Paying the Rodgers rate
For a limited number of football fans, the season is just getting rolling. That’s for the four teams who will playing in the AFC and NFC Championship games, neither of which will be played in Atlanta – and that’s a nod to everyone who was listening last week. For everyone else, the offseason is long underway, which means beginning the perennial process of looking for new players that will transition your team from wherever they finished this year to playing in February, when the Super Bowl is contested.
There is no greater player position where that is true than for quarterback, perhaps the most pivotal position in all of team sports and the one which holds the very public dreams and angst of all football fans. It takes a real football fan to get excited about bringing on a new left tackle or strong safety, as important as those players may be. But even a casual sports fan is aware of a franchise quarterback coming to town. Just ask everyone in Tampa.
That is the conversation that’s happening across NFL war rooms, as they’re called. How do we get a franchise quarterback to replace whatever hapless sad sack that’s currently in the role. There’s two ways to get there. One, by being really awful and drafting a quarterback with one of the first few picks. That has the unfortunate side effects of delayed gratification and often missing the target. For every Peyton Manning, there’s a Ryan Leaf.
The other way to get a superstar on your team is the old-fashioned way. To buy one. More specifically, to pick up a QB by some form of trade or free agency. That’s the scenario playing out for a whole lot of teams right now, minus the four getting ready for Sunday. One in particular is the New York Jets, who’s current hopes and dreams lie in the inconsistent hands of Zach Wilson, picked number two overall by Gang Green in the 2021 NFL draft. In those two years, he’s largely frustrated unrealistic Jets fans who’ve watched the BYU gunslinger go from a kid with lots of potential to someone they’ve quickly grown tired of. Which is why the news around town is that the Jets might be interested in the services of future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, who is 39 and coming off an injury plagued campaign where we’ve all started to worry about his football mortality, is open to the prospect of finishing his football career somewhere outside of Green Bay, much like Brady did in New England, only without the vaccination controversy. While the Jets aren’t the only one courting his services, they are clearly one of the suiters in what will be a high dollar bidding war, where winning will only be defined post mortem.
To make this happen, the Jets – or Colts, or any other team in the running – will have to give up a whole lot in future prospects. That seems to start with at least a couple of first round draft picks, which can be used to build an offensive line, wide receiving core, or, who knows, another quarterback. That will be for a quarterback that will be lucky to play for two more years and may never again be the Aaron Rodgers of old, even if he does still receive the Rodgers rate. They’ll also sacrifice any intention of moving Zach Wilson forward, placing his career on hold until they at least roll the dice with this Rodgers guy.
There’s obvious strategy to this. Namely, Jets management think the team is close enough to win it all, something maybe an all-time great QB could make happen. So sacrificing their future would be worth it for a shot at the ring right now. This is a fairly common strategy in sports. Play today, pay tomorrow – basically the biography of the Brooklyn Nets. It’s fairly common for teams to give away future prospects on a faint hope at the brass ring in the immediate, because the chance to win is so fleeting, it should never be wasted. And who knows what tomorrow will bring anyway. It’s great if it works – like it did for the Broncos with Peyton Manning. Much worse if it doesn’t. See today’s Los Angeles Lakers. But it’s definitely a strategy.
Should the Jets fleece their future for a faint shot at a Super Bowl? Given their history, there’s not much to lose. And perhaps next year at this time, they’ll still be focused on football.
Keith Strudler is the director of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. You can follow him on twitter at @KeithStrudler
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