What I’m hearing about the Jets’ pursuit of Aaron Rodgers and Derek Carr

INDIANAPOLIS — Jets coach Robert Saleh went to bed Tuesday night with a bug in his stomach and woke up knowing he couldn’t make it to the NFL combine to participate in his team’s second meeting with quarterback Derek Carr.

“I’m sad that I didn’t make it,” Saleh said via video call Thursday.

Saleh wasn’t originally planning on coming to the combine anyway — he didn’t last year either — but that was obviously a unique circumstance, as the Jets (and other ) are chasing Carr in free agency. Owner Woody Johnson and general manager Joe Douglas were both at the meeting, and now the Jets — and the rest of the league, really — are in a holding pattern as everyone waits for a decision. ‘Aaron Rodgers on his future, and the domino effect that will have on Carr and others.

The Jets didn’t have a full contingent in Indianapolis — many coaches are skipping the event now — but there were Jets assistant coaches in town to help position drills with draft prospects, as well as Douglas, the manager. Deputy General Rex Hogan, team scouting staff and other front office members.

Well, I was in town too.

Here are some things I hear about the Jets, their quarterback pursuit and more after speaking to six league scouts, coaches or pro staff executives who know the team talks and got the anonymity so that they can speak freely.

I hear that… the Jets are ready to wait for Rodgers. No one is quite sure how Rodgers feels about his future even after speaking about it on a podcast this week, his first public comments since his four-day retirement from obscurity. He didn’t look like someone planning to retire, pushing the thought of his skills declining.

So the next question becomes: which team does he want to play for? The Raiders appear to have pulled out of the running, while the Titans have said they plan to bring back Ryan Tannehill. It comes in the form of Packers, Jets or a bust for Rodgers, unless some mystery team plans to enter the fray.

In the league, it is expected that if Rodgers does not retire, he will probably take return to the Packers – and that they would welcome him with open arms. But Rodgers hasn’t recently communicated with Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst, so that’s mostly speculation. The Jets hired one of Rodgers’ closest friends (Nathaniel Hackett) as offensive coordinator, but I hear that has yet to help outline his decision.

Despite all that, the Jets are willing to wait for Rodgers to make a decision because they believe the quarterback, even at 39, gives them the best chance of not only making the playoffs, but also competing for the Super Bowl. . Yes, it would be expensive, both in terms of financial and trade compensation, but the Jets consider getting a quarterback of Rodgers’ caliber worth it all – even if it also means adding the drama that follows. .


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“You still want it done yesterday, but we appreciate everyone’s process,” Saleh said of finalizing the quarterback’s decision. “We appreciate the time everyone needs. It’s just about being deliberate in our process and taking care of our business and being considerate and respectful of others too.

I hear that… If Rodgers ends up in Green Bay, the Jets should be considered favorites to land Carr. His meeting in New Jersey recently with Saleh and others went fine and the Jets see Carr as a quarterback who can get them through and struggle in the AFC.

But that doesn’t mean it’s a perfect fit.

Carr has to be able to handle the scrutiny and criticism that comes with being the Jets’ quarterback. An NFC scout also raised concerns about how Carr handles passing pressure in games, noting that he started to become averse on contact after suffering a fractured fibula late in the game. 2016 season and as he battled a rib injury in 2022.

The Jets are aware of this perception of Carr, but have also expressed confidence – both privately and publicly – that the offensive line will be much better in 2023 than it was just decimated by injuries last season. .

Saleh compared Carr to Matthew Stafford, who worked hard on bad Lions teams for most of his career before landing an elite supporting cast with the Rams and winning a Super Bowl.

“He was asked to do a lot in his career,” Saleh said of Carr. “He’s more in line with Stafford’s career in terms of: if you could just get him to a place that can surround him with all the pieces to allow him to play quarterback 10 to 15 times a game, that would be cool .”

Saleh also said Carr had “an elite mental composition” and “extraordinary precision and arm strength”. He applauded his ability to “put the ball where you want” and said Carr was “underrated” in terms of his ability to scramble and escape pressure.

