There's no question the New York Jets will have a new starting quarterback for the 2023 season. And Nathaniel Hackett's hire as the offensive coordinator fired up speculation this week about a potential Aaron Rodgers trade.
While the Jets will certainly take a long look at potentially trading for Rodgers, he's not the only veteran quarterback the team is evaluating. According to sources, the Jets will be looking closely at Rodgers, Jimmy Garoppolo and Derek Carr. They won't limit their search to just those three quarterbacks -- and sources stress it's still early in the process -- but that's where the focus will begin.
"The quarterback position with all the different interviews was the No. 1 concern, and rightfully so and it was simple," Jets head coach Robert Saleh said a press conference Thursday. "We're committed to finding a veteran -- we didn't get into names. I doubt that [Hackett's] studied those guys yet, which he's going to start next week, but we didn't get into specifics on names. But it was talked about that we do plan on bringing in a veteran quarterback if we can and we do want to continue working with Zach [Wilson]."
The Jets must weigh the pros and cons of acquiring one of those quarterbacks. Right now, the only quarterback not under contract for 2023 is Garoppolo, who will be an unrestricted free agent come March.
Acquiring Garoppolo wouldn't require giving up any draft compensation. The concern around Garoppolo is his health. Garoppolo, 31, has missed significant portions of three of the past five seasons. Figuring out his market value and projecting his future health will be difficult for any team. But Saleh would be getting a familiar face in New York after he worked as the 49ers defensive coordinator from 2017 to 2020.
The Jets began "sniffing around" Carr earlier this week, a source said. The Raiders will have to cut Carr if they can't agree to trade him before $40.4 million in future salary guarantees in mid-February. The Raiders may have to be satisfied with a second- or third-round pick in return for Carr.
The big-ticket item is Rodgers, who has nearly $60 million in guaranteed money due to him in 2023 if he decides to play. Trading for Rodgers would require sending Green Bay at least two first-round picks as the Packers eat massive dead-cap money for the four-time NFL MVP.
"All the other ideas about [a] trade and whatnot, that's all conjecture until I decide what I want to do moving forward for myself," Rodgers said last week on the Pat McAfee Show.
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Linking Rodgers to Hackett is obvious. Hackett served as Rodgers' offensive coordinator in Green Bay for three seasons before taking the head job in Denver.
The Broncos strongly considered trading for Rodgers last offseason, but his uncertainty around his future playing status ultimately scared the team away. Rodgers, who the last couple offseasons has flirted with the idea of retirement, would present that same issue for the Jets or any potential new squad.
Other teams likely to be in the veteran quarterback market include the Las Vegas Raiders, Tennessee Titans, Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Houston Texans and Carolina Panthers figure to find their next quarterback in the draft, and the Indianapolis Colts could find their guy in either the draft or free agency.
As previously reported here, the Washington Commanders are going into the offseason with Sam Howell as their top quarterback. That won't prevent Washington from signing a lower-tier veteran or drafting a QB with a Day 3 pick, but the Commanders aren't expected to devote tens of millions to the position.
The Ravens have publicly voiced their commitment to Lamar Jackson, though sources believe Baltimore will have to issue the franchise tag on Jackson, as a long-term deal is unlikely to be done before mid-March when he'd become an unrestricted free agent. A tag-and-trade option could potentially exist, but that's a dangerous game for the Jets to play.
The Titans are evaluating their options. General manager Ran Carthon just took the job, and he and head coach Mike Vrabel have plenty to work through before landing on the direction of the quarterback position. They also have to hire their next offensive coordinator.