Phoenix – Robert Saleh and Matt Lafleur are good friends. Lafleur was the best man at Saleh’s wedding. Now both are NFL head coaches – and their teams are engaged in negotiations for one of the best (and most controversial) quarterbacks in league history.
That must make things awkward, right?
not exactly. Saleh and LaFleur were in Arizona for NFL owners’ meetings this week, and both insisted that when they did speak, Aaron Rodgers never showed up. Only life.
So if anyone was hoping their friendship would speed things up, it won’t. None of the coaches had any interest in revealing information or opinions about where the Jets and Packers were in trade negotiations, though their bosses—Jets general manager Joe Douglas and Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst—hinted at some aspects of the talks.
On Tuesday, Jets owner Woody Johnson acknowledged he feels “nervous” about the negotiations, but also said, “As we look forward, we’re hopeful. But we do have a plan, so we’re willing to stick to our plan. I don’t think anyone’s breathing hard.” At this stage “.
Both teams will leave Phoenix this week without a trade agreement, but perhaps a solution will come soon. When that happens — and in some cases, before it happens — the planes can proceed to conduct other business on their unofficial schedule.
What’s in store for the next few days and weeks leading up to (including) the NFL Draft?
Here are eight planes’ predictions about what will happen after everyone gets home from Arizona:
1. Rodgers trading history: Coming soon
When Douglas spoke on Monday, he made it clear that the Jets don’t feel the urgency to get the trade done right now — especially since, as Douglas said, “we’re clearly not exactly where we need to be at this time.” They are fine waiting.
Gutekunst struck a slightly different tone, saying, “Hopefully we can come to an agreement sooner rather than later.” It appears that partisans would like to get a decision before the draft, which begins on April 27th.
“Certainly, if we go beyond the draft, everything changes, compensation changes,” he said. “That would be a completely different scenario, but hopefully we can get this done soon.”
He’s also put the onus on the Jets, saying the ball is in their court – but that doesn’t seem to be the case if the players are in a rush.
Anyway, despite these comments, I got the feeling that the teams are not as far apart as many might think. They’ll probably take it right away until the draft comes out, but I think the trade will happen much sooner — maybe even this weekend.
Where things stand for the Jets in Aaron Rodgers’ business talks and why GM Joe Douglas isn’t in a hurry
2. Rodgers Terms of Trade: No first-round selection
Gutekunst said the Jets may not need to give up a first-round pick, and according to a Yahoo Sports report, it wasn’t the first filibuster — it was more about the Jets seeking draft protection in case Rodgers wanted to play just one season. It’s a reasonable concern, especially after Rodgers recently said he “90 percent” retired sometime this off-season before emerging from his dark retreat.
I’m going to make a slight modification of what I expected each season:
Packers get: 2023 second round pick (either No. 42 or No. 43), 2024 second round pick and WR Corey Davis.
Aircraft get: Rodgers and a conditional 2025 third-round pick, they only get if Rodgers doesn’t play in 2024.
There can be a pick on the third day thrown for one or both teams as well. But both sides should be happy with an agreement in this kind of framework.
How we were able to get Aaron Rodgers’ trade done for packers and aircraft
3. THE JETS WILL GET JONES AND CAMPBELL
I’ve covered the NFL since 2018 – across three franchises – and I’ve never seen a team publicly admit to going after so many free agents. But that’s what Douglas did on Monday when asked about wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., quarterback Ben Jones and defensive end Calais Campbell.
Here’s how I would rank these three players in order of confidence the Jets will end up with one of them: 1. Jones, 2. Beckham, 3. Campbell.
There’s a legitimate possibility they could land all three, but Beckham’s market is hard to read. The Giants and Rams said they were still interested in him, though the Jets might be a more attractive destination than the others because of Rodgers’ presence, and I heard they were the most aggressive in their pursuit. The question is more about finances and how much the Jets are willing to pay Beckham, and that detail is why this pursuit hasn’t progressed beyond the initial phase of interest.
Johnson called it “really remarkable” that a player of Beckham’s stature was even considering the Jets.