If the Jets go full steam ahead in their pursuit of Carr — they haven’t yet offered him a contract — how much will it cost? It is expected that his next contract could average between $35-40 million, although the structure of the deal (in terms of guaranteed money and cap) is what really matters.

I hear that… The Jets should keep Zach Wilson on the roster — and they’re not worried his presence will be a distraction this season. This is a unique bench: Wilson is a highly drafted quarterback who no one thinks should be a starter right now. There won’t be people calling Wilson to start if QB1 struggles in 2023, and the Jets think the ability to coach and develop him behind the scenes without as much scrutiny could be good for him.

Wilson could still bounce back from his historic poor start to his career, but the Jets also realize he may never improve.

Anyway, his role will be that of replacement in 2023.

“The goal is just to help (Wilson) improve as best we can,” Saleh said. “If his best is presented as a New York Jet, great. Otherwise, always great, because all we want is the best for him and his development.

I hear that… it wouldn’t be a shock if the Jets ended up signing a quarterback. Maybe not in the first round (unless someone they consider a potential franchise quarterback drops to No. 13), but on Day 2 or Day 3. The Jets might also be able to come back from the 13th pick – if that pick isn’t moved in a Rodgers trade.

I hear that… the Jets hope tackle Duane Brown returns in 2023. Brown has yet to decide whether he will continue playing or retire, though what the Jets do at quarterback could factor into her decision. Brown, who turns 38 in August, would carry a cap of $11.3 million, but the Jets would welcome him back if he chooses to continue playing. He would probably start again at left tackle as well.

Brown recently underwent surgery on his left shoulder, fixing a problem he’s battled all season, earning him a lot of respect in the Jets’ building.

“Duane is a fucking rock star, man,” said Saleh, who recently spoke to Brown. “The way he fought through pain and injury and he did what 98% of players wouldn’t do, which was play when he didn’t have to. All his money was already guaranteed, he tied up again and played (12) games for us, if he is there that would be great.

If Brown returns and can be ready to play in Week 1, the Jets will have to decide if they trust Mekhi Becton or Max Mitchell enough to lock one in as a starter at the right tackle, or if they should pursue a upgrade in free agency. or the draft.

“The more the better,” Saleh said with a smile. “Joe (Douglas) would have 52 offensive linemen on the roster and a quarterback if he could.”

I hear that… The Jets really want to roll back their 2022 defense — which was ranked the best in the NFL by Pro Football Focus — as much as they can, as Saleh said Thursday. A handful of notable defensive players are set to become unrestricted free agents: defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, linebacker Quincy Williams, safety Lamarcus Joyner, linebacker Kwon Alexander, defensive tackle Nathan Shepherd and defensive tackle Solomon Thomas . Defensive end Bryce Huff is also a restricted free agent who will likely return.

The Jets could also move on defensive end Carl Lawson for $15.4 million in savings, but I hear the coaching staff is operating as if he’ll be back.

Of that group, Rankins and Williams would be the most important to keep, although it’s interesting to see how open the Jets’ portfolio Douglas is to keep them. Rankins signed a two-year, $17 million contract in 2021 and should be able to get it again. Williams could have a robust market in free agency and could sell himself out of the Jets’ lineup, even if they’d like to bring him back.

If Williams leaves, keep an eye out for Bills linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, also a free agent.


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I hear that… There will be a lot more turnover on offense. Center Connor McGovern could be overpriced compared to what the Jets are willing to pay, and tackle George Fant is unlikely to return. Guard Nate Herbig, also a free agent, may not have a starting job available with the Jets — Alijah Vera-Tucker and Laken Tomlinson are both back — and he’s good enough to start elsewhere.

Saleh said he’d like to bring back quarterback Mike White, but he’s expected to attract a lot of interest in free agency as a top-notch replacement and could be too expensive.

Wide receiver Corey Davis is still expected to be released for cap savings, and Braxton Berrios could also be on the way out. Expect the Jets to add new contributors at wide receiver, offensive line, quarterback and possibly running back as well, with Breece Hall still recovering from his ACL injury.

If the Jets get Rodgers, Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard — a free agent — could follow him to New York.

(Photo: Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

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