National Football League
Aaron Rodgers' decision will be first domino in offseason QB carousel
National Football League

Aaron Rodgers' decision will be first domino in offseason QB carousel

Updated Feb. 28, 2023 4:46 p.m. ET

INDIANAPOLIS — Aaron Rodgers may have emerged from the darkness, but he still hasn't shed any light on his future. And until he does, the futures of the Green Bay Packers, New York Jets, Jordan Love, Derek Carr and maybe a few others will remain in their own "darkness retreats" too.

The 39-year-old quarterback seems to hold the fate of all of them in his hands as he ponders the next move of his Hall of Fame career — and until he reveals his plans, all options remain on the table. Rodgers could retire, he could return to the Packers for a 19th season, or he could request a trade. If he does want out, his only option might be the Jets.

And the Jets are clearly interested, since they are "exploring the veteran quarterback market," as GM Joe Douglas said at the NFL scouting combine on Tuesday. But while they're waiting for word from Rodgers and the Packers, they will also meet this week for the second time with free-agent quarterback Derek Carr. He might be more of a fallback option, though, since according to a team source the Jets are unlikely to move on Carr until they get some clarity on Rodgers' availability.

Of course, it's not clear that Carr will wait for them. While the ex-Raiders quarterback is in Indianapolis this week, he's reportedly planning to meet with the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers, too. As a free agent, he could sign anywhere at any time. He doesn't have to wait for Rodgers to make his move.


So when will Rodgers do something? Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said he's exchanged texts with his quarterback, but "We haven't had a chance to speak yet." He said he's been given no time frame on Rodgers' decision, though he added "it would be nice to have some answers before" free agency begins in less than two weeks.

For now, everyone is just waiting for the first domino to fall.

If Rodgers decides he wants to play another season he will essentially get to decide where, because the three-year, $150 million contract extension he signed last March makes it almost impossible for the Packers to trade him unless he agrees to restructure it. That contract also guarantees that if decides he wants to return to the Packers, they'll have to welcome him back.

But do they actually want him back? When Gutekunst was asked that on Tuesday, he said "Yeah, I think obviously our feelings haven't changed about Aaron." But he also glowed about the potential of Jordan Love, the quarterback they drafted in the first round in 2020, who has spent his first three NFL seasons standing on the sidelines watching Rodgers play.

Love on the move?

Colin Cowherd explains why Packers backup QB Jordan Love should request a trade.

"We're excited about (Love)," Gutekunst said. "I think I've expressed to a lot of people that he needs to play. That's the next step in his progression. He needs to play."

Love, in fact, has told the Packers that he's "eager to play" and wants to start next season, though he knows that's out of his control. It seems clear that the Packers are eager for him to play too. They're also facing a big decision in May on whether to pick up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract for $20.2 million for 2024.

Love's future will look a lot clearer if Rodgers is traded. The Jets, though, might be the only possible trade partner. The Las Vegas Raiders were long thought to be a potential landing spot for Rodgers, but their coach, Josh McDaniels appeared to rule that out on Tuesday when he said "The goal for us, eventually, is to have somebody that's going to be here for a long time."

That doesn't sound like an apt description for a quarterback who'll turn 40 next season and who is already thinking about retirement.

The Jets definitely have the cap room and the desire to pursue a Rodgers trade, but there are complicating factors there, too. For one thing, the price of the trade could be high. And for another, the longer Rodgers waits to make a decision, the more the Jets might have to consider making a move on Carr.

The Jets had what Douglas described as a "fantastic" meeting with the 31-year-old Carr last week and he raved about him as a "high-level producer" and "a phenomenal person" who is "very authentic, ultra-intelligent (and) just very comfortable in his own skin and highly competitive."

"So, a lot of things to like," Douglas said.

Clearly, though, the Jets didn't like him enough to try and strike a deal now, not while the possibility of Rodgers still looms. Carr is still going through his process, Douglas said, meeting with other teams and trying to find the best situation.

Carr or Rodgers for Jets?

Joy Taylor decides whether the Jets should pursue Aaron Rodgers or Derek Carr as their next QB.

And if he decides the Jets are the best fit, would they risk making Carr bolt for another team while they're waiting on Rodgers?

"We'll be ready to pull the trigger when we have to," Douglas said.

When will that be? For now, that all depends on the enigmatic superstar who spent four long days in an isolation room in Oregon to "do a little self-reflection" as he said a few weeks ago on The Pat McAfee Show, and "to contemplate all things my future."

His eventual decision just happens to impact the futures of several others, too.

Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the previous six years covering the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and before that, 16 years covering the Giants and the NFL for the New York Daily News. Follow him Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.

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