Jets hires have ties to Aaron Rodgers, Derek Carr, Ryan Tannehill: Will they land a much-needed QB upgrade?

Update as of 4:30 p.m. ET, Monday, April 24: Packers reportedly complete trade to send QB Aaron Rodgers to Jets

The New York Jets need a quarterback.

New Jets coaching hires have history with some of the biggest names tied to the quarterback market. Can they help them land an upgrade at football's most important position?

The Jets reportedly hired former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Todd Downing as their passing game coordinator on Monday. Downing will work under newly hired offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, who joined the team after a failed stint as the Denver Broncos head coach. Together, Downing and Hackett have relationships with Aaron Rodgers, Derek Carr and Ryan Tannehill.

Downing knows Tannehill after spending fours seasons on Mike Vrabel's Titans staff, the last two as offensive coordinator. He was fired in January after Tennessee missed the playoffs. Downing also spent three seasons on the Oakland Raiders staff from 2015-17 working with Carr as a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator.

Before his single season in Denver, Hackett worked three seasons coaching Rodgers as the Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Jets have reportedly reached out to the Packers about Rodgers' availability, one of the biggest unknowns of the NFL offseason.

Win-now Jets desperate for upgrade over Zach Wilson

What is known is that the Jets are buyers on the quarterback market after a disastrous second season from 2021 first-round pick Zach Wilson that featured poor play with a side of poor leadership. The Jets have an otherwise talented young roster, boasting a top-five defense and the NFL's offensive and defensive Rookies of the Year, Garrett Wilson and Sauce Gardner. They were on track for the playoffs before a season-ending six-game losing streak and appear to be a quarterback away from legitimate contention.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, left, talks with Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr before an NFL preseason football game between the Raiders and the Packers in Oakland, Calif., Friday, Aug. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Will Aaron Rodgers or Derek Carr wear a Jets uniform next season? (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Will Jets land Rodgers, Carr or Tannehill?

Any of the above-named quarterbacks would be welcome in New York. Rodgers is reportedly the top target for obvious reasons. He may be showing signs of decline at 39 years old, but he's just a season removed from his second straight and fourth career MVP. He also comes with a slew of question marks, most notably whether he'll ever play NFL football again.

Rodgers said last week that he's embarking on a "darkness retreat" to contemplate his NFL future. If he rejoins the light still a football player, the questions don't stop there. Rodgers is under contract with the Packers, and neither side has committed to one another next season in the event that Rodgers continues to play. If one or both sides initiate a breakup, any movement from Green Bay will require approval from the Packers, who will presumably demand a hefty sum in return for their franchise quarterback. Then comes working the remainder of his $150 million contract extension under the salary cap.

It's a long, winding road for the Jets to actually acquire Rodgers. But they're presumably willing to walk it given the upside. Carr, meanwhile, offers a path of considerably less resistance. The three-time Pro Bowler's days are clearly numbered in Las Vegas. As of Sunday, his exit strategy looks clear.

Carr on path for free agency

Carr, like Rodgers, is under contract next season. But the Raiders have made clear that they don't intend to honor the deal that's not guaranteed. As of Sunday, Carr reportedly told the Raiders he intends to enact his no-trade clause. The Raiders in turn intend to release him on Tuesday ahead of a deadline that would guarantee his contract, NFL Network reports.

The Jets now simply have to compel Carr to join the team with a contract offer to match the attractive football circumstances. Easier said than done, of course, and there will be other suitors for Carr's services. But New York's path to Carr is clearer than the one that leads to Rodgers.

If the Jets don't land Rodgers or Carr, Tannehill could surface as a fallback option. Tannehill's still under contract in Tennessee. But the Titans future is in flux with an aging offensive core coming off a season that ended with a seven-game losing streak. New general manager Ran Carthon will direct whether the Titans blow things up or run it back again with Tannehill and Derrick Henry leading the offense. Carthon declined to commit to Tannehill at his introductory news conference in January. If they move on, the Titans could seek a trade partner our outright release the 10-year veteran.

The Jets will have options and opportunity this offseason as they look to capitalize on their talented roster and end a 12-season playoff drought. The Hackett and Downing signings give them a leg up in their search. Securing Rodgers would amount to a coup and place them among next season's contenders. Not securing a quarterback upgrade at all would amount to disaster. The pressure is on.

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