Non-Aaron Rodgers veterans provide Jets options to end QB woes

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The Jets are in the market for a quarterback … again. This is the second in a three-part series exploring their options this offseason. This is a look at adding either Derek Carr or Jimmy Garoppolo. 

While Jets fans have visions of Aaron Rodgers wearing Joe Namath’s old No. 12 dancing in their heads, there are still many hurdles to clear before a trade for Rodgers becomes even close to a reality. 

The Nathaniel Hackett offensive coordinator hire has sent the Rodgers speculation into overdrive, but take a few deep breaths and remember that the odds remain long for the Jets to land the 39-year-old Rodgers from Green Bay. The Jets must wait on Rodgers and the Packers to determine what they want to do before the Jets can realistically formulate a plan to acquire Rodgers. 

In the meantime, the Jets decision-makers must evaluate what else is available in the quarterback market, and there are two names that rise above the rest in terms of availability and ability — Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo. 

Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers’ future with the Packers is uncertain.

You do not need to play what if or if, then with these two. It has been known for months that they would be available and both could fit just what the Jets are looking for. The Jets had a defense that was No. 4 in the NFL in points allowed and an offense that was No. 29. They have good, young skill players such as Garrett Wilson, Elijah Moore and Breece Hall. The Jets need an above-average quarterback to manage the game, not turn the ball over and ride a formula of a good defense, good special teams and a strong running game to victories. 

Both have done it before. Could they do it for the Jets in 2023? Let’s take a look at both players. 

A New Carr?

The first domino to fall in the quarterback sweepstakes this offseason could be Carr. The Raiders declared they were done with Carr when they benched him with two games left in the season and then asked him to leave the team altogether. 

That sets up this offseason when Carr can either be traded or released by Las Vegas. 

The key date is Feb. 15. That is the day Carr’s 2023 base salary of $32.9 million and $7.5 million of his 2024 base salary become guaranteed. Technically, the Raiders can’t trade Carr until the new league year in March, but they can agree to a trade with a team at any time. Several teams have worked out deals well in advance of the league year recently — like the Rams and Lions with the Matthew Stafford-Jared Goff deal, and the Chiefs and Washington with the Alex Smith trade. 

The tricky thing with trading Carr is the money becoming guaranteed on Feb. 15. The Jets could agree to a trade for Carr this weekend then change their minds on March 1 if they think they can get Rodgers. The Raiders would then be stuck with Carr unless they can work out another deal. 

Derek Carr
Derek Carr and the Raiders seem to be parting ways after he was benched to end the season.
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That has led many to expect Carr to be released instead. If the Raiders cut him before Feb. 15, they owe him nothing. In that case, Carr would be free to sign anywhere immediately. He would not have to wait until March 15 when the new league year begins like free agents currently under contract. 

Carr turns 32 in March. He has been durable, playing 15 games in every season. He is a three-time Pro Bowler and has had plenty of good seasons. He makes sense in plenty of ways for the Jets. A trade should not be overly costly, possibly a Day 2 draft pick to acquire him, and he is under contract for three more years. 

Carr does have a no-trade clause and could want to avoid the Jets. There are some who believe he would not handle the New York spotlight well, and he is a player who has spent his entire college and pro career on the West Coast. 

If the Jets did a trade and did not rework his current deal, his salary cap number leaps from $34.9 million in 2023 to $43.9 million 2024, which they might see as too high. 

Under Josh McDaniels in 2022, Carr threw for 3,522 yards, 24 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 15 games. His completion percentage dropped from 68.4 in 2021 to 60.8 in 2022. 

A Jimmy Thing

For months, it has felt like Garoppolo was the most likely quarterback for the Jets to add. The 31-year-old has familiarity with coach Robert Saleh. The two were together in San Francisco from 2017-20. Saleh is fond of Garoppolo, who quarterbacked the 49ers to a Super Bowl in the 2019 season. 

The firing of Mike LaFleur made Garoppolo feel a little less inevitable, but Hackett runs a similar system to what Garoppolo had with the 49ers. 

The biggest knock on Garoppolo is his durability. He has played 15 games just twice in his career. His 2022 season ended with a foot injury after 11 games. He threw for 2,437 yards, 16 touchdowns and four interceptions with a 67.2 completion percentage before the injury. 

Jimmy Garoppolo
Jimmy Garoppolo will be a free agent after his one-year deal with the 49ers expires.

The 49ers are expected to let Garoppolo walk in free agency, with Trey Lance and now Brock Purdy at quarterback. 

The injury complicates Garoppolo’s value, but he should still command a second-tier quarterback contract of $30 million-$35 million per season, maybe four years, $140 million. This would be much cheaper than Rodgers and allow the Jets more flexibility with spending elsewhere. 

The negotiating window for free agents opens March 13 with deals becoming official on March 15. Garoppolo does not figure to be a free agent for long. He should be one of the first quarterbacks off the board … maybe to the Jets. 

Coming next: Zach Wilson and the rest. 

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