MIAMI — We are at a place in society so divisive we can’t even seem to agree on what truth is, so naturally there might be legitimate debate on whether the New York Jets’ all-out pursuit and imminent signing of Aaron Rodgers is closer to brilliance or desperation. Fair-minded people might disagree whether Rodgers, at age 39, is a signing that makes you a contender or a signing that is just really loud.
But, even at a time when we can agree on nothing, we can all agree on this:
Aaron loves him some attention!
Rule of thumb: When one makes a big public announcement about retreating into four nights of pitch-black isolation to soul-search, one doesn’t mind a rotating, sky-scanning, premiere-night spotlight on that darkness. It’s like renting a bunch of billboards on a major interstate to reveal your need for privacy and introspection.
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So this is right on-brand for Rodgers to be the quarterback at the center of attention in the NFL this offseason as the Jets and Green Bay Packers have been hostages to a delay that seemed deliberate for the drama.
The center of attention should be Lamar Jackson, at 26 the first MVP-winning QB to be made available by his team, but Jackson did not slip into the darkness looking for the light and has not quite mastered self-promotion the way Rodgers has. So other teams can make offer-sheets for Jackson beginning Wednesday, but it’s Rodgers’ free-agent wish list to the Jets that has the nation’s eyes and ears.
Wednesday, Rodgers going to the Jets advanced from speculation/likely to seeming imminent as he announced on the Pat McAfee Show that he “intends” to play for the Jets in 2023.
Of course part of the intrigue is that this involves the Jets, who last mattered when Joe Namath wore fur coats and pantyhose, and it involves the largest media market in the country — which to Rodgers is surely as big as a guaranteed contract. He was a superstar in the smallest market, Green Bay. Imagine what he might be in the Big Apple?
Nearing 40, with greatness his though only one long-ago Super Bowl ring is, Rodgers has spent a career in the shadow of Tom Brady. With Brady finally retired, Rodgers is cast as the fading star against the next wave led by Patrick Mahomes. The New York market could be just what the doctor ordered in the way of a late-career renaissance.
Rodgers-a-Jet would mean something else: A confirmation that the ‘A’ in American Football Conference stands for Air now.
It would complete the utter power shift to the AFC at the most important position, with Mahomes working in Kansas City, Josh Allen in Buffalo, Joe Burrow in Cincinnati, Justin Herbert with the Chargers, Trevor Lawrence in Jacksonville, Deshaun Watson bound for a comeback in Cleveland, and Sean Payton trying to reignite Russell Wilson’s star in Denver.
And who knows where Jackson will land? Perhaps back in Baltimore? Who knows how good Kenny Pickett might become in Pittsburgh? Same with Mac Jones in New England.
Almost forgot: Miami has the reigning NFL passer-rating champion in Tua Tagovailoa, oh by the way. Tua, with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle to throw to and if the concussions stay away (please), has a chance to fast-climb the list of AFC air command, based on what we saw of him when healthy last season.
The AFC has never enjoyed greater quarterback star power.
The full-out air-raid the conference is becoming swivels the focus to defenses, which is why the Dolphins have had the league’s most smartly targeted offseason thus far.
Hiring mastermind defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and this week trading for star cornerback Jalen Ramsey were seismic additions. Adding Ramsey to a secondary already festooned with Xavien Howard and rising star Jevon Holland will have the attention of every QB on the schedule. (Now Pro Bowl corner Darius Slay is available, too? Oh my!)
Miami already had a couple of big pass rushers in Christian Wilkins and Jaelan Phillips, and quietly made another great add on D this week with the free-agent signing of linebacker David Long, a top-tier run stopper they got for a bargain.
The Dolphins defense seems well-prepared for whatever comes its way next season, and that includes Aaron Rodgers twice a year as a Jet — when he has enjoyed enough drumroll and finally signs.