Jets laud Rodgers’ ‘sacrifice’ as Cook set to visit

Sports

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Aaron Rodgers‘ decision to take an unprecedented pay cut sends a championship message to the New York Jets‘ locker room and creates financial flexibility to pursue free agents such as running back Dalvin Cook, according to coach Robert Saleh and players.

“I think it says a lot when the best player on your football team — a Hall of famer — is willing to sacrifice something because he wants to win, which is ultimately what we’re all here to do,” Saleh said Thursday, adding: “This was Aaron. Aaron wanted to do this.”

Tight end Tyler Conklin told ESPN, “The message we’re getting is, he wants to win a Super Bowl.”

The Jets may give Rodgers another weapon, as they’re scheduled to host Cook this weekend on a free-agent visit. The four-time Pro Bowl selection is due to arrive Friday for meetings and a physical. Saleh confirmed the visit, adding, “You can’t say no to a great player.”

Saleh has solicited input from Rodgers on Cook, who was released June 8 by the Minnesota Vikings in a salary-cap move. Noting that Rodgers has been playing in the NFL for as long as he’s been coaching, Saleh said he will always lean on the 18-year veteran for opinions on personnel.

Thanks to Rodgers, the Jets don’t have any salary-cap concerns.

On Wednesday night, Rodgers signed a restructured contract in which he basically gives back almost $35 million. He was due to make close to $110 million in guarantees on his previous contract, inherited from the Green Bay Packers. His new deal includes $75 million in guarantees — his total compensation for 2023 and 2024.

Rodgers is counting only $8.9 million against the cap, which is less than backup quarterback Zach Wilson ($9.6 million). Rodgers’ cap charge is the third lowest among starters no longer on rookie contracts, according to ESPN’s Roster Management System.

“It shows he puts the team first,” safety Jordan Whitehead said. “He sees how good the team can be.”

Saleh said the reworked contract has been in place for weeks, adding that the two sides were just working through minor details. Rodgers, acquired in April, said from the outset that he’d renegotiate his deal, but no one outside the organization had an inkling it would be such a significant pay reduction.

“Yeah, there’s money and fame and that good stuff, but at the end of the day, we’re all happy when we win,” Saleh said. “For him to look at this organization, from the outside looking in, and feel like we’re doing a lot of things the right way …

“We brought in the right people, we brought in the right coaching staff, we brought in the right management. For him to take a shot on us, I think it speaks volumes. We’re grateful for that.”

Basically, Rodgers signed a three-year, $112.5 million contract. (His 2025 salary, $37.5 million, is nonguaranteed). The $37.5 million average per year ranks 12th among quarterbacks, tied with the New Orleans Saints’ Derek Carr, who signed a free-agent deal in the offseason.

For cap purposes, four extra years were added (through 2029). Rodgers, who turns 40 in December, has said he’s planning to play multiple years, saying, “I really don’t see this as a one-year-and-done thing.”

Some players were stunned when they heard how much money Rodgers is leaving on the table.

“For him to be willing to do that and allow us to go out and get players, whatever position it might be, it’s awesome,” Conklin said.

The Jets’ pursuit of Cook has fueled questions about running back Breece Hall, who is nine months removed from ACL surgery. Saleh said Hall is doing “fantastic” in his recovery and that his status has no bearing on their interest in Cook. The organization is optimistic that Hall, who is running full speed but still hasn’t been cleared to practice, will be ready by Week 1.

Beyond Hall, the Jets have Michael Carter and Zonovan Knight, both of whom averaged only 3.5 yards per carry last season, and rookie Israel Abanikanda. A player of Cook’s caliber — a “dynamic ballcarrier,” Saleh called him — would allow them to ease Hall back into the lineup.

Saleh insisted the Jets aren’t big-name hunting for the sake of star power.

“We’re not trying to build a dream team,” he said.

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