PHOENIX — As the Green Bay Packers and New York Jets continue to chip away at trade negotiations for veteran quarterback Aaron Rodgers, a key holdup has emerged: protection for draft pick compensation in the event that Rodgers doesn’t play in the 2024 NFL season.
The trade is currently orbiting a deal that would swap Rodgers for two high draft picks, according to multiple sources who spoke with Yahoo Sports. The sources characterized a deal as getting “closer” despite stiff negotiation over how those picks would stack up and whether the package would include “give back” protection for the Jets if Rodgers does not play beyond the 2023 season.
As it stands, talks are focused on the Jets dealing two picks for the Packers quarterback — one second-round pick in next month's NFL Draft, and another second-rounder in 2024 that could graduate to a first-round pick with “achievable” team performance escalators. An example of such an escalator would be if the Jets were to host a home divisional playoff game or advance to the AFC championship game. A sticking point in the talks is the Jets seeking an element of protection built into the trade, specifically one that sends some 2025 draft compensation to New York from Green Bay if Rodgers does not play in 2024 and beyond.
It boils down to the Packers wanting “straight shot” draft picks without qualifiers, while the Jets want such high level of compensation to be based on 2023 team performance and Rodgers also playing for New York in 2024.
According to sources, the issue of Rodgers' viability in 2024 arose in trade talks largely because of comments the quarterback made on "The Pat McAfee Show" earlier this month about his darkness retreat.
“I’ve got to admit, I went into the darkness 90 percent retired [and] 10 percent playing,” Rodgers said.
The Packers quarterback said that mindset changed after emerging from his retreat to find that Green Bay had made calls to other teams about their interest in him. The “90 percent retired” remark has weighed in trade talks, given the level of compensation being negotiated and the Jets believing that such high picks should warrant more than one season of play.
On Monday, Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst took issue with how Rodgers characterized his talks with the team prior to his entering the darkness retreat, saying the quarterback never responded to him “in any way” when the team reached out during the offseason to have conversations about the 2023 season.
“I was really looking forward to the conversations with Aaron to see how he fit into that,” Gutekunst said. “Those never transpired. So there came a time where we had to make some decisions, so we went through his representatives to try to talk to him [regarding] where were we going with our team. At that point, they informed us that he would like to be traded to the Jets.”
Speaking to reporters at the owners meetings Monday, Jets general manager Joe Douglas said the trade talks were not “where we need to be yet, but I feel like we’re in a good place.”
While no timetable for a trade completion was provided, sources pointed to April 17 as the next key date in the mix, as clubs open their facilities for organized team activities. Since Rodgers is under contract, he could attend activities with the Packers, unless the organization asked him to stay away as it continued to work on a trade. Such a move by Green Bay would be similar to what the San Francisco 49ers negotiated with Jimmy Garoppolo last offseason, when he was asked by the franchise to work away from the team as it attempted to find a trade partner. That ultimately never transpired and Garoppolo eventually returned to play in San Francisco on a reworked contract last season.