Aaron Rodgers' anticipated jump to the Jets leaves no excuses for NFC wannabe contenders to keep ignoring the Ravens' Lamar Jackson
- Aaron Rodgers says he's playing for the New York Jets next year.
- His move to the AFC leaves the NFC with very few elite quarterbacks.
Aaron Rodgers announced his intention to play for the New York Jets on Wednesday while speaking on "The Pat McAfee Show."
Rumblings of Rodgers' impending jump to the Jets began to grow louder last week, but official details were thin. Even after Rodgers' statement of intent, there are details to be worked out before the move is officially official, but the mood appears to be that those details will be eventually sorted and the move is done.
—New York Jets (@nyjets) March 15, 2023
Rodgers' move obviously has major implications for the Packer and the Jets. New York, whose young core of skill position players looked playoff-ready last year despite lacking a consistent quality quarterback, suddenly have the services of one of the best in the business.
The Packers will once again attempt to replace a legendary quarterback who played at an elite level for more than a decade. Last time it was Favre making way for Rodgers; now it is Rodgers making way for Jordan Love.
But the news of Rodgers' move has even more far-reaching consequences, and ones that should become very apparent very quickly.
Rodgers' departure leaves a massive talent gap in the NFC
With Rodgers heading to the Jets and Tom Brady still retired (at least for now), there are not a lot of elite quarterbacks left in the NFC.
By my count, there's just 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's yet to find success, and the Cardinals look closer to rebuilding than contending at the moment. Kirk Cousins is just Kirk Cousins, nothing more, nothing less. Derek Carr is solid, but now on a Saints team that will be looking to discover a new identity this season.
If you ranked 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 — are currently set to play in the AFC next year.
But it doesn't have to be this way.
Lamar Jackson is currently looking for a new deal
Heading into free agency, the Ravens have 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 a right to match whatever deal he works out elsewhere.
Baltimore and Jackson have been trying to work out an extension since last off-season, but have not been successful. Jackson represents himself as his own agent.
The non-exclusive franchise tag, if all things are working properly, is a tool to help set the market. So far, Jackson and the Ravens have reportedly been far apart in negotiations. An offer sheet from another team showing the Ravens "this is what the NFL believes Jackson is worth" would bring a lot of clarity.
Jackson can officially start taking offers on 4 p.m. on Wednesday, when free agency begins.
Jackson's extension has been more complicated to pull off than expected, and the Browns are to blame
One of the holdups in negotiations between Jackson and the Ravens has reportedly been Jackson's wish 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. This deal came as Watson was still facing scrutiny for more than 20 accusations of sexual misconduct and assault, and with Watson a full year removed from his last NFL start.
Jackson comes with more prestige and none of the baggage that Watson had when 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 are not as keen to give out guaranteed money as the Browns were, and they are not looking to set a precedent where all QB contracts come fully-guaranteed. When it was announced that Jackson would be available to sign to an offer sheet, several teams put out statements making it clear that they would not be putting out feelers for the 2019 NFL MVP.
—Field Yates (@FieldYates) March 7, 2023
Thus, we reach a stalemate, with Jackson looking for a monster deal that comes guaranteed, and the Ravens and other teams not willing to provide it.
But NFC teams looking to contend now have no excuse not to go after Jackson
Rodgers' departure from the NFC could, or at the very least should, be the straw that breaks the camel's back on this stalemate.
The NFC is wide open for the taking right now, and any team that feels they are a quarterback and a bit of luck short from contending, now have a real shot at said quarterback. If Jackson jumped to the NFC, he would immediately become at least the second-best quarterback in the conference.
Whatever team got him would have a road through the postseason all the way 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
A few teams are off the hook because they already have solid starters, or at the very least, are invested enough to stay where they are. The Eagles and Cowboys are fine to stand pat with Hurts and Prescott, respectively.
The Cardinals just extended Kyler Murray last year. The Rams are likely stuck with Matthew Stafford's contract for better or worse, and the Seahawks just rightfully extended Geno Smith.
The Saints are probably set with Carr, as are the Vikings with Kirk Cousins. The Bears still have Justin Fields on his rookie deal, and trading away the first overall pick in the coming draft is an indication that they are going to see what they can do building around him.
The Giants are sticking with Daniel Jones, although they probably would have been better served just doubling that offer and giving it to Jackson.
But that still leaves nearly half of the conference 1) in need of a quarterback; and 2) with the opportunity to instantly become Super Bowl contenders if they made the right offer.
—The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) September 22, 2019
The Carolina Panthers just traded away a king's ransom to get the first overall pick from the Bears. That first overall pick could be really good, so good he even wins MVP some day! They also could 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, are trying out Baker Mayfield, putting the former No. 1 overall pick on his fourth team in two years.
The Atlanta Falcons are riding with Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke. Those are certainly two quarterbacks.
The 49ers had three quarterbacks go down last year and still nearly made the Super Bowl. What if San Francisco found a way to switch out "injured QB" with "Lamar Jackson"? With one of the craftiest head coaches in the league designing plays? Feels like that could work out.
The non-interest in Jackson was already getting weird, but with how open the NFC now looks, it's unconscionable
It might not feel like it, given the news of Rodgers' departure, but MVP quarterbacks simply don't become available to the rest of the NFL all that often.
When you draft an MVP, you usually keep him around. It's why Rodgers spent 18 years in Green Bay, and why Patrick Mahomes signed a 10-year extension, and why so many teams are hoping to draft the next great American hero under center.
Jackson is available, and is quite possibly the most difficult weapon in the NFL for opposing teams to game plan against.
—Coach Dan Casey (@CoachDanCasey) March 8, 2023
Admittedly, Lamar Jackson is the type of player you have to fully commit building your offense around, and had the Ravens not done that after drafting him, he might not have had the success he's had thus far. So 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 where the opposing quarterbacks you're going to see in the playoffs include Brock Purdy and Daniel Jones, I don't know what to tell you.
The salary cap is difficult but can always be managed. Feelings might be hurt, and even if you make the right offer to Jackson, the Ravens could still say "actually we'll be keeping him, thanks," so maybe that is part of the reason for the hesitation.
But if you're a fan of an NFL team that doesn't have a marquee quarterback right now, one is right there in Baltimore, ostensibly available to be had.
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