini. Another player on that list, Packers free agent wide receiver Allen Lazard, agreed to a four-year, $44 million contract with the Jets on Tuesday, a source confirmed to ESPN.
However, Rodgers said Wednesday that the idea that he has given the Jets a wish list is “ridiculous.” However, he said the Jets asked him about players he had played with, but he made no demands.
“My only demand is transparency,” he said.
Explaining the so-called wish list, Rodgers said, “Did they ask me about certain guys I’ve played with over the years? Of course. Did I speak enthusiastically about teammates I love? Yeah. Why wouldn’t you?”
In addition to Lazard, the Jets have expressed interest in wide receiver Randall Cobb and tight end Marcedes Lewis, both free agents. Rodgers scoffed at the perception that he pushes certain players.
“People want these things to be so true that in this meeting I’m dressed in ceremonial regalia and they’re kind of handwritten. [note] on parchment to demand a list of people to sign them,” he burst out.
Beckham’s asking price is probably too high for the pet-strapped Jets.
“I mean, first of all, who wouldn’t want Odell on their team?” asked Rodgers, who is friends with the well-traveled star.
Packers president Mark Murphy made it clear last week that Rodgers’ return to the team was not the organization’s first choice and they hoped to find a “win-win situation” for the four-time MVP and the team.
The Jets’ Super Bowl odds have steadily improved over the past week at sportsbooks. On Wednesday, after Rodgers announced his intentions, the Jets were 14-1 to win the Super Bowl at Caesars Sportsbook. At that price, only five teams — the Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers, Buffalo Bills, Philadelphia Eagles and Cincinnati Bengals — had better odds than the Jets, who entered the offseason 30-1 to win the Super Bowl. They started the week at 17-1 at Caesars.
ESPN’s David Purdum contributed to this report.