Jets sacrificed top WR in the draft so Aaron Rodgers could get his pal

Aaron Rodgers insisted earlier this offseason that he didn’t have a list of “demands” upon potentially getting traded to the New York Jets. Remember that fun time earlier this year? A time when it was reported that Rodgers would like to have players like Odell Beckham Jr., Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, and Marcedes Lewis with him on the Jets.

Dianna Russini of ESPN reported this list and when he made an appearance on The Pat McAfee Show, Rodgers actually took a really harsh stance against it and was a bit disrespectful towards Russini and her reporting. Rodgers seemingly was dismissive of the reports, asking the rhetorical question of who wouldn’t want to play with Odell? and things like that.

Well, if Rodgers’ “wish” list was one including:

  • Odell Beckham Jr.
  • Randall Cobb
  • Allen Lazard
  • Marcedes Lewis

then he’s already halfway there, isn’t he? Although Rodgers was caught up with the semantics of this “wish” list or “demands” list, it’s very interesting looking in hindsight at the 2023 NFL Draft and what the New York Jets did — or didn’t do.

The Jets used their top pick in the 2023 NFL Draft on former Iowa State defensive end/linebacker Will McDonald IV. McDonald has been considered a fringe first-round prospect all throughout this process and most people had him going somewhere between picks 25-45. The Jets took him at 15 overall, which is fine, even if you consider it a bit of a reach.

The questionable aspect of the Jets’ draft, in hindsight, is not who they selected, but who they didn’t select. The Jets left former Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba on the board with pick no. 15 overall, and he ended up going just a handful of picks later to the Seattle Seahawks. Smith-Njigba would have been a slam-dunk pick for the Jets with all that transpired in the selections ahead of them.

They missed out on the top offensive tackles in the class after trading down just two spots with the Packers, as they were jumped at pick no. 14 by the Steelers so Pittsburgh could take Broderick Jones. With all of the top tackles off the board, it made a ton of sense for the Jets to pair up Smith-Njigba as their slot guy with his former teammate Garrett Wilson, the 2022 NFL offensive rookie of the year.

Instead, they took McDonald, who should contribute as a pass rusher in year one.

So why did they pass on Smith-Njigba despite it being such an obvious fit? Sure, the team signed Allen Lazard and Mecole Hardman in free agency, but you’re taking a calculated risk on Hardman with a one-year deal and Smith-Njigba is someone you can possibly build around alongside Wilson at a premium position.

Now that the Pack– er, I mean Jets — have agreed with Randall Cobb to a free agent deal, it’s all making sense, isn’t it? The Jets have long had plans to bring Cobb into the fold, and Aaron Rodgers’ wish list is slowly being crossed off. How soon is Marcedes Lewis going to be wearing Jets green?

The issue I take here is that you passed on a much better prospect than you could have gotten in order to adhere to Rodgers’ wish list. It’s absolutely ridiculous that Rodgers wouldn’t want Smith-Njigba, and I honestly doubt that’s the case. I think Rodgers simply has had his mind made up that he wants to bring Cobb to New York with him no matter what.

The Jets are simply building accordingly.

And therein lies the issue. Rodgers was so bent out of shape in Green Bay over certain roster changes that were made without his approval. In many cases, he was justified in his frustration. You don’t cut a league MVP’s favorite training camp receiver if they are building some chemistry. You consult your QB on what they would do in some instances, but with a talent like Smith-Njigba, you have to do what’s best for the team.

The Jets sacrificing Smith-Njigba for Randall Cobb will go down as one of the worst decisions of the offseason. Unless, of course, the Jets win it all, in which case — nobody will care.