FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — One of the most eventful weeks in New York Jets history began Monday with the trade for quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
It ended Saturday with the last of seven draft picks. In a news conference to wrap up the draft, coach Robert Saleh was asked to describe the week, starting with the Rodgers acquisition. Without saying a word, Saleh leaned over, wrapped both arms around general manager Joe Douglas and gave him a hug.
“It’s been a fun week, a fun week,” Saleh finally said, smiling. “To get Aaron here, it’s a blessing.
“We got a lot better this week — a lot better this week.”
Douglas negotiated the trade that brought the four-time MVP to the Jets, changing everything. After 12 straight seasons out of the playoffs — the NFL’s longest active drought — the Jets are suddenly perceived as a Super Bowl contender.
Rodgers still hasn’t practiced with the team, except for some light throwing late last week in phase one of the off-season program, but he already has made an impact behind the scenes, according to Saleh.
“We’re a really, really young team, especially on offense, and just to watch him and Nathaniel [Hackett] and the way they communicate together, he’s already made his presence felt with regards to meetings and input, just discussions on all of the different things we’re trying to get accomplished on offense,” Saleh said. “He’s a tremendous human, first and foremost, Aaron is. Just listening to him, there are little, subtle things I’m not going to get into, but he definitely cares about people and you can tell in the way he speaks to people. So we’re really fortunate that he’s here.”
The Jets didn’t get Rodgers any new weapons in the draft, as they used their first-round pick on Iowa State pass rusher Will McDonald IV. They added a skill player in the fifth round, Pitt running back Israel Abanikanda, who rushed for 1,431 yards and 20 touchdowns last season.
McDonald grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, admiring Rodgers. Second-round pick Joe Tippmann, a center from Wisconsin, also followed Rodgers’ career. Soon he might be snapping to him.
“I mean, it’s an awesome feeling, especially knowing somebody as a seasoned veteran like him,” Tippmann said. “I just feel like there’s so much opportunity there for me to learn from him and it would be a dream to be able to play with him and those dreams are coming true.”
McDonald said he’s been “scouting” Rodgers since 2008. The prospect of playing with a future Hall of Famer, he said, will be “a real cool opportunity.”