For all the money they spent in free agency — a record-setting $120 million in guaranteed money — the Jets still have a handful of glaring needs. With a total of just six picks in this month’s draft, including only one in the top 67, there’s no way they can adequately address holes at cornerback, outside linebacker, center … and the list goes on. General manager Mike Maccagnan knows this, and it explains why he’s shopping his most valuable asset — the No. 3 overall pick. He sounds like an auctioneer.
If the Jets can trade down in the first round and accumulate multiple premium draft choices, they will be set up nicely if they hit on the picks. Naturally, it will take a quarterback-needy partner willing to deal. If the opportunity presents itself, the question becomes: Does it pay to move out of the highly coveted third spot?
It took a lot of suffering to land that pick, and the Jets are in prime position to pick one of three blue-chip defenders — Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams or Josh Allen. Each one has star potential, and in case you haven’t noticed, the Jets need stars.
Personally, I would stay put and add an impact player to the front seven, ideally Allen — unless a trade yields a 2020 first-round pick or multiple second-rounders. That would be an offer impossible to refuse.
“If they get a deal to move back — which, if I was running the Jets, would be the best case — they have enough needs, and there’s enough depth in this draft class,” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said. “But, if not, you stay at home and you take a Quinnen Williams or a Bosa or Josh Allen, and you’ve got a real impact player on the defensive side.”
The perfect scenario would be to move down one or two spots and still get one of the three star defenders, but the Oakland Raiders (drafting No. 4 overall) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 5) don’t appear to be motivated to swap. The Jets would blow up the internet if they traded with the New York Giants (No. 6), but it sounds like Big Blue is willing to wait to find their Eli Manning successor.
The Denver Broncos (No. 10), Cincinnati Bengals (No. 11) and Washington Redskins (No. 15) are possibilities because they have varying degrees of need at quarterback. The Redskins, crushed by the Alex Smith injury, could be desperate enough to pay the exorbitant cost it would take to jump up 12 spots. It would be a massive score for the Jets. We’re probably talking about first- and second-round picks this year, plus first- and second-rounders in 2020.
There’s no way the Jets could walk away from that. The Redskins would be nuts to do it, but their insanity would be a boon for the Jets.
If the Jets drop into the middle of the first round, they would be looking at a second-tier edge rusher (Clelin Ferrell or Brian Burns), an offensive lineman (Jonah Williams or Jawaan Taylor) or a cornerback (Greedy Williams). They’re all solid prospects, but they’re not blue-chippers.
It would take some of the sexy out of the Jets’ draft, but look at it this way: They would have at least four picks in the first three rounds, maybe more — at least a first-rounder, a newly-acquired second-rounder, plus the pair of third-rounders they already own. In the second round, they would be able to draft a plug-and-play center, perhaps Erik McCoy or Elgton Jenkins.
“If you want to trade down, this is the year to do it,” an opposing scout said. “There are a bunch of players that will go in the second round, guys who normally would be in the first round.”
Maccagnan’s approach in free agency seemed to be built around the idea that he would be acquiring extra draft picks. Instead of bidding for the top centers, either Mitch Morse or Matt Paradis, he settled for Jonotthan Harrison, who re-signed for two years, $5 million. Instead of signing a starting-caliber corner, he re-signed utility man Darryl Roberts for three years, $18 million. Maccagnan also went cheap at nickelback, adding Brian Poole for one year, $3.5 million.
Maccagnan was willing to spend lavishly on an outside linebacker, but Anthony Barr reneged on an agreement that would have paid him close to $15 million per year. The Jets responded by re-signing Brandon Copeland for one year, $1.75 million.
Detect a trend?
Maccagnan used the Band-Aid approach, knowing he has an ace up his sleeve. Problem is, he has to find another quarterback-needy GM — just like he was himself a year ago. It’ll be tougher this year because the quarterback crop isn’t nearly as highly regarded as Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield & Co. If the Jets find a taker, there’s no guarantee it will yield a star player. There are several examples in recent years of teams that traded out of the top 10 only to wind up with a haul of pedestrian players and no difference-makers.
Quantity over quality isn’t fool-proof.