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The Aaron Rodgers trade still isn't done. So what's the Jets' draft strategy?
National Football League

The Aaron Rodgers trade still isn't done. So what's the Jets' draft strategy?

Updated Apr. 24, 2023 2:53 p.m. ET

The New York Jets are going to spend the 2023 NFL Draft pretending they're operating with business as usual. But, of course, the situation is anything but usual.

The Jets and the Green Bay Packers have been trying to iron out a trade for quarterback Aaron Rodgers ever since he announced March 15 that he would continue playing rather than retire. Rodgers also indicated he'd be OK with a trade to the Jets, a necessary piece of the puzzle given that the QB has a trade exemption in his contract.

Over the weekend, a report from emerged that the two teams have reengaged in trade talks.

It's possible — and maybe even likely — the Jets and Packers finalize a trade over the course of draft weekend. Green Bay continues to want a 2023 second-round pick and a 2024 first-round pick, per Yahoo! reporter Charles Robinson. That's a big asking price for a player the Packers have made clear they no longer want. 

Packers CEO Mark Murphy said Rodgers would be back "if things don't work out the way we want them."

Green Bay needs to trade Rodgers to get his contract off its salary cap — he's set to earn $59.5 million in 2023. New York needs to trade for Rodgers to avoid spending another year with quarterback Zach Wilson. Of course, the Jets have other options, which include Lamar Jackson or selecting a quarterback in the draft. They own the No. 13 overall pick.

It's a complicated situation that is sure to convolute their draft plans.

What the Jets might want to do — as I suggested in a mock draft — is trade down in the first round to begin to stockpile draft assets for a Rodgers trade. The problem? Teams will wise up to what New York is doing, and the Jets won't get market value for one or multiple trades down the board. But it might be smart to put their first-round pick through the change machine, given they could pick up as much as an extra 2024 first-round pick by moving back from No. 13 to somewhere between 28th to 32nd overall. And then New York could use one of those first-rounders to get Rodgers.

So, that might be a top priority: acquire assets to grease the gears of a trade.

But there's an alternative. New York can do what the Miami Dolphins did to the Arizona Cardinals in 2019. The Dolphins and Cardinals were contentious about a deal for quarterback Josh Rosen. Miami had discussed giving up the 48th overall pick for Rosen — but ultimately, it used that selection. The Dolphins then offered Arizona the 62nd overall pick, also a second-rounder. Given that the Cardinals had no better offer on the table, Miami won the negotiations by using the trade chip that Arizona coveted.

Aaron Rodgers trade talks ramp up

The 2023 NFL Draft looms and still the Packers have not locked in a deal with the Jets regarding Aaron Rodgers. Craig Carton and Greg Jennings discuss the latest.

So, New York can do exactly that, making their first- and second-round selections this year to take those picks off the table in a potential deal with Green Bay. 

The Jets might just play hardball and simply make their selection at 13, perhaps a tackle to protect whoever plays quarterback — wink, wink. Certainly, quarterback is New York's biggest need. But the Jets would benefit from drafting a starting-caliber tackle to provide depth at a position that includes Mekhi Becton and Duane Brown, who are both recovering from season-ending injuries. That's the Jets' most pressing need — they would also benefit from adding a center, defensive tackle and tight end.

Of course, if New York were sticking with Wilson at quarterback for another year, it might want to add a center — to help with protections — or a tight end — to work as a safety blanket. The tight end group is particularly impressive in this draft class into Day 2. And if the Rodgers deal falls apart altogether and the team wants to pursue Jackson, then a tight end becomes hugely important, given how much Jackson has targeted Mark Andrews in Baltimore.

So, while the Jets are in an uncomfortable spot of being unsure which quarterback they're building around in the draft, they do have a system in place under offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. And that system, derived from the Kyle Shanahan scheme, is notoriously quarterback-friendly. The Jets can basically pick who they want to select. It's just a question whether they want to accommodate the Packers' demands or whether they might actively work against accommodating Green Bay.

Given that the Packers don't want Rodgers, and they don't have any other takers, New York might be wise to keep a take-it-or-leave-it deal on the table to see whether Green Bay agrees before the Jets start using their draft assets.

Prior to joining FOX Sports as the AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @McKennAnalysis.

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