Jets could be quiet in free agency market as they wait on Aaron Rodgers
As the Jets wait for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’s answer on whether he is willing to accept a trade, don’t expect a ton of movement this week at the start of free agency.
Monday at noon eastern marked the beginning of the NFL’s two-day negotiating window, during which teams can begin talking to pending free agents 52 hours before the new league year on March 15 at 4 p.m.
Teams and a player’s agent can agree to contract terms but cannot officially sign until the new league year begins. For the Jets, it could be quiet in Florham Park for various reasons.
Gang Green is working with less salary cap money than in previous years. The Jets currently have a little over $10 million as they enter the two-day negotiating period. That doesn’t include the $5 million of savings the Jets will get when they officially release wide receiver Braxton Berrios on Wednesday.
The Jets have already made a couple of moves, including acquiring safety Chuck Clark from the Ravens in exchange for a seventh-round pick. The trade will become official on Wednesday at the start of the new league year.
Not only did the Jets add a safety before free agency, but they also retained a key starter on a defense that finished fourth in the league in 2022. Linebacker Quincy Williams agreed to a three-year, $18 million contract that could max out to $21 million in incentives.
If Rodgers accepts a trade to the Jets, he would count for $15.8 million in cap space with $59 million in actual money under his existing contract with the Packers. The Jets and Rodgers could restructure his deal, but it is difficult to see a lot of signings happening until they have clarity on their future at quarterback.
The Packers gave the Jets permission to speak with Rodgers as owner Woody Johnson, general manager Joe Douglas and coach Robert Saleh flew out to California hoping to convince him to ask for a trade. However, Rodgers has continued to say he will decide on his future soon as he told the I Am Athlete over the weekend, “stay tuned, it won’t be long.”
There’s also a chance the Jets may have to pivot to option C at quarterback in free agency. Gang Green’s second choice, if it couldn’t trade for Rodgers, was always Derek Carr, who was released by the Raiders last month. However, Carr signed a four-year, $150 million contract with the Saints last week, which includes $100 million in total guarantees.
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Jimmy Garoppolo could be on speed dial if the Jets don’t land Rodgers as he isn’t expected to return to the 49ers. However, the Jets could have some competition if they pivoted to Garoppolo, as the Raiders or Texans also could look to sign the 31-year-old veteran.
“Right now, we’re studying our guys, we’re going through free agency, we’re looking at the draft, so there’s a lot of overlap with regards to what we’re doing in our day-to-day process,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said earlier this month.
“While we’re doing offense, defense is working on free agency and the draft and vice versa. It’s just trying to divvy up the time and make sure that we’re going through our normal process day-in and day-out. I guess you get used to it after all this time.”
Outside of Rodgers, the Jets will need to look at a few of their pending free agents and decide whether to re-sign them or let them move on. Among them is center Connor McGovern, who spent three seasons on the Jets roster. Jake Brendel, Garrett Bradbury, Ethan Pocic, and Bradley Bozeman are some available centers that will be on the market if the Jets decide to move on.
The Jets also could still release wide receiver Corey Davis and safety Jordan Whitehead. Cutting Davis and Whitehead would save the Jets a total of $17.7 million.
If the Jets add Rodgers, they could go out after Randall Cobb and Allen Lazard, two receivers he played with in Green Bay. With the addition of Clark, who primarily plays at strong safety, the Jets should add more of a free safety who excels at coverage, as that’s not Whitehead’s strength.
Gang Green also needs another linebacker alongside Williams and second-team All-Pro C.J. Mosley. Kwon Alexander, who played in all 17 games last season, is a free agent. With the Jets re-signing Williams, it is unlikely Alexander will return next season.