Aaron Rodgers is the Jets’ top option in the tough quarterback search, but who’s next on the list?

Aaron Rodgers (12) prepares to sprint in the third quarter against the New York Giants

Aaron Rodgers (12) prepares to sprint in third quarter against New York Giants / Kirby Lee – USA TODAY Sport

The first half is complete and the Jets deserve credit for getting here. It’s never easy to admit that you’ve lost a draft pick, especially a higher one Zach Wilson. The easier path would have been for GM Joe Douglas and head coach Roberto Saleh to stick to the previous absolute selection n. 2 and go as far as it takes them.

Instead, they admitted they screwed up. No, they’re not willing to give up Wilson, but they’re in the market for his replacement. They will have — by any means necessary — a veteran quarterback to lead them next year. Wilson will be the second or third stringer.

It took courage to get to this point. That was the easy part, though. Now it’s up to Saleh and Douglas to find the veteran quarterback.

Herein lies the challenge.

The Jets are a winning football team. It’s as crazy to write that sentence as it is for you to read it. It’s a fact, though. They have a league-level defense. They have directors dotted around their binding. They have a technical staff capable of getting the most out of their players. They have a front office that can patch holes and add bits and pieces.

The Jets are on the verge of a legitimate championship contention. They just need a quarterback. Think about their 7-10 mark last year. Also put a worthwhile starter on their roster and flip three games (New England Patriots twice, Detroit Lions). Give them a legit one and they’ll likely get three more as well (Minnesota Vikings, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins).

But if you can give this team a star? Throw them in the AFC playoffs? The Jets would not be favorites, but you would want them to compete against any other team in the AFC. And, hey, crazier things have happened.

This is the reality of this team. That’s why the Jets are looking for a veteran. That’s why they are determined to get one.

Who? As?

It is imperative that this team gets this move right.

The Jets’ infatuation with Aaron Rodgers it was the worst kept secret at the Senior Bowl. No, Douglas wasn’t marching in a No. 12 jersey: Anyone suggesting the tight-lipped GM needed to check themselves. Instead it was a connect the dots puzzle where other league executives saw the same two dots a few inches apart that everyone else saw.

Create a tier of available quarterbacks and Rodgers is at the top of that list. Put that on the Jets’ roster in its current build and they’re legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Add in the Jets hiring of Rodgers’ best friend Nathaniel Hackett and get a match made in Florham Park.

So, yeah, the Jets will go after Rodgers when he’s available. It would be an organizational mistake for them not to.

The obstacle lies with Rodgers himself. There’s more there, as there always seems to be with elderly passerby Packer. The belief, according to multiple sources, is that the Packers plan to do whatever Rodgers asks them to do. They will welcome him back if he wants to return as quickly as possible, as well as trade him if he prefers new scenarios. There are some inside the Green Bay building who are operating and expect Rodgers to be their quarterback next year. They believe this is just another year that the quarterback keeps his name in the news cycle.

But if Rodgers, who has hinted at making his decision after the Super Bowl, wants to move, the Jets will be among the first to call. Brian Gutekunst. The concern is whether Rodgers will want New York as much as New York does him. It’s hard to see Douglas, Saleh or their staff come back if they don’t live up to the postseason – Rodgers knows that. There’s a sense around the NFL that owner Woody Johnson he’s involving himself – even Rodgers is aware of this

It’s unclear if these issues are enough to dissuade Rodgers from New York completely or if Hackett’s arrival eases his mind. At the very least, he helps. The other teams definitely in contention for Rodgers, like the Las Vegas Raiders, complicate matters. There are other options available for New York, though, if Rodgers decides he prefers elsewhere. Of course, they are not that good.

Most of the NFL don’t believe Lamar Jackson (Baltimore Ravens) is headed everywhere. The two sides are far apart on a deal, yes, but the Ravens realize what they have in the former MVP. It’s a matter of when, not if, the two will bridge the gap.

The next best option for New York would be Las Vegas’ Derek Carr. He played in patterns similar to Hackett’s. He’s had success in the NFL. His skill set and edge isn’t much different than what the Jets once believed Wilson to be, making him an ideal QB to watch for the former first-round pick the team isn’t ready to give up just yet. .

November 27, 2022;  Seattle, Washington, USA;  Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) celebrates after throwing a touchdown pass against the Seattle Seahawks during the fourth quarter at Lumen Field.

November 27, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) celebrates after throwing a touchdown pass against the Seattle Seahawks during the fourth quarter at Lumen Field. / Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Carr doesn’t come without his red flags. There were some at the Senior Bowl who had legitimate concerns and concerns about how his personality would fit in New York. He hasn’t handled scrutiny and criticism well, something he would undeniably find if things go wrong with the Jets. This sentiment was not shared by everyone. More alarming: Carr, in games under 36 degrees, is 0-7 at starting quarterback.

Aside from their stadium, the Jets play in a division with the Patriots and Buffalo Bills. Any road to the Super Bowl could include a date with one of the Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs, all cold weather teams. This is a very real potential problem that the Jets cannot overlook.

If the Jets hit both Rodgers and Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo (San Francisco 49ers) and Ryan Tannehill (Tennessee Titans) will likely rise to the top of the list. The problem with both is durability.

Considering the Jets’ low confidence (at best) in Wilson right now, adding one of the two in a defining year puts Wilson one step from the start. Douglas would likely need to add a proven backup behind Garoppolo or Tannehill, or risk his and Saleh’s job security in Wilson’s third-year development.

Aside from the commitment to add a veteran quarterback, the Jets, right now, are in a bit of a holding pattern, like the rest of the league. Rodgers is the best fish. Comprehensibly. The Jets can start dreaming of Trofei Lombardi with him under center. The team ceiling drops from there.

They will compete in AFC with Carr. They’ll likely make the playoffs with Tannehill or Garoppolo, assuming both are okay, but it’s hard to imagine them outscoring the AFC kings.

This is probably why Rodgers is the best option, but not the only option.

But can they take it?

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