Expectations for the Jets will be through the roof once Aaron Rodgers officially joins the team.
When you add a four-time MVP at quarterback — and Rodgers made clear Wednesday afternoon on “The Pat McAfee Show” his intention to play for the Jets after trade terms are reached — that tends to happen.
But what is realistic for a Rodgers-led Jets team?
Are they now a Super Bowl contender? A playoff contender? Just slightly better?
To me, the Jets should jump by 3-4 wins next season with Rodgers at quarterback. That is not all on him. The young players on the Jets roster should improve with another year in the league, especially on defense with another year in the same system.
If you look at last year’s 7-10 finish, you have to think that record is at least flipped with Rodgers at quarterback.
The Jets likely beat the Patriots twice with Rodgers instead of Zach Wilson. You also can make a case they would have won in Minnesota with Rodgers instead of Mike White.
If the Jets can go 10-7 or 11-6, you have to assume they are one of the AFC Wild Card teams.
Though anything can happen in the playoffs, I think it is going too far to put the Jets in the upper echelon of the AFC.
They still have holes on their roster along the offensive line, at receiver and at running back as well as on the interior defensive line and at safety on defense.
Here is how I would stack the AFC right now and where the Jets fit in.
Of course, we have to make some assumptions because it is the middle of March and teams are still adding free agents and the draft is still more than a month away.
But based on what we know of these teams and figuring they make some needed improvements, here’s my list:
1. Chiefs: The reigning Super Bowl champs will be on the top of this list until someone proves they can beat Patrick Mahomes regularly.
The Chiefs added along the offensive line this week, and still have a stacked roster that extends beyond Mahomes, with Travis Kelce and Chris Jones leading the way.
2. Bengals: Joe Burrow has turned this laughingstock into a perennial contender. Having amazing weapons such as Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins to throw to helps, as does an underrated defense.
The Bengals usually are not a team to spend big in free agency, but they have shown a good ability to plug holes on their roster with smart contracts in recent years.
3. Bills: Yes, I still don’t think the Jets are the kings of the division with Rodgers. Josh Allen is in his prime, and Buffalo still has talent all over the place.
They seemed to take a step back last season without Brian Daboll calling the plays, but another year with current offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey might help matters.
Leslie Frazier is out as defensive coordinator, but Sean McDermott has his fingerprints all over the defense anyway.
4. Chargers: We keep waiting for this team to make that leap from potentially one of the best teams to actually one of the best teams. It has to happen at some point with Justin Herbert at quarterback and the talented defensive pieces they have.
But they are coming off another blown playoff game, the latest one to Jacksonville, and it remains a question whether they can actually get over the hump and challenge the top three teams.
5. Jets: I may be overrating the Jets, but I really think Rodgers is going to hide so many holes on this team. He’s that kind of quarterback.
A defense built around Quinnen Williams, Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed remains rock-solid.
Garrett Wilson, Elijah Moore and Breece Hall should make major strides on offense with Rodgers.
If they can shore up the offensive line and stay healthy there, watch out.
6. Jaguars: Doug Pederson oversaw a dramatic turnaround in Jacksonville, where the Jaguars should be contenders for a long time with Trevor Lawrence at quarterback.
They gave the Chiefs a tough game in the playoffs, and now have to be considered a team in the top half of the conference.
7. Dolphins: It is tough to know what to predict for the future with Tua Tagovailoa after his concussion issues last season. But the Dolphins picked up his fifth-year option and seem committed to him.
Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle give them a great wide receiver combination, and the defense improved with the hiring of Vic Fangio as coordinator and the trade for cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
8. Ravens: Who knows what will happen with Lamar Jackson? It does not appear any other team is going to try to sign Jackson, who would be playing under the franchise tag if he does not find a new home.
Assuming that Jackson is the Ravens quarterback, something still seems off between the organization and the player. There is also the question of whether he can stay healthy.
You never write off John Harbaugh, but the Ravens seem to have issues that give us pause.
9. Broncos: There is no way this team can be as bad as it was last season.
The hiring of Sean Payton should give the team some direction, and they were aggressive in the early stages of free agency this week, particularly along the offensive line.
Russell Wilson should be motivated after a terrible first year in Denver.
10. Browns: Deshaun Watson looked rusty when he played at the end of last season. The Browns have to hope he can regain his old form in his second season after they invested so heavily in him.
11. Steelers: Kenny Pickett showed flashes last season that he might be able to be the long-term starter.
Mike Tomlin will find a way to keep this team in the playoff hunt.
12. Titans: This feels like a team on the decline. There is talk of trading Derrick Henry, and they took a massive step back last season when they traded A.J. Brown.
It seems as if they are on the verge of a rebuild.
13. Raiders: Derek Carr is out and Jimmy Garoppolo is in. Will it make a difference?
There are issues on the defense that need to be fixed no matter who is at quarterback.
14. Patriots: It feels wrong to have the Patriots this low, but what gives anyone a reason to believe they will be improved this season?
Maybe Bill Belichick can come up with a surprise or two this offseason to improve the roster, but the Patriots are not scaring anyone right now.
15. Colts: They look as if they are finally ready to start over with a rookie quarterback. But will they be picking the third-best one at No. 4?
16. Texans: This rebuild still has a long way to go.
In the end, injuries and the way the schedule falls will dictate a lot of how this goes. But I would not put the Jets lower than ninth on this list with their defense and with Rodgers at quarterback. The Jets finally should be playoff contenders again.
A post-Rodgers shopping list
While all eyes have been on Rodgers this week for the Jets, they do have some other moves they need to make in free agency. Here would be my priorities if I were Joe Douglas after I got the quarterback deal done:
1. Center: Connor McGovern is a free agent, and all indications are the Jets are not bringing him back. They did not land Jake Brendel, who re-signed with the 49ers. Is Graham Glasgow now a target? We’ll see.
2. Wide receiver: Even after adding Allen Lazard, the Jets could use one more threat at wide receiver.
That is where Odell Beckham Jr. enters the conversation.
I think the Beckham decision will be made much later in the offseason. The word is he is asking for too much money right now.
But do the Jets consider it? He could open things up for Lazard and Garrett Wilson.
3. Running back: Breece Hall is coming off ACL surgery. Though the Jets expect him back for the start of the regular season, they need to add at this position. They have Michael Carter, but they could use a big back who can complement those two.
4. Interior defensive line: The Jets would like to bring Sheldon Rankins back, but his asking price may be too high. They need some depth at this position
Garrett Wilson is coming off a monster rookie season that saw him win the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. Now what can he do for an encore? Here is a look at the top receiving seasons by a Jets player in his second season:
1. Don Maynard, 1960: 1,265 yards
2. Al Toon, 1986: 1,176 yards
3. Wesley Walker, 1978: 1,169 yards
4. Art Powell, 1960: 1,167 yards
5. George Sauer, 1966: 1,079 yards
6. Bake Turner, 1963: 1,009 yards
7. Rob Moore, 1991: 987 yards
8. Keyshawn Johnson, 1997: 963 yards
9. Robbie Anderson, 2017: 941 yards
10. Wayne Chrebet, 1996: 909 yards
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