As if Aaron Rodgers’ inextricable linkage to Brett Favre wasn’t pronounced enough, their football parallels continue to grow.
Appearing on “The Pat McAfee Show,” Wednesday, Rodgers revealed his intention to continue playing football in 2023 – for the New York Jets, not the Green Bay Packers.
The four-time NFL MVP said he arrived at that conclusion last week, deciding: “At this point, as I sit here, ya know, I think since Friday, I’ve made it clear that my intention was to play. And my intention was to play for the New York Jets. And I haven’t been holding anything up at this point – it’s been compensation that the Packers are trying to get for me, and kinda digging their heels in.”
Coincidentally or not, Rodgers’ interview almost exactly coincided with the opening of the league’s 2023 free agent market, new signings and trades able to officially be executed at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
Rodgers, who succeeded Favre as Green Bay’s starter in 2008, is now waiting for a deal to be consummated. Ironically, the Packers dealt three-time league MVP Favre to the Jets 15 years ago to make way for Rodgers.
Meanwhile, the Pack will now presumably try to reset with 2020 first-round pick Jordan Love behind center.
“They want to move on, and now so do I,” said Rodgers, while relaying the impression he received throughout the 2022 season was that it would be his last in Wisconsin.
After receiving permission to speak with the Jets, he met with team brass at his Malibu home.
Rodgers said, “We had a nice conversation.”.
He also expounded on his well-publicized “darkness retreat” last month.
“The darkness gave me a lot of time to contemplate everything,” Rodgers said from his Southern California home, explaining he craved the isolation after completing his 18th season – one in which the Packers came up one win short of the playoffs after a belated push following their 4-8 start in 2022. It was the first time the Pack had missed the postseason since 2018.
“I’m really thankful for that time in the darkness,” he said.
He said going into the experience, he was 90% sure he would retire this offseason and that the Packers had expressed that they wanted him to retire as a member of the team but that the door was “wide open” had he wanted to continue playing for them.
But he added that when he emerged from the darkness, “something changed” as he learned that the only franchise he has played for was apparently more interested in moving on from him than he felt like they had previously let on, a turn that apparently spurred his desire to continue playing.
“This isn’t a decision day,” Rodgers, 39, said regarding his professional future even as the NFL community has breathlessly awaited an update all week.
“This isn’t me deciding, announcing to the world that this is what’s going on. In fact, that’s already happened. We’re actually days past this. This is kind of clearing things up, I think, for everybody interested.”
Rodgers insisted he wasn’t a victim despite the organizational change of heart but conceded he was hoping for more transparency from the front office.
“Nobody’s bled green and gold like me,” said Rodgers, the longest-tenured player in club history. “I love that city. I love those fans. I love that region.”
After meeting with the Jets, Rodgers wanted to get back into workout mode before making any determination on his next steps. But his body and mind responded well.
Rodgers also refuted an ESPN report that he provided a list of players, including Odell Beckham Jr. and close friend Randall Cobb, he wanted the Jets to sign.
“It’s so stupid to think I would do that,” he said.
However New York did reach a four-year agreement with receiver Allen Lazard, Rodgers’ teammate the past five seasons, on Tuesday.
The Packers and Jets must not only agree to trade compensation – presumably involving a draft pick or picks and possibly players – but Rodgers will also have to rework his contract.
A trade was his only viable path out of Green Bay, though dealing him will still cause the Packers to incur a $40 million dead cap charge. Still, that’s significantly less penal than the untenable $100 million dead money charge that would have resulted by releasing him. Rodgers is currently owed a $58.3 million option before the start of the 2023 regular season, though he’s previously admitted any trade would necessitate a restructuring of his existing arrangement. The Jets would certainly need some financial flexibility on his part to squeeze Rodgers into their salary-cap structure.
An NFL legend
A four-time league MVP recipient (2011, 2014, 2020, 2021), Rodgers trails only Hall of Famer Peyton Manning, who won five, in that department. Rodgers was also the MVP of Super Bowl 45, when he passed for 304 yards and three touchdowns against the Pittsburgh Steelers during his only appearance on Super Sunday. His 103.6 regular-season passer rating ranks second all-time to Patrick Mahomes (105.7).
A Packers legend
Rodgers’ 475 regular-season TD passes are the most in Green Bay history and 33 shy of Favre for fourth place on the all-time NFL list. Rodgers finished the 2022 season 2,600 yards and 13 wins short of matching Favre’s Pack marks. However both only won a single Lombardi Trophy for the NFL’s winningest franchise, though Favre led the franchise to both Super Bowl 31, a victory, and a narrow loss to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 32.
Poor in the postseason
While Rodgers has proven himself one of the greatest and most talented quarterbacks in regular-season history, his relative lack of success in the playoffs relegates him a tier below the likes of Tom Brady, Joe Montana and even two-time Super Bowl MVP Mahomes. Rodgers’ 45 career postseason TD passes are one more than Favre and tied with Montana for second most all-time … behind Brady’s 88. Rodgers’ 11-10 record in playoff games includes four losses in the NFC championship game.
This spring will mark 18 years since Rodgers was selected 24th overall by the Packers in the 2005 draft. The Northern California native, projected that year as a potential No. 1 pick by the San Francisco 49ers – they picked Utah quarterback Alex Smith instead – infamously waited for hours in the green room, passed over another 22 times before Green Bay ended his free fall … only so he could sit behind Favre for the next three seasons.
Future in flux
Like Favre, Rodgers openly pondered his football future during the latter stage of his career. Love’s selection in the 2020 draft seemed to spark a Rodgers resurgence after what was – by his standards – a subpar stretch of seasons from 2017 to 2019. Toward the end of the 2020 campaign, when Rodgers earned his third MVP trophy, he said: “My future is a beautiful mystery.” He skipped the club’s 2021 offseason but returned for training camp and embarked on his fourth MVP effort. Last year, he agreed to a three-year, $151 million extension but still skipped most of an offseason that included the departure All-Pro receiver and close friend Davante Adams.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.