Before Aaron Rodgers was officially traded from the Packers to the Jets, the quarterback had reportedly given New York a so-called wish list of players he’d like to have on the roster in 2023.
The Jets have added players Rodgers is familiar with like receiver Allen Lazard, receiver Randall Cobb, and offensive lineman Billy Turner.
On Friday, head coach Robert Saleh was asked about that wish list and whether there was a conversation about players Rodgers wanted to have with him on his new team. That gave Saleh an opportunity to push back and he took it.
“So, I can try to say this as respectfully as I can — I’m not attacking anyone. It’s just that I do think it’s a silly narrative, with regards to a ‘wish list,’” Saleh said in his press conference. “And I say that because there’s 32 teams in the NFL. And it’s common practice for when there’s changes, when you have a new coaching staff, when you have people coming in, that you surround those people with people they’re familiar with.
“I had a wish list — Solomon Thomas, Marcell Harris, D.J. Reed, Kwon Alexander — guys who I’ve worked with who were very familiar with our messaging, very familiar with our scheme, who can come in and play. We had it on offense with Laken Tomlinson, Tevin Coleman, and guys who have been in the system. Shoot, Tom Brady goes to Tampa and he gets [Rob] Gronkowski and Antonio Brown. So, it is very common for new faces to want old faces — to be able to come in and accelerate the installation of a program.”
Moreover, Saleh added, those players are familiar with new offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett — not just Rodgers.
“Everything’s being pinned on the quarterback — it’s not just him,” Saleh said. “Hackett has something to say about it. He loves Lazard, loves Randall, took Billy Turner with him to Denver and wanted him here in [New York]. So, of course you’re going to surround a coach with people who he feels will be able to plant the flag.
“So, that whole narrative of whatever people are trying to put on the quarterback, I think it’s tired.”
Somewhat tongue-in-cheek, Saleh was then asked if his team is planning to bring in tight end Marcedes Lewis. Saleh laughed and said, “You never know.”
But Saleh said that when it comes time to play, Rodgers’ familiarity with a certain player won’t override who gives the Jets the best chance to win.
“At the end of the day, the best 53 will be on the football team,” Saleh said. “And then the best 11 will be on the football field when it’s time to snap the ball. But at the same time, the reason why we’re excited to bring those guys is because they stand for everything we believe in. Look at Allen Lazard, he came in as an undrafted free agent and he’s got all this unbelievable ability to him and he’s made himself. Randall has such an amazing amount of experience. Billy Turner has so much experience. But they’re internally driven individuals who just want to win football games. And they love the game of football.
“And it’s like, well why wouldn’t you bring them in to help accelerate and plant the flag and echo the message that Nathaniel and his staff are trying to accomplish?”
We’ll see who’s on the roster and who ends up on the field in September.