Robert Saleh sure Aaron Rodgers will be Jet; OBJ on radar, too

ByRich Cimini ESPN logo
Monday, March 27, 2023

PHOENIX -- New York Jets coach Robert Saleh remains "confident" that Aaron Rodgers will be his quarterback for the 2023 season, and he'd love to seeOdell Beckham Jr.catching some of Rodgers' passes.

Addressing reporters Monday at the NFL's annual league meeting, Saleh confirmed the team's interest in the free agent wide receiver. As for Rodgers, Saleh said the Jets are in no rush to finalize a trade with the Green Bay Packers, saying they could conceivably wait until training camp in late July.

"I'm not hitting the panic button," Saleh said.

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

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 negotiate trade compensation. The Packers reportedly are seeking a package that includes the Jets' first-round pick (13th overall), and the Jets don't want to part with it.

Because of tampering rules, Saleh didn't mention Rodgers by name and avoided direct questions about the team's interest in him. But he left no doubt that he's counting on the four-time MVP to be the Jets' starting quarterback, with 2021 No. 2 pick Zach Wilson slated to be the No. 2. There is no obvious fallback option if, for some reason, the Rodgers trade falls through. Saleh declined to discuss that scenario.

Ideally, they would like Rodgers to participate in the offseason program, which begins April 17 and runs through mid-June, but Saleh indicated that's not a must.

Clearly, the Jets don't want to seem antsy, as they try to bolster their leverage in talks with the Packers. That might 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.

The Jets, who already signed former Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard, hope to land Beckham, another name on Rodgers' so-called wish list. A source said the Jets have been in talks with the 30-year-old receiver, who is coming off his second ACL injury.

"He's been a fantastic receiver in this league," Saleh said. "Everything you hear about him, he's a phenomenal person. That's something you're always going to look over, turn over every stone, cross your t's, dot your i's, just make sure you're, you're not missing an opportunity to add a great player. And there's no guarantee anything will happen."

There has been a lot of movement at wide receiver. The Jets cut Braxton Berrios, traded Elijah Moore, and signed Lazard and Mecole Hardman, formerly of the Kansas City Chiefs. Saleh said the addition of Hardman allowed them to trade Moore to the Cleveland Browns.

Saleh said that they weren't shopping Moore but that they received "a lot of different phone calls" once they landed Hardman. He said that trade was a "no-brainer" for general manager Joe Douglas, who drafted Moore in the 2021 second round.

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.

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