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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

With Jets trade, Aaron Rodgers gets his ask: A team desperate for him

Aaron Rodgers departed Green Bay after 18 seasons as a Packer amid growing tension with the team’s management.

By Kris Rhim

The Green Bay Packers traded quarterback Aaron Rodgers to the New York Jets earlier this week, ending a three-year power struggle between the Packers and one of pro football’s greatest passers.

After a relatively lengthy negotiation process, the Jets agreed Monday to trade the No. 13 overall pick in this year’s draft, as well as two later-round picks and a conditional second-round pick in the 2024 NFL draft, in exchange for Rodgers, the No. 15 pick and a later-round pick. The trade, which was confirmed by a person with knowledge of the terms who was not authorized to speak publicly, was first reported by ESPN.

The deal for Rodgers had been imminent since March, when he said on “The Pat McAfee Show” that he intended to play for the Jets this season. In the six weeks since that confirmation, Jets and Packers leadership publicly said that the trade would happen, but the teams did not come to terms until three days before the NFL draft was scheduled to begin in Kansas City, Missouri.

Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst said in a news conference Monday that it was “unfortunate and disappointing” that he had not talked with Rodgers since the season ended, but that he was “really excited” to move forward with Jordan Love, who had sat behind Rodgers for the past three seasons.

Since quarterback Joe Namath led the Jets to their only Super Bowl appearance, a victory in 1969, the franchise has struggled to find a long-term successor. The team has used first-round picks to try to fix the position: Richard Todd in 1976, Ken O’Brien in 1983, Chad Pennington in 2000, Mark Sanchez in 2009, Sam Darnold in 2018, and Zach Wilson in 2021.

In the promising 2022 season, the Jets began 6-3 behind one of the best defenses in the league and a talented offense. But lackluster quarterback play was the team’s most glaring deficiency, and it ultimately kept the Jets out of the playoffs for the 10th straight season. Now the Jets get Rodgers, who should position the team as championship contenders.

Rodgers, 39, spent 18 seasons in Green Bay, where he won the league’s Most Valuable Player Award four times, most recently in 2020 and 2021. But he had grown increasingly discontented with the franchise’s direction and his lack of input on personnel decisions.

Rodgers became the Packers’ starter in 2008, three years after the team drafted him with the 24th overall pick out of California, Berkeley. He replaced Hall of Famer Brett Favre, who had delivered one title in 16 seasons in Green Bay before the Packers traded him to the Jets.

Rodgers quickly eased fans’ nostalgia for Favre. After a six-win season in his first year as a starter, Rodgers made the Pro Bowl in the 2009 season after leading the Packers to an 11-5 record. In his third season as a starter, Rodgers and Green Bay won a Super Bowl title over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

He followed the championship with arguably the best season of his career. Rodgers won his first MVP Award, finishing with the most passing yards (4,643) of his career, and the highest quarterback rating (122.5) in NFL history. Rodgers also holds the record for the second-highest quarterback rating, 121.5, set in the 2020 season.

Favre became the first and only quarterback to win MVP in three consecutive seasons from 1995 to 1997. Starting in 2003, the award was traded between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, two generational quarterbacks who won six of nine MVP Awards before Rodgers crashed the party.

Rodgers became a face of the NFL, noted as much for his endorsements with State Farm and Adidas as for posting some of the best statistical performances of any quarterback of his era. But another championship eluded him and the Packers, while Brady, Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Patrick Mahomes have all won at least two Super Bowls.

The Packers lost in the NFC championship game five times with Rodgers under center, a playoff obstacle that revealed the fissure between the quarterback and his team beginning in January 2020 after a blowout loss to the San Francisco 49ers in that round.

Before that year’s draft, Rodgers criticized the Packers for not using first-round picks on wide receivers who could pair alongside the then-starter Davante Adams. “We haven’t picked a skill player in the first round in 15 years, so that would be kind of cool,” Rodgers said in an interview.

Green Bay team executives that year drafted quarterback Love with the 26th overall pick, a move that seemed to echo Rodgers’ selection in 2005 when a veteran Favre was the team’s starter.

Rodgers responded with one of his best seasons, leading the league in completion percentage (70.7) and touchdown passes (48) — and another loss in the conference championship game.

That offseason, Rodgers stewed privately and in public appearances on podcasts, and even as he guest-hosted the TV game show “Jeopardy!” The tension reached a head in April 2021, when ESPN reported that Rodgers had asked to be traded.

In July 2021, Rodgers skipped mandatory minicamp but later attended training camp, addressing the rift in his first news conference. “I just expressed my desire to be more involved in conversations directly affecting my job,” he said, explaining his desire for more of a role in the team’s personnel decisions.

But the season was defined as much by Rodgers’ performance as the reasons for his absences. He tested positive for the coronavirus in November, months after he had told reporters that he was “immunized” against the disease. Rodgers that month decried the league’s vaccination mandate and “woke culture” in two podcast interviews. The NFL later fined him $14,650 for violations of the protocols for unvaccinated players, which included not wearing a mask during his weekly news conferences and attending a Halloween party.

Despite the conflicts, Rodgers again excelled in the 2021 season, throwing 37 touchdown passes to just four interceptions, leading the NFL in passer rating and guiding the Packers to a 13-4 record during another MVP campaign. The team lost in the divisional round of the playoffs, but that offseason Rodgers signed a three-year contract extension with a reported $150 million in guaranteed money.

In March 2022, the Packers traded Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders, and the Packers’ offense struggled. Green Bay missed the playoffs, losing its final game of the season to the Detroit Lions, a team Rodgers has beaten 18 times in his career.

As reports of Rodgers’ interest in the Jets hit social media in the weeks leading up to the trade, Jets players openly vied for his services. Ahmad Gardner, the Jets cornerback known as Sauce, wore a Packers fan’s cheesehead hat after the team beat Green Bay last season. He burned the hat alongside other Jets teammates on a video meant to recruit Rodgers.

The Jets’ campaign for Rodgers came just two seasons after selecting Wilson with the No. 2 overall pick, but Wilson rarely looked the part of franchise centerpiece. He was benched in November 2022, after the offense gained just 2 yards in the second half of a 10-3 defeat to the New England Patriots.

Wilson now enters the third year of his rookie contract expected to play backup behind Rodgers, who received the blessing of the franchise’s most successful quarterback in March. As the Jets sought the trade, Namath invited Rodgers to continue wearing the No. 12, which both quarterbacks share, despite the team having retired the jersey in Namath’s honor.

Rodgers could instead sport the No. 8, which he wore in college.

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