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Jets have plenty of leverage in stare-down with Packers over Aaron Rodgers

Given Aaron Rodgers said he was 90% retired before entering the cave for this darkness retreat, Mike Florio and Peter King evaluate if the Jets have any reason for concern about the QB’s mindset.

A debate has been raging over the past two days regarding whether the Packers or the Jets (or both, or neither) have the better of the leverage when it comes to the Aaron Rodgers stalemate. The Jets have more than many realize.

While they won’t at this point credibly pivot to a Plan B and turn their backs on trading for Rodgers, what’s the hurry to get a deal done? If the Packers want to wait until the draft to finalize things, so be it.

Rodgers doesn’t need to be present for the early weeks of the offseason program. He’d probably prefer not to. This gives him the perfect excuse -- he’s not on the team yet.

He already knows the offense, given that his former coordinator in Green Bay will simply dust it off and install it. The challenge isn’t to teach it to Rodgers but to the rest of the team.

So if Green Bay’s play is to slow play this thing, the Jets should say, “Fine. We’ll wait until the draft. Hell, we’ll wait until after the draft. We’ll even wait until after June 1, so that you’ll be able to spread the cap charge over two years.”

If Rodgers is willing to gather his future teammates for a get-acquainted session or two of pitch-and-catch, nothing stops them from doing it. Rodgers knows new Jets receiver Allen Lazard, and Lazard can get the rest of the skill-position players lined up to coincidentally be at a field not far from wherever Rodgers wants it to be.

It actually helps the Jets for the Packers to wait, since that could serve only to make Rodgers more focused, determined, and motivated to have the kind of season that makes the Packers regret not sitting back and letting him retire -- if he was truly 90 percent down that path until he concluded that the Packers had changed their tune about wanting him back.

Waiting until after the draft also allows the Jets to fashion a trade package for 2024 based on the team’s success, or otherwise, in 2023. A conditional pick for 2024, a conditional pick for 2025. And if the pick in 2024 ends up being a first-rounder, it likely will end up being lower than this year’s No. 13 overall selection.

Yes, the Packers currently want New York’s first-round pick for the upcoming draft. What will the Packers do if the Jets hold firm? Unless and until Rodgers retires or is traded, the Packers are on the hook for nearly $60 million to Rodgers in 2023. Will the Packers eventually tell Rodgers they expect him to show up for training camp if a trade isn’t done?

Put simply, how big of a distraction are they willing to let their desire to hijack the Jets become?

That’s the question the Jets should be willing to force the Packers to answer.

So hold firm, Woody. Don’t blink. Bide your time. Show the Packers you’re not desperate. If you wait just long enough, it’s the Packers who may be.