Aaron Rodgers is, finally, coming to the AFC East, with the Jets and Packers reportedly agreeing to terms Monday on the long-awaited trade that will send the superstar quarterback to New York.
That means the Patriots, who finished just a game ahead of the last-place Jets in the divisional standings last season, now will see the four-time NFL MVP twice a year for as long as he calls East Rutherford, N.J., home. Adding Rodgers doesn’t guarantee New England’s longtime rivals suddenly will become Super Bowl contenders, but he’s a massive upgrade over predecessor Zach Wilson and joins a New York roster that was well-stocked at nearly every other position.
We won’t learn the dates of this season’s two Pats-Rodgers matchups until the 2023 NFL schedule is unveiled next month. But New England will feel the ripple effects of Monday’s blockbuster deal as early as this Thursday, when the NFL draft kicks off in Kansas City.
As part of the reported package for Rodgers, the Jets agreed to swap first-round picks with the Packers. New York will drop down to No. 15 overall, with Green Bay vaulting up two spots to 13th.
The team sitting at No. 14? The Patriots.
It’s unclear how Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst plans to use that Day 1 selection. But his desire to leapfrog New England was notable.
Is there a player Green Bay covets that Gutekunst feared Bill Belichick might be targeting with the Patriots’ top pick? Did the Packers want to jump ahead of the Patriots to avoid the possibility of another team trading up to jump ahead of them? Belichick, after all, has a history of trading down in the first round to acquire additional assets, which he did in both 2020 (before picking Kyle Dugger) and 2022 (Cole Strange).
The Jets angle here also is interesting. Many prominent draft analysts predicted they would use the 13th pick on an offensive tackle — one of their most pressing draft needs. Does them moving back increase the odds of a premier tackle like Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr., Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski, Georgia’s Broderick Jones or Tennessee’s Darnell Wright falling to the Patriots, who also have a real need at the position with Trent Brown and Riley Reiff entering contract years and carrying injury concerns? Perhaps.
But Green Bay could be in the Day 1 tackle market, too, depending on how the board falls. While not their most immediate need — that’s probably tight end, which is why they’ve frequently been linked to Utah’s Dalton Kincaid — mock drafts from The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman and Dane Brugler published in the days before the trade had the Packers taking Johnson and Skoronski, respectively.
Other needs for the Packers include safety and edge rusher. The Patriots’ biggest holes beyond tackle are at cornerback and wide receiver, with tight end, safety and edge rusher also on that list.
We’ll find out Thursday night what Gutekunst has planned for the Packers’ first move of the post-Rodgers era — and whether it’s for a player who could have helped the Patriots.