You really thought there weren’t gonna be any more Aaron Rodgers-adjacent posts, didn’t you?
This time it isn’t about performance but once again back at the trade matching machine. Right after the conclusion of last season, I posited that the New York Jets would be the best match for Aaron Rodgers, and I am once again back on my b.s. trying to play matchmaker. Back in May, I took a brief look at the market for David Bakhtiari’s services. Mind you this was briefly after some odd comments he made, but also with an acknowledgement that the cap situation for 2024 is untenable. If you’d like or need a refresher on the financial side of things, I recommend checking that piece out before going any further here.
The overarching story has not changed much since I wrote that. The list of teams that need a left tackle and are contending in this two-year window is not a long list. That list can of course change over the next three months until the trade deadline, but there’s only a small number of teams that tick the boxes. The New York Jets, of course it had to be the Jets, made themselves landing spot number one this past week.
This is not the place to get into the specific machinations of Aaron Rodgers’ new contract with his new team, but the long and short of it is that he took less money and created a situation where the Jets should be able to add a good player at the deadline. The Jets now sit just shy of $16M in cap space for this season.
David Bakhtiari’s 2023 cap hit for an acquiring team is incredibly small at just over $100,000 per week (his entire cap hit for the team taking him on would just be base salary plus per-game bonuses). His 2024 cap hit, however, is more sizable, as it would be $21.5M. The Jets do not currently have the 2024 space to take that on, but with some nifty cap work (aka pretty basic restructures), they can make it happen. Because the Jets have extra cap space this year, they could convert some of Bakhtiari’s 2024 base salary into a signing bonus and split it across the two seasons. The exact number that they would do, I don’t know, but as an example, if they converted $12M of that salary into a bonus, his 2023 cap hit for them would increase $6M, and his 2024 cap hit would drop from $21.5M to $15.5M. The more they convert, the more his 2023 hit increases and the more his 2024 hit decreases.
That’s enough on the Jets' cap sheet. The important part is they can do this. The real question for Green Bay becomes: would Green Bay want to do this? The Jets offensive line is the weakest part of their team. Duane Brown opened camp on PUP which means that Billy Turner, yes that Billy Turner has been getting most of the LT1 reps for them. Adding David Bakhtiari would be a large boost to their front, but since the Packers already have the Jets picks tied up in an Aaron Rodgers trade, compensation becomes trickier.
Just to review, the Packers swapped 13 for 15 in this past draft along with the 42nd pick (selections which became Lukas Van Ness and Luke Musgrave), plus will receive a 2024 first round pick if Rodgers plays at least 65% of the snaps in the 2023 season (otherwise the pick will be a second rounder). If I am Brian Gutekunst, any Bakhtiari trade, at any point, would need to involve the “pick protection” being removed. The Packers and Jets would need to agree that the 2024 pick will be a first rounder, no questions asked. One of the big reasons the Jets wanted protections built in was that they didn’t want just a partial Aaron Rodgers season and then he retires. So far, Rodgers has indicated he plans to play at least two more seasons (and his contract re-do backs this up), so that may reduce the risk that spooked the Jets in the spring.
From there the Packers would need to do some calculus as to how much they would ask from the Jets outside of that. The Jets, unlike other potential bidders, would need to pay an extra premium since Bakhtiari would be likely to improve the Jets play, thus worsening the pick Green Bay would receive.
Using the Rich Hill trade value chart, if Green Bay thinks adding Bakhtiari would worsen that first round pick from say 20 to 26, Green Bay should require an additional third round pick to make that trade. That is because the value difference between 20 and 26 is worth about 46 points, which is the value of #89 in the draft. This is just one example, but this is the type of calculation the Packers would need to be doing if they were negotiating this trade. Step one would be taking the protection off the 2024 pick as a starting point, step two is the Bakhtiari value (which should be very real for a top 5-10 LT with what would be approximate cap hits of 7M and 15M over two years), and then step three is that premium required to make the trade because of how it could worsen the first rounder.
This would be a complicated maneuver, not only in the way I described above, but also politically. The Packers and Rodgers did not divorce amicably, and would the franchise want to further improve his chances at success in his new home? Or would Gutekunst and Murphy view this strictly from a value perspective? The Jets are as all-in as it gets and that type of desperation to strike while the iron his hot is how you can get teams to overpay. A good team on a short timeline looking to shore up its biggest weakness is a great way to come out with outstanding value as the seller. Only time and the sturdiness of Bakhtiari’s knee will tell if it comes to fruition, but the Packers of the 2020s could be greatly strengthened by getting good portions of two New York Jets drafts.