Aaron Rodgers’ retirement decision is dragging on, holding Jets and Packers hostage in the process

Anyone who expected Aaron Rodgers to handle his departure from Green Bay differently than his Packers predecessor because Rodgers himself had to deal with Brett Favre joyoting back and forth while playing Green Bay was terribly wrong. The irony of Rodgers’ threatening decision — “obnoxious lingering” seems a much more appropriate description at this point — is unavoidable. About 15 years ago, Rodgers found himself in NFL purgatory as Favre rambled before finally being traded to the Jets on Aug. 7, 2008.

Unlike Favre, Rodgers actually holds several franchises hostage. The Packers essentially asked Favre to kick rocks after he decided to retire in March 2008, then changed his mind a few months later.

“Favre had one chance, and one chance only, to salvage his career in Green Bay. He had to wholeheartedly commit to another season by early March,” longtime Beat writer Bob McGinn wrote in the Journal-Sentinel in 2008.

He didn’t, Rodgers took over and the rest is history. Rodgers is in a different boat, with the Packers reportedly preferring that he either retire or express interest in playing elsewhere.

Roder, who promised “it won’t be long” until his decision is made, has earned the right to take time to make a decision. He’s a Hall of Famer first-wall quarterback and one of the most exciting NFL players of his generation, regardless of his positional value.

But that’s getting a little ridiculous, especially given Tuesday’s spate of free-agent rumors suggesting Rodgers could be not only the Jets quarterback of the future but also their current general manager. (He also owns the bearsmaking him the first QB/GM/owner of three different franchises in NFL history.)

ESPN’s Dianna Russini reported Tuesday that Rodgers provided the Jets with a “wish list” of pass catchers for the team to acquire, including two former packers-turned-free agents with a combined age of 70.

Allen Lazard is one thing. He’s a potential replacement for Corey Davis if the former Titans first-round pick falls victim to the salary cap. And according to multiple reports, the Jets have brokered a deal to put the speedster on a four-year, $44 million deal. According to NFL Media’s Mike Garofolo, the Jets started bidding Lazard at $9 million a year and in the last few days have come up to that number significantly. The reason – Rodgers – should be obvious.

But adding Randall Cobb — 32, one of Rodgers’ best friends and a wily veteran — to the list with Elijah Moore seems pretty redundant. (It’s possible that Moore is going to Green Bay, which would change things on that ending.) Marcedes Lewis is 38 years old! Like Cobb and Lazard, he is familiar with Nathaniel Hackett’s offense. So there is a justification here. Odell Beckham Jr. is an odd guy – why didn’t Rodgers ever fight to bring him to the Packers? And why would Rodgers want to load his potential new team with a bunch of players from his old team who were – theoretically – lacking in weapons?

To make things even weirder, Rodgers hasn’t committed to joining the Jets. It’s possible, though unlikely, that he could manipulate the Jets into signing all of his old compadres, give them one last bite of the free-agent apple, and then decide to retire while saving both the Jets and also to block the Packers.

New York would be foisted on a bunch of older ex-Packers and, more importantly, be stuck without a quarterback. The Jets are clearly over Zach Wilson, saw Mike White freehand to sign with Miami and consequently put all their eggs in the Rodgers basket. Luckily for her, there’s no other competition in the NFL aside from a mysterious team out of nowhere. But Rodgers doesn’t have to keep playing. He could easily decide that he wants to retire and hang out in a dark, ayahuasca-filled cave for a few years.

Retirement would also leave the Packers stiff with a $40 million dead cap fee in 2023, though Rodgers would be willing to restructure the contract when he walked away. Green Bay was able to spread the cap hit. A trade leaves the Packers with the same $40 million dead cap hit unless the deal is consummated on June 2 or later.

The Packers’ salary cap situation is fine; They have more than $20 million in space even if Rodgers returns in 2023 and plays in Green Bay. It’s unclear if that would be an option for the Packers. It doesn’t feel like it, but are they really just telling another Hall of Famer QB to kick rocks? Certainly Rodgers wouldn’t steer a bunch of players to the Jets just to try and stay in Green Bay.

Regardless, his decision will impact the Packers’ salary cap and their plan for Jordan Love. Certainly, with a $11 million cap room (prior to signing Lazard), the Jets have a few moves to make if they land Rodgers. Maybe just a single one: The departure of the aforementioned Davis would free up $10 million in cap space, giving them (probably) more than enough to absorb the roughly $16 million cap fee Rodgers at would receive from a trade. Still, they need to know their quarterback plan, they need to know their salary cap situation, and they need to know if alternate options are needed.

That’s the crux of the matter: Rodgers is currently holding several teams hostage with his decision to delay this decision. The free hand has begun — “legal manipulations” are afoot as we speak — and the quarterback merry-go-round is already spinning, even without Rodgers knocking over his domino.

Jimmy Garoppolo signed a monster deal with the Raiders Filling the obvious quarterback gap in one place where Rodgers could possibly have gone (Davante Adams’ presence in Las Vegas always made it an option, even as they slowly withdrew from any interest in a deal with the Packers, Homer Simpson bush dot GIF style). The Jets lost a fan and locker room favorite in Mike White to division rivals Dolphins.

It wasn’t white will crack anyone’s top 100 free agent list and getting two years and $16 million from Miami is a bit steep. But his signing elsewhere is a reminder of how frozen the Jets remain here.

The machinations with Favre have been different since his resignation in March. But the drama feels very similar. Maybe in the end we’ll get a solution right away after I’ve written this story. Perhaps Rodgers pulls this into the new league year or beyond. However it ends, a Hall of Fame Packers quarterback appears to be maximizing the drama quotient en route to a stint with the Jets.

So we hit on, quarterbacks against the tide, carried incessantly into the past.

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