The next 72 hours will be critical for general manager Mike Maccagnan, who has two assets that can help improve the future of the New York Jets — a prime waiver priority (No. 6) and Sheldon Richardson.
What about the present? Well, you know the deal: The Jets are building for 2018 and beyond, so it would be a surprise if they make a “win-now” move of any significance over the next few days. They’re so far down the road to Tanksville that it would be pointless to acquire a short-term asset.
Maccagnan already has made two minor trades this week, and he capitalized on his waiver position by picking up defensive end Kony Ealy after he was cut by the New England Patriots. Six other teams submitted claims for Ealy, who made three sacks for the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50, but the Jets landed him because the priority is based on the 2017 draft order. Ealy isn’t a lock to make the team, but he’ll get a look as a situational pass-rusher.
This will become a trend in the coming days, as Maccagnan will look to churn the roster before (and after) Saturday’s cutdown deadline. The most glaring need is for a veteran wide receiver. Right now, the Jets simply don’t have enough talent to compete. That will hamper the growth of the offense, not to mention the young quarterbacks when they get a chance to play (and they will get a chance). Scanning the league, receivers such as Sammie Coates, Cody Latimer, Harry Douglas and Jarius Wright could be released.
If Maccagnan wants a long-term solution at receiver, he may have to part with Richardson, their only bargaining chip. He might be the most physically gifted player on the team, but he’ll be a free agent after the season and all signs point to him leaving. They can watch him walk next March or try now to get something in return, either a player or draft pick that could help the talent-starved organization after he’s gone. They’d only get a 2019 compensatory pick if he bolts as a free agent.
The Jets have been trying to trade him for nearly a year and they’re still open to it, according to sources. If they’re presented with the right offer — in my opinion, at least a 2018 second-round pick — they should do the deal. If not, they should renew their efforts at the trading deadline at midseason.
Richardson is having an excellent preseason — the New York Giants couldn’t block him — but he still chafes people in the organization with his occasional lapses of immaturity. His recent bashing of former teammate Brandon Marshall didn’t sit well with coach Todd Bowles, who was furious. Richardson is on double, not-so-secret probation. One more outburst, and there will be consequences.
Richardson’s reputation, coupled with his guaranteed salary ($8 million), hurts his trade value. But if the Jets can find a team desperate for defensive line help — paging the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins — a trade might be doable. The Jets have talent and depth on the defensive line, especially if Ealy works out. They could withstand the hit.
These next few days could get crazy. Other than Leonard Williams and some recent high draft picks, there are no untouchables on the roster. Most of them were swept out in the offseason, but any holdover with a big salary (Buster Skrine) or age (Matt Forte and Steve McLendon) or injury issues (Lorenzo Mauldin) could be in trouble. Forte, 31, is on the trading block, the NFL Network reported.
These next few days belong to Maccagnan. Let’s see what he can do.