The New York Jets ensured themselves of getting one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL draft. But it cost them plenty.
After a free agent flurry in which they added Teddy Bridgewater and re-signed Josh McCown but missed out on Kirk Cousins, the Jets made a major trade Saturday to move up three spots in the NFL draft order by landing the No. 3 overall pick from the Indianapolis Colts. The deal costs the Jets, in addition to the No. 6 overall choice, a trio of second-round selections, including two this year and one next year.
The Jets, at worst, will get their third choice from among a highly regarded group of quarterbacks in this draft that includes Southern California’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Wyoming’s Josh Allen and Oklahoma’s polarizing Heisman Trophy winner, Baker Mayfield. It’s possible, although seemingly unlikely, that they could have been shut out if they’d stayed put at No. 6.
There are plenty of implications from the trade for the Jets, for the Colts, for the draft itself and for the other teams lining up to select quarterbacks on draft night, particularly the Buffalo Bills.
The Jets followed the first rule of NFL roster construction: If you don’t have a franchise quarterback, you do whatever it takes to try to get one.
It’s clear that they wanted Cousins, the three-time 4,000-yard passer for the Washington Redskins who signed a guaranteed three-year, $84 million deal Thursday with the Minnesota Vikings. Cousins was said not to have accepted the richest contract offer that he received, and some within the sport believe it was the Jets who made him the more lucrative proposal.
The Jets’ fallback plan in free agency was to add Bridgewater, the former Minnesota starter who returned last season from his devastating leg injury but could not reclaim the Vikings’ starting job from Case Keenum, to a one-year deal worth about $5 million (plus another $10 million in possible incentives) and to bring back McCown, last season’s veteran starter, on a one-year, $10 million deal.
But McCown is no franchise quarterback. Bridgewater was a promising player before his injury, but there’s no way of knowing whether he’ll return to being a reliable starter. So the Jets clearly were not done. They couldn’t afford to be done. Giving up three second-rounders is a hefty price to pay for moving up three spots in the draft. But General Manager Mike Maccagnan and Coach Todd Bowles won’t care a bit if they get the right quarterback and it all works out. Neither should anyone else. For the Jets, it will take time to judge the trade.
The deal is more easily judged right now from the Colts’ perspective: It’s a good trade for them. They weren’t in the market for a quarterback on draft night, as they continue to keep their fingers crossed about Andrew Luck making a successful return after he missed all of last season following shoulder surgery. The Colts will get a promising player at another position at No. 6. They emerge with three second-rounders to add three more potential starters. General Manager Chris Ballard continues to show a steady hand after recovering quickly from the Josh McDaniels fiasco during the team’s head coaching search to hire Frank Reich.
The top of the draft becomes even more intriguing and even more quarterback-centric now.
The teams in possession of the draft’s top five picks now are potential quarterback-takers, although that involves only four quarterbacks since the Cleveland Browns have the first and fourth selections.
What will the Browns do at No. 1? They traded for Tyrod Taylor, and Coach Hue Jackson already has named Taylor the team’s Week 1 starter. The Taylor trade clearly should not keep the Browns from drafting a would-be franchise quarterback. But they could take running back Saquon Barkley at No. 1 and still know that they would get one of the top quarterbacks at No. 4.
The New York Giants pick second and might add a successor-in-waiting to Eli Manning. The Denver Broncos, with the No. 5 choice, just signed Keenum as a free agent but might not be done re-fortifying the position.
All of that could be problematic for the Bills, who traded Taylor to the Browns and signed AJ McCarron in free agency. The Taylor trade left the Bills with five of the first 65 picks in this draft. They have the draft’s 12th and 22nd overall selections. They have plenty to give if they want to trade up for the Giants’ pick or one of the Browns’ top-four choices. And it would take plenty, judging by what the Jets just surrendered to move up only three spots.
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