- Aaron Rodgers says he will play for the New York Jets next year.
- His move to the AFC leaves the NFC with very few elite quarterbacks.
- Any NFC team could bid on Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and instantly have one of the best in the conference.
Aaron Rodgers announced his intention to play for the New York Jets Wednesday while speaking on The Pat McAfee Show.
Rumors of Rodgers’ imminent jump to the Jets began to grow louder last week, but official details were thin. Even after Rodgers’ letter of intent, details still need to be worked out before the move is official, but the mood seems to be that those details will eventually be worked out and the move complete.
—New York Jets (@nyjets) March 15, 2023
Rodgers’ move is obviously having a big impact on the Packers and the Jets. New York, whose young core of skill-position players looked ready for the playoffs with consistent quality last year despite missing a quarterback, suddenly has the services of one of the best in the business.
The Packers will once again look to replace a legendary quarterback who has played at the elite level for more than a decade. Last time it was Favre who gave way to Rodgers; Now Rodgers is making way for Jordan Love.
But the news of Rodgers’ move has even wider ramifications that should become very apparent very quickly.
Rodger’s departure leaves a huge talent gap in the NFC
With Rodgers moving to the Jets and Tom Brady still retired (at least for now), there aren’t many elite quarterbacks left in the NFC.
By my count there are only two – Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts and Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. You could make arguments for others, but I won’t believe them.
I love Kyler Murray as much as anyone, but he has yet to find success and the Cardinals are more looking to rebuild than fight right now. Kirk Cousins is just Kirk Cousins, nothing more, nothing less. Derek Carr is solid but now on a Saints team that will discover a new identity this season.
If you rank the top 10 quarterbacks in all of football, at least eight of them — Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Tua Tagovailoa, Trevor Lawrence and Lamar Jackson — will currently be playing in the AFC next year.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Lamar Jackson is currently looking for a new deal
Heading into free agency, the Ravens hit Jackson with the non-exclusive franchise tag. This basically allows Jackson to go out and negotiate a potential deal with other teams in the NFL, but it gives the Ravens the right to go along with any deal he works out elsewhere.
Baltimore and Jackson have been trying to work out an extension since the last offseason, but have been unsuccessful. Jackson presents himself as his own agent.
The non-exclusive franchise tag, if everything works right, is a tool to shape the market. So far, Jackson and the Ravens have reportedly been far apart in negotiations. A bid sheet from another team showing the Ravens “this is what the NFL thinks Jackson is worth” would bring a lot of clarity.
Jackson can officially start accepting offers at 4 p.m. Wednesday when free agency begins.
Jackson’s extension was more complicated than expected, and the Browns are to blame
One of the obstacles in negotiations between Jackson and the Ravens was reportedly Jackson’s desire for a fully guaranteed deal. Full guarantees aren’t the norm for NFL players, but they have happened.
Most notably, the Cleveland Browns signed Deshaun Watson to a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract after trading for him. That deal came about while Watson was still under scrutiny over more than 20 allegations of sexual misconduct and assault, and Watson was a full year away from his final NFL start.
Jackson comes with more prestige and without the baggage Watson had when he was looking for his contract last year. So Jackson’s desire to secure a contract similar to Watson’s is understandable – the market has been set.
The problem is that other teams in the league aren’t as keen on issuing guaranteed money as the Browns are, and they don’t want to set a precedent where all QB contracts are fully guaranteed. When it was announced that Jackson would be available to sign an offer sheet, several teams issued statements clarifying that they would not be putting out feelers for the 2019 NFL MVP.
—Field Yates (@FieldYates) March 7, 2023
Thus we reach a stalemate where Jackson is looking for a guaranteed monster deal and the Ravens and other teams are unwilling to offer it.
But NFC teams looking to fight now have no excuse not to pursue Jackson
Rodger’s departure from the NFC could, or at least should, be the drop that breaks the camel’s back in this stalemate.
The NFC is wide open right now and any team that feels like quarterback and has a bit of luck now has a real shot at that quarterback. If Jackson jumped up to the NFC, he would immediately become at least the second-best quarterback in the conference.
Whichever team got him would have a path through the postseason to the Super Bowl where they wouldn’t face a more talented quarterback on the other side of the ball.
—Mina Kimes (@minakimes) March 9, 2023
Some teams are off the hook because they already have solid starters, or at least invested enough to stay where they are. The Eagles and Cowboys are well suited to go head-to-head with Hurts and Prescott, respectively.
The Cardinals just renewed Kyler Murray last year. The Rams are likely deadlocked on Matthew Stafford’s contract for better or for worse, and the Seahawks rightly renewed Geno Smith.
The Saints are likely cast by Carr, as are the Vikings by Kirk Cousins. The Bears still have Justin Fields in their rookie deal and trading the first overall pick in the upcoming draft is an indication they will see what they can build around him.
The Giants are sticking with Daniel Jones, although it probably would have been better to double that offer and give it to Jackson.
But that still leaves nearly half of the conference 1) in need of a quarterback; and 2) with the opportunity to become instant Super Bowl contenders if they make the right offer.
– The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) September 22, 2019
The Carolina Panthers just traded away a ransom for a king to take their first overall win from the Bears. That first overall win could be really good, so good that he’ll even become MVP one day! You could also just sign a proven MVP quarterback.
The Washington Commanders currently have a depth chart consisting of Sam Howell and Jake Fromm. Good luck boys!
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, still two-time reigning champions of the NFC South, take on Baker Mayfield and place the former No. 1 overall on their fourth team in two years.
The Atlanta Falcons drive with Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke. That’s certainly two quarterbacks.
The 49ers brought down three quarterbacks last year and still almost made it to the Super Bowl. What if San Francisco found a way to swap out the “injured QB” for “Lamar Jackson”? With one of the league’s slickest head coaches designing plays? Feels like this could work.
The disinterest in Jackson was getting weird, but as openly as NFC looks now, it’s ruthless
It might not feel like it given the news of Rodgers’ departure, but MVP quarterbacks just aren’t available to the rest of the NFL all that often.
When designing an MVP, you usually keep it with you. That’s why Rodgers spent 18 years at Green Bay, why Patrick Mahomes signed a 10-year extension, and why so many teams hope to draft the next great American hero from under the middle.
Jackson is available and probably the most difficult weapon in the NFL for opposing teams to face off against.
—Coach Dan Casey (@CoachDanCasey) March 8, 2023
Granted, Lamar Jackson is the type of player you need to fully commit to in order to build your offense, and if the Ravens hadn’t done that after they drafted him, he might not have had the success he’s had. As such, it may not be a seamless or easy addition for some.
But if you can’t figure out how to win with Lamar Jackson under center, especially in a year when the opposing quarterbacks you’ll see in the playoffs include Brock Purdy and Daniel Jones, I don’t know what will to tell you .
The salary cap is difficult, but always manageable. Feelings could get hurt, and even if you make Jackson the right offer, the Ravens could still say, “Actually, we’re keeping him, thanks,” so maybe that’s a reason for hesitation.
But if you’re a fan of an NFL team that doesn’t currently have a marquee quarterback, one in Baltimore is right there, rumored to be available.