FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:
1. QB options: With Carson Wentz reportedly on his way to the Indianapolis Colts in the latest blockbuster quarterback trade, the spotlight shifts to the Jets and Sam Darnold. Do they join the carousel by dealing Darnold or do they give him one more chance?
The clock is ticking. If the Jets don’t make a decision by the start of NFL free agency (March 17), they risk losing Darnold’s market. It’s a tough call because it’s not simply Darnold versus drafting a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick; another consideration is the amount of draft capital they would receive in different scenarios related to trading/keeping Darnold.
Let’s have some fun and project how the draft might play out in each situation (not necessarily in the order of likelihood):
Scenario 1: Trade Darnold, draft a quarterback. Publicly, the Jets haven’t committed to Darnold. Taken at face value, it means they’re looking for an upgrade — as they should. If they deal their onetime quarterback of the future, it means they’re sold on a quarterback in the draft. Our hunch is that it’s BYU’s Zach Wilson, assuming Trevor Lawrence goes No. 1 to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
There are some who believe the Jets could get more for Darnold than what the Philadelphia Eagles received for Wentz — a 2021 third-rounder and a 2022 conditional second-round pick that can rise to a first-rounder based on playing time. Wentz was an MVP candidate in 2017, but he also has baggage — a big contract, an injury history and questions about his coachability. As one league source said, “Darnold is cheap. He has two years left [on his contract, including the fifth-year option]. Great kid, poor team.”
In our projection, the Jets trade Darnold to the Washington Football Team for a swap of first-round picks (Nos. 19 and 23), a 2021 second-round pick (No. 51) and a 2022 third-rounder. The one caveat is Deshaun Watson. If the Houston Texans decide to trade their star, the Jets must be prepared to pivot quickly. Removing Watson from the equation, the Jets could walk away with these picks and prospects (see scenario 1 chart).
Scenario 2: Keep Darnold, draft best player available. The Jets reportedly have fielded trade inquiries on Darnold from a handful of teams.
A source from one of those teams came away with the impression Darnold won’t be dealt. If that’s the case, the Jets can use their draft capital to build around him. If they opt for the status quo — risky, considering Darnold’s underwhelming body of work — their prospect haul could look like this (see scenario 2 chart):
Scenario 3: Keep Darnold, trade down. The Jets could make a killing if a quarterback-needy team below them wants to swap picks.
The Atlanta Falcons (No. 4), Philadelphia Eagles (No. 6) and Carolina Panthers (No. 8) are the most likely suitors. It’s a rather steep drop, but let’s project a trade with the Panthers, who seem particularly fired up for a new quarterback. In our scenario, the Jets would get the Panthers’ second-round pick (No. 39) and a 2022 first-rounder, giving them three first-round picks in 2022.
Even if the Jets have reservations about Darnold, their feelings could be assuaged by the size of the draft haul. If they need to draft his replacement in 2022, they’d have those three first-rounders to make it happen. That’s what you call quarterback insurance.
In the meantime, they could draft six players in the first three rounds (see scenario 3 chart):
2. Maye tag? If the Jets are serious about retaining safety Marcus Maye — they are — it makes sense to use the franchise tag if the two sides can’t reach a new deal. The tag amounts won’t be set until the salary cap is finalized, but the projection for the safety position is $11.2 million, according to Over The Cap. That’s not an outrageous number, considering he is expected to exceed that amount in guaranteed money on a long-term contract.
The franchise tag window is Feb. 23 to March 9.
3. Boss homecoming: Jets chairman and CEO Woody Johnson visited the team facility Wednesday, his first trip to One Jets Drive since returning from his ambassadorship in the United Kingdom. He took the time to stop by each department, meeting with coaches, personnel staffers, folks in business, etc. There’s been a lot of turnover since he was last in charge, June 2017. That’s when he passed the baton to younger brother Christopher Johnson, who joined him on Wednesday’s impromptu stroll through the building.
Woody hasn’t talked publicly since resuming his role, but he has been tweeting:
Great to be back. pic.twitter.com/JRG7sMQ9RQ
— Woody Johnson (@woodyjohnson4) February 17, 2021
4. Mosley in the house: Linebacker C.J. Mosley, who opted out of the 2020 season because of COVID-19 concerns, stopped by the facility a few days ago. (He posted a picture on his Instagram story.) Mosley has been gone for so long that folks might be wondering if the Jets are contractually locked into him for 2021. The answer is yes.
They can’t cut him because they would get hit with a $20 million “dead” charge and they can’t trade him because he is still owed $14 million in guarantees over the next two seasons. Mosley, who turns 29 in June, hasn’t played a complete game since 2018. For now, he projects as the middle linebacker in coach Robert Saleh’s 4-3 defense.
5. Big Ben vs. small spenders: How’s this for a mind-boggling salary-cap comparison?
The cap charge for the Jets’ entire defense is $46.6 million, according to Over The Cap. The Pittsburgh Steelers‘ charge for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is $41.3 million.
Actually, the Jets will fall below Big Ben’s number if they release defensive lineman Henry Anderson ($8.2 million savings). Roethlisberger, too, seems to be on thin ice.
Ryan Clark explains why he could see the Jets drafting Zach Wilson with the No. 2 pick as he compares the BYU QB to Patrick Mahomes.
6. Captain Wilson: In a recent tweet, I said Wilson wasn’t a captain last season at BYU. He was. Allow me to explain.
The tweet was based on a Sept. 4 press release by BYU, which announced eight captains (voted by players) for the 2020 season. Wilson wasn’t among the eight. Shortly thereafter, he was named a captain and served in that role for the remainder of the season. (There was no announcement, but he wore the “C” on his jersey.)
According to a BYU official, he replaced tight end Matt Bushman, an elected captain who suffered a season-ending injury before the first game. So, yes, I deserve a penalty flag. No, I won’t be reporting on the number of people who showed up at his most recent birthday party.
7. Hogan re-laxes: Former Jets wide receiver Chris Hogan, 33, who announced last week he’s entering the Premier Lacrosse League entry draft, isn’t giving up his NFL career, according to business partners Tom Ottaiano and Joe Sanfilippo. But for now, Hogan’s focus is pro lacrosse. He has been talking about this move for 10 years, said Ottaiano, a close friend who played football with Hogan at Monmouth University and had an unsuccessful tryout with the Jets in 2011. It should be fun to see how Hogan, a former lacrosse star at Penn State, makes the transition.
“Not many people can say they’re two-sport professional athletes,” Ottaiano said. “It’s a short list.”