FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:
1. Perfect match for Rodgers? No one on the Jets knows Dalvin Cook better than tight end Tyler Conklinwho spent four seasons with the running back on the Minnesota Vikings. While Conklin is fascinated by the prospect of a Cook-Breece Hall tandem in the backfield — “Oh, man, it would be ridiculous” — he also believes his former teammate would be the ideal complement to quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
“The big thing about Dalvin that makes me excited is just how much he loves football,” Conklin told ESPN. “He’s one of the biggest competitors I’ve ever played with and I think that’s huge because playing with Aaron, he competes the same way. The way they both compete is special and I think that would raise everybody’s game.”
Rodgers is a culture changer, and his intensity is permeating the entire offense. The man hates to waste a single rep, even in a walk-through. He wants to be surrounded by like-minded players, one of the reasons why the Jets are hosting Cook this weekend on a free-agent visit. They wouldn’t be this far down the road if Rodgers wasn’t on board.
Conklin has vivid memories of Cook’s best games — his amazing first half (153 rushing yards) against the Pittsburgh Steelers (2021), his 153- and 164-yard games against Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers (2019 and 2020) and a specific play against the Dallas Cowboys (2019) that showed his toughness.
Cook got drilled on a pass play over the middle, and he bounced up immediately with the ball in his hands. Obviously, it resonated with Conklin, who’s still talking about it a few years later.
“If it works out, that would be awesome,” Conklin said of the recruitment. “He’s a special player.”
2. Welcome to New York: Funny scene Friday morning at a New York-area deli:
A guy was reading an article on Cook in the New York Post, telling a stranger how the Jets would solidify themselves as a Super Bowl contender if they were able to land the four-time Pro Bowler.
The stranger had no idea he was talking to Cook.
By the way, Cook is expected to attend the Jets’ Green & White scrimmage Sunday morning in Florham Park.
3. Chemistry concern? The Jets remain optimistic that Breece Hall (ACL tear to his left knee) will be ready for Week 1, but they need another reliable runner to share the carries as he works his way back to peak form. While Cook’s efficiency is on a two-year decline, based on various running back metrics, he’s still way more accomplished than Michael Carter and Zonovan Knightboth of whom averaged only 3.5 yards per rush in 2022.
How would the running-back room react to Cook? Consider:
In the offseason, Hall let it be known via a since-deleted tweet that he wasn’t thrilled when Ezekiel Elliott rumors surfaced. On Tuesday, Carter said he was “confused” when they traded for running back James Robinson last season in the aftermath of Hall’s injury.
“I’m thinking, ‘Dang, they don’t even think I’m that good,'” Carter recalled.
Coach Robert Saleh said it’s “fair” to wonder about chemistry when a new player arrives, but added that mature athletes will learn to handle the situation.
4. Rodger that: You can crunch the numbers and create spreadsheets to explain the salary-cap ramifications of Rodgers’ $35 million give-backbut his unprecedented gesture goes way beyond the financials. It could have a generation impact on the Jets, setting a team-first tone that should resonate with younger players even after he’s gone.
“Who wouldn’t want a leader like that? Who wouldn’t want to go to war with a guy like that?” second-year safety Tony Adams said.
Former quarterback Tom Brady took some below-market contracts to help his teams, but he never returned guaranteed salary. What Rodgers did was quite extraordinary.
5. Down the road: Under his revised contract, Rodgers’ cap hits are $8.9 million, $17.2 million and $51.5 million. He’d better play more than one season, because there’s a $66 million “dead” charge if he bolts after a year, per Spotrac.
If he plays two years, it drops to a $49 million hit in 2025. With a post-June 1 release, that can be spread out to $14 million (2025) and $35 million (2026).
6. Coincidence? Rodgers’ $35 million pay cut is basically the equivalent of Zach Wilson‘s entire contract.
7. Big, big bucks: The Jets have the NFL’s highest cash payroll ($306 million), according to Over The Cap. Rodgers’ re-worked deal and Quinnen Williams extension added about $51 million in 2023 compensation and vaulted them to the top of the list.
It’s reminiscent of 2008, when the Jets capped an offseason of big spending by trading for quarterback Brett Favre. Expectations soared. When they failed to make the playoffs, a disgusted Woody Johnson fired Eric Mangini a few hours after the last game.
So, yes, Mangini knows pressure and he knows what Saleh is feeling.
“I would say embrace it because it’s real and it’s not going away,” Mangini told ESPN. “It better work. If it doesn’t, odds are someone else will try to make it work next year. You can try and downplay expectations, but it’s not going to work. It’s not going to work anywhere, especially in New York.”
Mangini believes the Jets can deliver something special.
“There were so many close games last year with difficult quarterback play; now you’ve got somebody who is unique,” he said. “You’ve got a good, young team. There’s no reason you can’t win the division. There’s no reason why you can’t go deep in the playoffs or the Super Bowl. Whether or not you want to say there’s an adjustment (period), no one is going to care.”
8. Practice makes perfect: Chances are, you won’t see Rodgers in the preseason.
The Jets’ hope is that the starting offense gets plenty of good work in camp, including four joint practices, and can sit out the games. If Rodgers needs tune-up work, it would be in the final preseason game (New York Giants), according to Saleh, who shared his thoughts on the “Michael Kay Show” on ESPN New York 98.7.
Typically, Rodgers doesn’t do the preseason. His last action was 2018, and that was only five snaps.
9. Bryce is nice: One of the Jets’ most underrated players is pass-rusher Bryce Huffwho recorded 33 pressures in 155 pass rushes — a league-high 21.3% pressure rate, per NFL Next Gen Stats (minimum: 150 rushes). Huff, well aware of the stat, said teams made blocking adjustments to him last season.
“I don’t think I’m a hidden secret anymore,” he said.
The Jets are so deep on the edge that Huff is sure to attract trade interest. Huff said he’s been hearing trade rumors for two years. He takes it as a sign of respect.
10. Island visitor: Despite Rodgers being a starter during 10 of cornerback Darrelle Revis’ 11 NFL seasons, he only twice faced Revis, who will be enshrined Saturday in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Rodgers recalled a 2010 game in which he completed only 15 of 34 passes for 170 yards. Somehow, the Packers managed to win, 9-0.
“A rough day for the pass game,” said Rodgers, who called Revis “a super-talented one-on-one guy who seemed to play his best games against the big-name receivers. … He didn’t have any weaknesses … and he’s very well deserving to be in the Hall of Fame.”