New York Jets deal their way into franchise-changing game of ’21’


FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:

1. Card shark: Joe Douglas wants to build through the draft. Every general manager says that. When was the last time you heard a GM say, “I don’t care about draft picks. I want to spend a ton of my owner’s money on free agents so we can be in salary-cap hell”?

In Douglas’ case, it’s not lip service.

Because of the Sam Darnold and Jamal Adams trades, he’s sitting on a war chest of draft picks. The Jets have 21 picks in 2021 and 2022; the last time they made that many selections in back-to-back drafts was 1997 and 1998, Bill Parcells’ first two years in charge.

Those 21 choices include seven in Rounds 1 and 2. If the Jets use all those picks, it would be the most in the first two rounds over a two-year period in franchise history. The best comparison is 2000-01, when they made six picks — including four first-rounders in the watershed 2000 draft.

From a leaguewide perspective, this sort of thing doesn’t happen often. In 2018 and 2019, the Indianapolis Colts made eight picks in the first and second rounds — thanks to the Jets, ironically.

The Cleveland Browns also hit the eight mark in 2017 and 2018. Prior to them, you have to go back to the New England Patriots (2010-11) to find a team that reached seven.

All three teams wound up drafting generational-type players — guard Quenton Nelson (Colts), defensive end Myles Garrett (Browns) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (Patriots).

Douglas has no excuses. Whether you liked the trades or not, he set himself up to re-stock the Jets roster with talent. It also affords him tremendous flexibility. If a high-profile player hits the trading block, which is happening with greater frequency, the Jets will have the draft capital to make a deal. Prepare for rumors galore over the next 12 months.

“Ultimately, with the premium picks — your first-, second-, third-round picks — those are the picks you’re looking to become starters on your team,” Douglas said. ” … We do have a lot of assets as we sit here now, but we have to make the most of this opportunity.”

2. Turning three into eight: Douglas knew this was going to be a tough job, which explains why he insisted on a six-year contract. After the Darnold trade, he hinted it’s tougher than he imagined.

“When I walked in this building in June of 2019,” he said, “I never thought we’d be sitting here and talking about … trading Leonard [Williams], trading Jamal. I know Darron Lee was traded before I even took this job. Now, Sam.”

Think about it: Douglas already has traded three former first-round picks, all of whom were drafted by his predecessor. Not just any former first-round picks, but the No. 6 (Williams, 2015), No. 6 (Adams, 2017) and No. 3 (Darnold, 2018) overall picks in their respective drafts. They were 25, 24 and 23 years old, respectively, at the time of the trades.

Mind boggling.

To different degrees, economics played a role in all three decisions. Douglas opted for draft capital instead of investing big money on extensions. He parlayed those three players into eight picks. Using the trade value chart as a guide, and projecting 2022 draft position based on 2020 records, the point total is 2,551. A typical draft for a middle-of-the-pack team is 1,700 points.

So Douglas traded Williams, Adams and Darnold for what amounts to a full draft, and then some.

3. From Darnold’s inner circle: Darnold has yet to comment on his trade to the Carolina Panthers. His camp, no doubt frustrated by months of pre-trade uncertainty, has been quiet the entire offseason … until now.

Jaime Ortiz, who has remained close with Darnold after coaching him at San Clemente (California) High, said in a text message to ESPN:

“[The trade] is a good move for both the Jets’ franchise and for Sam personally. Both get a clean break and a fresh start. I just hope, with all of the draft picks, the Jets can finally surround a young QB such as [Zach] Wilson or [Justin] Fields with the talent needed to be successful in the NFL.”

It’s not hard to read between the lines.

4. Draft trivia: Can you name the last quarterback drafted by the Jets to make the Pro Bowl? Answer below.

5. Bonus money: Linebacker Tarell Basham, who signed recently with the Dallas Cowboys, scored the Jets’ biggest performance-based bonus for 2020 — $446,879. The other top bonuses went to linebackers Harvey Langi ($375,561) and Neville Hewitt ($337,838), tight end Chris Herndon ($337,623) and cornerback Bless Austin ($337,018). The biggest head-scratcher? Linebacker Patrick Onwuasor got $2,052, and all he did was play eight snaps on special teams.

Performance-based pay is a collectively bargained benefit that compensates all players, including rookies, based upon their playing time and salary levels. It has no affect on the salary cap. The league released the figures this week.

6. Dueling oh-fers: In the market for a veteran quarterback, the Jets hosted Brian Hoyer on a free-agent visit. If they sign him, it would be a marriage of two dubious streaks.

Hoyer, predominantly a backup throughout his 12-year career, has lost 17 straight starts, dating to 2016. The Jets have dropped 15 straight with their backup quarterback in a starting role, also dating to 2016.

From an intangibles standpoint, Hoyer would be a terrific mentor for Wilson, the presumptive pick by the Jets at No. 2 overall in the 2021 NFL draft (April 29-May 1 in Cleveland, on ESPN and ESPN the App), but the QB2 job for this team should be capable of winning games. Alex Smith, Teddy Bridgewater and Gardner Minshew II would be better options than Hoyer.

7. No Joshing: A week ago in this space, former Jets quarterback Josh McCown said his hope was Darnold would get a chance to redeem himself under the new coaching staff. We know that’s not going to happen. At the same time, McCown proclaimed himself a Wilson fan.

“I don’t think it’s a bad pick,” McCown said. “I think he has a higher ceiling and a better upside than Trevor Lawrence, personally. I like him a little better.”

8. What happened against Vegas ..: When the Jets lost to the Las Vegas Raiders on Gregg Williams’ infamous “Cover 0 blitz,” dropping them to 0-12, a lot of pro-tank fans were ready to immortalize Williams for keeping them ahead in the Lawrence sweepstakes. As it turned out, the outcome had no bearing on draft position. But it sure made for interesting conversation in the moment.

9. Trivia answer: It was Ken O’Brien. A first-round pick in 1983, famously ahead of Dan Marino, O’Brien was selected to the Pro Bowl once (1985). He’s one of the underrated players in Jets history. He’s second on the franchise’s all-time passing list, behind Joe Namath. Boomer Esiason (1993), Vinny Testaverde (1998) and Brett Favre (2008) each made the Pro Bowl, but they weren’t drafted by the Jets.

10. The last word: “His development was not correct by the Jets. He didn’t have the best supporting cast around him and the best coaching to get him to his full potential.” — former Jets and current Panthers wide receiver Robby Anderson on Darnold (via NFL Network).

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