Convincing yourself you are just a QB upgrade away from contending can be a dangerous thing to do as an NFL team. Just ask Russell Wilson and his Broncos how that ride can go.
That being said, the Jets are one team that really might have just been a QB away from contending a year ago. They ranked fourth in the NFL in scoring defense but finished just 7-10 as they were dragged down by one of the worst offenses in the league. But that offense was hardly hopeless – in fact, the presence of some of the league's most promising young skill players gives lots of reasons for hope for the future.
And, with Aaron Rodgers announcing he intends to play for the Jets in 2023 (and beyond?), the timetable for that future is now (unofficially) accelerated. The question is, can Rodgers help take the Jets to that next level, or is this another Wilson-to-the-Broncos situation?
We're waiting for the deal to actually go through, with the Packers and Jets continuing to have discussions on compensation for a trade. However, with Rodgers making his intention to play and play for the Jets clear, it's just a matter of time before everything goes through. Let's take a look into what this means for the Jets, as well as what the Packers will look like with Jordan Love finally taking over in today's newsletter.
Jets Outlook with Aaron Rodgers
The most important question to answer when talking about this move is whether Aaron Rodgers is still Aaron Rodgers at this point. He sure didn't look like himself last season. Let's look at the numbers first:
Rodgers in 2022
- TD%: 4.8% (third-lowest of his career)
- Y/A: 6.8 (second-lowest of his career
- Passer rating: 91.1 (career low)
- QBR: 39.3 (career low)
After ranking third in the league in completion percentage over expected in 2021 at 3.3%, Rodgers sported a -1.6% mark last season, a significant drop. And, to a certain extent, the loss of Davante Adams surely played a part in Rodgers' regression. Adams was Rodgers go-to target, and the Packers replaced him primarily with rookies like Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs who, while they had their moments, struggled with injuries and consistency.
Rodgers has always seemed like a QB who really needs to trust his receivers, and he openly expressed his frustration with the number of "mental errors" the Packers were making last season. Whether he'll be able to gain that confidence in his new Jets teammates remains to be seen, but it's clear he didn't fully have it with his options in Green Bay. It's also worth noting that Rodgers was playing through a broken thumb for much of the season, which surely didn't help his performance, despite his public protestations that it wasn't an issue.
The good news is, there's some built-in familiarity here. Rodgers is reunited with former offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, and the Jets added Allen Lazard, who led the Packers in targets last season. That should hopefully help create a soft landing spot, but if Rodgers is going to get back to MVP form, he's going to do so with a healthy helping of Garrett Wilson and hopefully Elijah Moore.
And, to be clear, Rodgers is a clear upgrade over what the Jets had last year, even if he never gets back to his MVP form. Whether he does will determine whether this move was worth it for the Jets, but seeing as the Jets quarterbacks collectively managed a 2.4% touchdown rate and 6.4 yards per attempt last season, it would be awfully hard for it not to be an upgrade – and hopefully the presence of the head coach of last year's Broncos as the architect of the offense is just a funny coincidence.
The questions are how much of an upgrade will he be, and how will he distribute targets?
I'm operating under the assumption that Wilson will remain the No. 1 option in this offense, and he gets a nice little bump here as a result – he was my WR16 prior to Rodgers, but he jumps up to WR10 for me. That might be giving too much credit in a relatively uncertain situation, but Wilson just had 83 catches for 1,103 yards as a 22-year-old with terrible QB play, so projecting improvement seems like a safe assumption.
Outside of that, I'm not necessarily moving anyone else up. Moore's ascension looked assured this time a year ago, but a tough season where he struggled to even get on the field at times has changed that trajectory. He could still be the No. 2 option here, but Rodgers' familiarity with Lazard complicates that. Moore should be viewed as more of a high-upside WR4 than anything else, while Lazard probably has a higher floor thanks to his red zone skills, but a much lower ceiling if all goes right.
As for Rodgers? Well, I think it's pretty unlikely he gets back to being a high-end Fantasy option, but a bounceback isn't out of the question. The QB position starts to run out of sure-fire options around the low-end QB1 range, and I think Rodgers can fit in there, along with the likes of Dak Prescott, Tua Tagovailoa, and Daniel Jones, among a few others.
Hopefully, Rodgers will be a rising tide that lifts all boats, including uber-talented second-year RB Breece Hall, who hopes to be ready for the start of the season from the knee injury that ended his rookie season.
The 2022 Broncos are a cautionary tale -- Hackett's presence with both squads is hopefully nothing more than a funny coincidence -- and Rodgers' real regression last season suggests there are more than a few ways for this to go wrong.
But Wilson and Hall look like elite talents, and you don't have to project Rodgers to be his peak self to believe they'll benefit from his presence. The upside of the rest of the offense will depend on how good Rodgers can still be.
Packers Outlook Without Aaron Rodgers
The nice thing is, the Packers have known their post-Rodgers plans for a while. Jordan Love has been sitting behind Rodgers for three years since he was the No. 26 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and he's going to get his first extended look right before the Packers have to make a decision on his long-term future.
We've seen a bit of Love, who has completed 50 of 83 passes (60.2%) in the NFL. He's averaged 7.3 yards per attempt with a 3.6% touchdown rate, though obviously, the sample sizes here are too small to draw many conclusions from. He should be familiar with the offense and has decent young weapons with Watson and Doubs, but from the outside, this offense is going to enter the 2023 season as more or less a total unknown.
The fact that the Packers seem more than ready to move on from Rodgers suggests they believe Love is ready, but that's just an assumption. They could just be over Rodgers' idiosyncrasies and want to see what they have in Love as they look to build for the future -- they'll have to make a decision on his fifth-year option as a former first-round pick before the 2024 season, so this was their last chance to get true read on Love. They might have as many questions as the rest of us and just want to get some answers to those questions before making a decision on Love's second contract.
This is an offense with plenty of potential for Fantasy if Love is good, of course. Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon should continue to split playing time at running back, and that's one of the best RB duos in the league. Doubs looks like a solid starter moving forward, while Watson looks like a potential star.
And Watson is probably the most important player on this offense for Fantasy purposes in 2023. He showed stunning big-play abilities and was Rodgers' go-to option in the red zone for a stretch that saw him score eight touchdowns in four games. He couldn't sustain that pac, but still ended up closing out the season with 523 receiving yards and 61 rushing yards with eight touchdowns over his final eight games. Watson will be a solid value as a high-upside WR3 in Fantasy drafts, but some overzealous manager in your league might decide he's more like a top-24 guy; I'll be out on that price. Doubs is more like a PPR WR3/4, though there's upside beyond that if he can lock in an every-down role after being limited down the stretch coming back from an injury.
Watson will have to prove he can replicate his late-season production with Love, and it's entirely possible Love is just a disaster and drags the entire offense down. Rodgers wasn't great last season, obviously, but he brought a baseline level of competence to the QB spot, and Love can't guarantee that. He could be a star, continuing the legacy of Rodgers and Brett Favre, but until we see him playing real snaps, it's impossible to know for sure.
At this point, I'm viewing Watson as more like a high-upside WR3, with Doubs a potential WR3/4 in PPR formats. Jones remains a fringe RB1, while Dillon is more of an RB2/3 – not someone I want to trust as a starter, but someone who still has plenty of upside. Love is probably best left for 2QB leagues, though if you want to take a late-round flier just in case he surprises, I think that's reasonable.