Jets GM: No rush on Aaron Rodgers; Lamar Jackson not an option

March 27, 2023, 5:49 PM

PHOENIX -- Despite dragging trade talks, the New York Jets remain confident that Aaron Rodgers will be their quarterback in 2023, tacitly saying they're so committed to Rodgers that they have no plans to pursue Lamar Jackson as a fallback option.

The Jets and Green Bay Packers have engaged in "some productive conversations" in recent weeks, Jets general manager Joe Douglas told reporters Monday at the NFL's annual league meeting.

"Obviously, we're not where we need to be yet, but I feel like we're in a good place," he said.

Douglas said he and Packers GM Brian Gutekunst have no plans to conduct formal trade discussions in Phoenix, with Douglas saying "there's no hard deadline" for a trade. "There's not a ton of urgency from our standpoint right now. But still very optimistic."

Earlier Monday, Jets coach Robert Saleh said they could conceivably wait until training camp in late July, adding, "I'm not hitting the panic button."

It has been 13 days since the Packers' quarterback, speaking on "The Pat McAfee Show," gave a public commitment to the Jets. Since then, the two teams haven't been able to agree on trade compensation.

The Packers reportedly are seeking a package that includes the Jets' first-round pick (13th overall), and New York don't want to part with it. Douglas declined to comment on whether that pick is off the table, saying he doesn't want to discuss specifics.

In a new twist, Douglas squashed the idea of pivoting to Jackson or showing interest in the Baltimore Ravens' star as a way to create leverage against the Packers. Jackson, who tweeted Monday that he requested a trade on March 2, received the nonexclusive franchise tag from the Ravens and is free to negotiate with any team.

"First of all, Lamar Jackson is a fantastic player, but where we stand is, it would be disingenuous and negotiating in bad faith if we went down that path," said Douglas, a former longtime Ravens scout. "We have our plan, we have our process and we're sticking to that. ... We're never going to operate in bad faith."

Because of tampering rules, the Jets didn't mention Rodgers by name and avoided direct questions about the team's interest in him. But they left no doubt they're counting on the four-time MVP to be their quarterback, with former No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson slated to be the No. 2.

"I'm confident that things are going to work out," Saleh said. "You guys know me. I'm a very positive person and optimistic, so I'm confident that things will go the way we we're hoping. But at the same time, it's not going to eat at me."

Clearly, the Jets don't want to seem antsy, as they try to strengthen their negotiating position with the Packers. That may explain why Saleh didn't shut the door on the possibility of waiting until training camp for Rodgers' arrival.

"If there's a great rapport with the coordinator, there's really no urgency," Saleh said. "The quarterback, if he understands the system, if the quarterback knows it, it's just a matter of just refining skills and doing all that stuff. So there's no hurry."

No doubt, Saleh was alluding to Rodgers' strong relationship with offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. When Rodgers declared his "intention" to play for the Jets, he cited Hackett as one of the main reasons.

In theory, the Packers might want to complete the trade before the draft so they can recoup 2023 compensation. If it doesn't happen by then, they could wait until after June 1 because there would be a significant salary-cap benefit. Meanwhile, the Jets seem determined to make Rodgers happy by adding players he suggested on his so-called wish list. One of them was free-agent wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

Jets officials confirmed interest in Beckham, 30, a three-time Pro Bowler coming off his second ACL surgery. They've had "productive" discussions with his agent, Douglas said. They would like to host him for a visit and a physical at some point, if they can get within striking distance of a deal.

"The more weapons the better," Douglas said. "This could be an opportunity to add a unique talent, but we feel great about our room as it's currently constructed."

The Jets added free agents Allen Lazard and Mecole Hardman to a unit that includes NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Garrett Wilson. They cut Braxton Berrios and traded Elijah Moore to the Cleveland Browns. Saleh said the addition of Hardman allowed them to deal Moore.

"That was a tough decision because Elijah is a really good and a young player on a cap-friendly deal," said Douglas, commenting for the first time on last week's trade. "It was just a situation that came up where we had a flood of calls. ... Ultimately, we felt like this was an opportunity to bring value that we needed, back to the team and back to the draft." The Jets acquired a second-round pick in exchange for Moore and a third-round pick.

In other personnel developments, Saleh committed to Wilson as the QB2 despite his profound struggles last season. He also doused speculation about  Carl Lawson's roster spot, saying he wants the defensive end on the roster despite a $15.7 million cap charge.

Douglas also confirmed interest in former  Tennessee Titans center Ben Jones and free-agent defensive lineman Calais Campbell, who will visit the Jets on Wednesday and Thursday.