The worst possible news for the New York Jets hit the news waves this afternoon, as reports confirmed that Aaron Rodgers does indeed have a fully torn Achilles tendon. He will miss the remainder of 2023 for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
What’s next for the aging veteran? How does turning the team back over to Zach Wilson affect those hopes and dreams?
The Future for Rodgers
As a player who’s always marched to the beat of his own drum, it’s tough to say what this will mean for Rodgers. He turns 40 in December and shows no sign of slowing down. He’s still got a live arm and the ability to lead a team.
The Jets have no choice in the matter; Rodgers did restructure his deal, but he is due a massive amount of money in 2024 and 2025, with enormous cap hits. His base salary in 2024 is just over $3 million, and then it bumps up to $37.5 million in 2025. The cap hit in 2024 is over $17 million, but an astronomical $51 million in 2025.
The restructuring was to allow the Jets cap space to assemble a win-now squad, making moves like the acquisition of Dalvin Cook. Obviously, this injury puts a big ol’ dagger in those plans.
Beyond this season, Rodgers will still be a Jet, most likely, but assembling a win-now squad will become tougher as their young stars start needing contract moves.
The 2023 Quarterback Situation
I saw someone suggest that the Jets attempt to lure Tom Brady out of retirement, and that would be a historically hilarious situation should it come to fruition. There are some options in free agency who could be signed. Colt McCoy, Matt Ryan, Blake Bortles, Nick Foles, Carson Wentz, and Joe Flacco are lurking and could likely be added for insurance, at the least.
They could also target a backup like Jameis Winston or Davis Mills if the team really wanted to not give the job to Zach Wilson. Another crazy scenario would be a trade involving Kyler Murray, but the Cards would likely need more than the Jets would give for a one-year starter.
The team currently has Zach Wilson as the only active quarterback, but Tim Boyle took a majority of preseason snaps and should be elevated to the active roster. Wilson took over last night, leading the team to victory. But it wasn’t because of him; the defense really stepped up. Wilson was 14 of 21 for 140 yards with a TD and an INT.
Wilson is the short-term answer, but I am willing to bet the Jets sign someone before the end of the day on Wednesday.
The Jets Offense
If you are a Garrett Wilson owner, you were likely the most angry of all the people last night. The sky was the limit with Rodgers at the helm. Garrett takes a hit in value, although Zach Wilson did target Garrett an average of six times in his starts last season. Unfortunately, Garrett didn’t have any touchdown catches from Zach.
The running game carried the offense last night, but it was mostly due to a massive 83-yard scamper by Breece Hall. Take that run out, and it wasn’t pretty. The Bills do have a strong defense, so running against them, especially when having to alter your game plan, may not be a strong indication of how the offense clicks moving forward.
The offense is going to need to make a quarterback move to feel confident starting the Jets’ stars. If you have Garrett and Hall, you are starting them. But anyone beyond that, with Zach at the helm, becomes almost unstartable unless they get great matchups.
My heart breaks for Jets fans and fans of the NFL – the team was going to be one of the most fun teams to watch in 2023, regardless of what you think about Rodgers. He instantly gave the team the stability they needed. I can’t see any of the free agent or trade options giving them Super Bowl upside.
The defense is one of the best units in the NFL, and the rushing attack will keep them in games. But I can’t see them getting far in the loaded AFC without a much better quarterback than Zach Wilson.
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