Jones clearly has ties to the Jets’ coaching staff — he’s been with offensive line coach Keith Carter and passing game coordinator Todd Downing has been with the Titans — and shouldn’t be much of a cost, even after the Pro Bowl season in 2022. The center market has been very light in the this season. Excluding All-Pro center Jason Kelsey’s deal with the Eagles, the best contracts at center have gone to Ethan Busiek of the Browns ($6 million annually), Bradley Bozeman of the Panthers ($6 million), captain Nick Gates ($5.5 million) and Garrett Bradbury of Vikings ($5.25 million). Jones made $7 million a year on his last contract.
Campbell will visit the Jets on Thursday. He’s older (36) but still had 5 1/2 sacks last season and will add a level of leadership and stability to a defensive line that just lost Sheldon Rankins.
4. Fate Davis
So, I may go a little against my own Rodgers trade predictions here, but I’m not sure the Jets will be more separated from Davis than I was at the start of the season. I still think Davis is unlikely to commit to the Jets because it’s hard to justify the $11.1 million salary cap for a third or fourth recipient.
But here’s what I’ll say, and there are a number of caveats (I know, not fun — sorry): If Davis isn’t traded to the Packers and the Jets don’t sign Beckham, Davis will probably stay put. Saleh has a high status, and Downing coached him at Tennessee as well. He’s a valuable blocker, leader, and when healthy, a quality wide receiver.
How he fits into an offense that has just added Allen Lazard – arguably a better version of Davis – and Mechol Hardman to Garrett Wilson and Denzel Mims is less clear, but the Jets are like him enough that it wouldn’t be the worst idea to try to make it work.
5. When will Williams sign
Douglas has mostly avoided talking about negotiations for the Coenen-Williams extension out of generalities—he said he’s had “some conversations” with Williams’ clients and that he feels “this is in a positive place”—but I didn’t get the sense that the Jets were in a rush to get it done.
My prediction is that the Williams deal won’t happen until sometime this summer and that it will end up in the $25 million a year range, especially if he signs after other defensive tackles due to new deals, like Dexter Lawrence, Jeffrey Simmons and Chris Jones.
‘I had to do my job’: Aaron Rodgers ghosted, Packers GM Brian Gutekunst finally moved on
6. The Jets will draft the O line or the D line in the first round
The Jets’ two biggest needs (outside of quarterback) are the same now as they were at the start of the offseason. Douglas did not add any new defensive linemen, and two of the offensive linemen he signed—Wes Schweitzer and Tristan Colón—will be backups.
Even if the Jets sign Ben Jones, he will turn 34 in July. This is considered a high-quality draft class at center, and the Jets should also look for a potential long-term solution in offensive tackle.
The same goes for the defensive tackle: Even if they sign Campbell, he’s 36 and likely nearing the end of his career.
7. If the Jets add another RB of note, they’ll be in the draft
Salih explained on Monday that rumors about the Jets’ interest in former Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott are greatly exaggerated. Confident in Breece Hall getting back to form, he admired Michael Carter – predicting a year of recovery in 2023 – and also put up Zonovan Knight and Ty Johnson.
“We love our back room to run around in,” Saleh said. “I’ll leave it at that.”
There is still some uncertainty here. It is unreasonable to expect Hall to be back in shape immediately after tearing his ACL, and Carter and Faris have already shown that they cannot handle the burden on their own.
Investing in a Day 3 pick in a dynamic running back who can help immediately seems like the best way forward.
8. Airplanes will be in “Hard Knocks” mode
Saleh didn’t even want to broach the subject, but with the Jets still dominating the headlines with Rodgers’ (and Beckham’s) stand-up, they seem like the obvious choice for HBO’s Hard Knocks. The other candidates not spared from being cast for the show — Saints, Bears, and Captains — aren’t quite as exciting.
Johnson seemed intrigued by the prospect, referring to the last time the Jets were in the program in 2010.
(Top photo by Robert Saleh: Al Bello/Getty Images)
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