NEW YORK — Aaron Rodgers and Allen Lazard played the previous five seasons together in Green Bay.
Now it appears the dynamic quarterback-wide receiver duo will suit up again for the Jets.
Lazard officially signed a four-year contract worth $44 million — including $22 million guaranteed — on Friday. Earlier this week, Rodgers announced his “intentions” to play for the Jets and the two sides continue to discuss a trade.
The Jets haven’t made the playoffs since 2010, but they’re hoping to change that with the addition of Lazard, along with Rodgers if the Jets can get that deal across the finish line. During his first interview with the Jets media, Lazard said if the Jets land Rodgers that automatically changes expectations within the organization.
“I think with Aaron Rodgers as quarterback the possibility to win is always a thing,” Lazard said Friday. “With that being said, it is really the Super Bowl, especially the point in his career and his ability. Four-time MVP winner, won back-to-back MVPs, two, three years ago. His caliber of play automatically elevates everybody’s potential and abilities on the field immediately.
“We have high expectations, I have high expectations coming from the Green Bay Packers organization obviously, they’ve been successful in their history. We are going to carry that same expectation here as well.”
The Jaguars signed Lazard as an undrafted free agent coming out of Iowa State in 2018. The Packers then nabbed him off Jacksonville’s practice squad and signed him to their 53-man roster.
In total, Lazard spent more than four-plus seasons with the Packers. His numbers increased every year he played with Rodgers. Last season, Lazard had his best numbers as he recorded 60 receptions for 788 yards and six touchdowns. This followed a season in which Lazard had 40 catches for 513 yards and eight touchdowns in 2021.
Lazard is also an excellent downfield blocker.
But the Packers finished 8-9 last year and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2018. This followed three consecutive playoff trips, including twice playing in the NFC Championship.
Lazard maintains he has a special relationship with Rodgers and says the two have kept in contact this offseason as they work out at the same gym in Los Angeles. But Lazard says that was not the reason why he signed with the Jets as he was looking to play in a major city after growing up in the Midwest.
“During my time with Aaron in Green Bay, he really put his arm around me,” Lazard said. “He is a big reason why I’m here today. I can’t deny that he stood up on a table for me during training came when I probably didn’t deserve to make the roster, at least in the front office’s eyes.
“He called for me to be in the game and he has relied on me in heavy-pressure situations and has always believed in me. As a wide receiver, the best relationship you can have is with the quarterback and the relationship I’ve had with him has been phenomenal.
“Obviously, there’s been inclination that he’s coming here, but after the last game in the locker room, I mentioned how I have to worry about myself and take care of what’s best for me as I can’t worry about other people. Me and my decision about coming here was purely based off of that and doing what’s best for my career.”
One primary reason Lazard did sign with the Jets was Nathaniel Hackett, who became the team’s offensive coordinator in January after being fired as the Broncos coach in December. Hackett was Lazard’s offensive coordinator during his one season in Jacksonville. The two also were together in Green Bay from 2019 to 2021 before Hackett left to become the Denver coach.
On Thursday night, Lazard hinted he and Hackett were at dinner together with a GIF saying, “Hey, look at us, who would have thought, not me.”
“Fun, easy, he’s the best teacher I’ve ever had in my life,” Lazard said about Hackett. “And that goes for school, to football, he just makes learning fun. That’s the biggest thing when it comes to NFL, offense and defense because it is so complicated with so many rules and so many things you have to improv in real life that you need to be able to be fluent in that language.
“I think he does a great job of teaching that. Makes it really easy and he allows you to go out there and play fast and not think. Because of that is the reason why I had a lot of success the last few years.”
Lazard will join a Jets receiver corps that has some immense potential. Garrett Wilson was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year after catching 83 passes for 1,103 yards and four touchdowns.
They also have Elijah Moore, who had a disappointing 2022 season. He caught 37 receptions for 446 yards and one touchdown and was unhappy with the quarterback situation and his role in previous offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur’s scheme. Also, tight ends Tyler Conklin and C. J. Uzomah proved valuable options in the Gang Green’s offense.
With running back Breece Hall expected to return from his ACL injury, the Jets offense will undoubtedly improve from last year when they finished 25th in total offense and 29th in points per game.
“Explosive,” Lazard said about the Jets’ receiving corps. “I think it has big potential. I don’t like the word potential just because it means a lot of intangible things.
“Obviously, Garrett is a phenomenal player within himself and the rest of the guys in the room have a high ceiling themselves. So I’m excited to get in there and get to know them personally, get on the field and work with them and be able to create that bond when we are out there.”