If the Green Bay Packers go ahead and trade Aaron Rodgers to the New York Jets, the team runs the risk of other talented players on the roster following the quarterback to the AFC.
At least, that is what Jets cornerback and NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Sauce Gardner said would happen on Thursday, March 9, during an online discussion via his stream with teammates wide receiver Garrett Wilson and running back Breece Hall.
“It’s package deals all over,” Gardner said of what will happen if Rodgers is traded to the Jets, per Zack Rosenblatt of The Athletic on Twitter. “I can’t tell ya’ll who, but just know.”
Such a trade could happen sooner than later, as ESPN’s Dianna Russini reported on Thursday that Jets brass is “optimistic” that the team is “on the brink” of bringing Rodgers to New York.
WR Allen Lazard Likely Candidate to Follow Aaron Rodgers to Jets
Much like he does with wide receivers in press-man coverage, Gardner played his information on Rodgers and who might accompany him to New York extremely close to the vest. However, looking at the Packers’ roster, it’s not incredibly difficult to make an educated guess or two as to whom Gardner was referring.
The most likely candidate is wide receiver Allen Lazard. First, he will be a free agent on March 15 and can go wherever he likes without Green Bay’s consent. Second, he plays offense. Third, Rodgers has been his quarterback for the entirety of Lazard’s career. Fourth, Rodgers stumped for Lazard’s return to the Packers earlier this offseason when everyone still assumed the front office was beholden to the quarterback’s wishes. And fifth, Lazard has been an outspoken proponent of Rodgers since the offseason began.
“The greatest of all time,” Lazard said of Rodgers during an interview with TMZ in late February. “Not might, no might. Drop the might. He’s the GOAT.”
“The best person to ever pick up a football and throw the ball,” Lazard continued. “I’ll leave it at that.”
LT David Bakhtiari Could Accompany QB Aaron Rodgers to Jets
Other who Rodgers called out publicly as players he’d want to see back in Green Bay’s locker room were he to return to the team included left tackle David Bakhtiari, tight end Robert Tonyan and wide receiver Randall Cobb.
“I want the Randall Cobbs of the world, if he wants to be playing, in my locker room — guys you can win with,” Rodgers told the Pat McAfee Show in January. “Allen Lazard, [Robert] Tonyan, David Bakhtiari — there’s a lot of interesting names that we’ll see [Green Bay’s] desire to re-sign these certain guys who are glue guys in the locker room.”
Tonyan is a middling NFL tight end, at best, after a down year in 2022 that followed a season-ending ACL injury the year before. Cobb is an aging wide receiver who might not have a job in the NFL next season if Rodgers doesn’t push hard for him wherever he lands. While it is possible Gardner was talking about one, or both players, neither seems like the type who would get young stars like Gardner, Wilson and Hall even more excited as trappings of a package deal for Rodgers.
Bakhtiari, on the other hand, could be a different story. Unlike Lazard, Cobb and Tonyan, the former All-Pro left tackle is not a free agent this offseason. However, he is one of the most expensive players on the Packers’ roster and a potential salary cap casualty if Green Bay decides to hit a full reset button this offseason.
The accomplished offensive lineman is set to count nearly $29 million against the Packers’ salary cap next season if he stays on the roster and doesn’t agree to a pay cut and/or a contract restructure. Green Bay can save just over $5.7 million against the cap by cutting or trading Bakhtiari prior to June 1, while also being forced to absorb a dead cap hit north of $23 million. However, the Packers can save a whopping $17.3 million and reduce the dead cap hit to $11.56 million by cutting or trading Bakhtiari after June 1, per Over The Cap.
Bakhtiari is probably Rodgers’ best friend on the roster, as the latter officiated the former’s wedding just over one year ago.
Jets starting left tackle Duane Brown is under contract with the team for one more season and carries a salary cap hit of $11.3 million. But Brown missed five games last year and will play next season at the age of 38. Pro Football Focus ranked Brown 69th out of 81 players who qualified at the position in 2022, making him expendable.
New York can cut Brown before June 1 and save $5 million, while absorbing a dead cap hit of $6.3 million. But if the Jets wait until after June 1 to release Brown, the savings jump up to $9.7 million while the dead cap hit falls to just $1.6 million, per Over The Cap.
Of course, the Packers are not obligated to release Bakhtiari and could choose to keep him to help ease the transition for quarterback Jordan Love from backup to starter. However, Bakhtiari has dealt with injury complications in recent years and is going to be incredibly expensive in Green Bay next season no matter what financial maneuvers the Packers ultimately make.
The Jets, on the other hand, can use a left tackle like Bakhtiari as well as a starting-caliber receiver like Lazard next year, and that goes double if adding one, or both, of them to the roster pushes a trade for Rodgers across the finish line.
Lazzard is a Free Agent, so he can’t be traded. Bakhtiari just had his contract reworked, so it’s impossible to trade him