- Trevor Lawerence
Pro Comparison: Andrew Luck
Let’s be real, there was a minimal amount of tape needed for me to feel comfortable in slotting Lawerence in here. He’s a near-perfect prospect. Great mental processing of the game, a superb arm, perfect size, and sneaky good athleticism. Lawerence matches all of this up by being a mature and grounded athlete as well. He’s dedicated to the game, and I don’t buy the debate he’s not devoted to this. I think Lawerence is going to embrace the media and embrace the almost “villain” role he had in college. I think back to the LSU game when fans were taunting him, and he just smiled. His confidence is off the charts, for better or for worse. Lawerence has bust potential, and landing in Jacksonville with a situation I don’t personally love isn’t ideal. I think he and Luck are similar in their rise, their mental game, and even their landing spot. The Jags need to surround Lawerence with talent and protection. If they can, then he will blossom into all he can be, and what Luck could have been had he played past 29. If he doesn’t have protection and ends up in a similar situation to Luck, then maybe those whispers about his questionable love for the game grow a little louder.2. Zach Wilson
Pro Comparison: Baker Mayfield
I truly don’t believe the gap between Lawerence and Wilson is as big as you think. I think where Wilson is hungry and has fought to get to this point, there is a risk of complacency with Trevor. That edge and that hunger is the first big allure with Wilson. He has a true fire for the game of football, and he’s willing to do it all to get his team down the field. From hurdling defenders to launching bombs, Wilson is not afraid to take risks. He has arguably the best touch on the ball in the draft, and his off-platform throws are on a Patrick Mahomes level. Size is a concern for some, not for me. The biggest fear for me in regards to Wilson is similar to Joe Burrow last year. The jump in performance can be attributed, in my opinion, to true growth from working with John Beck. I have concerns about how he will handle the NFL game without an elite offensive line, but presumably, the Jets will try to set him up best as possible. I went with Baker Mayfield on the comparison. He’s got raw talent, an edge, similar stature, and he’s a legitimate leader. I would even argue Wilson has the potential to surpass Baker and become a superstar in this league.
3. Trey Lance
Pro Comparison: Cam Newton
I have become more and more enamored with Lance as this process has went on. I spoke to his quarterback coach a few weeks ago, and he spoke incredibly highly of Lance, but none of it was on the field. Lance has blown everyone I’ve talked to away in his pre-draft interviews. They’ve been just as intrigued with the person he is as they are with the player he is. He’s incredibly mature and an excellent leader. He played that lone game of the season, yes to get film, but also to ensure his teammates received their scholarship money. He’s someone who has the mental processing and leadership to be an elite-level quarterback. On the field, he’s an underrated runner, he has a very good deep ball, and he’s got the build to be a more durable player than Fields and maybe even Wilson. My concerns with Lance stem more from a lack of reps. What I’ve seen is good, but he hasn’t displayed enough as a thrower to lock him in as a top-level talent. He has the intuition and the maturity to succeed, he has the athleticism, and if he can progress as a thrower, he will be the total package. This is a comp I’ve not seen as prominently for Lance as expected. Newton is a runner who has a good arm but not a great one. The potential with Lance’s arm is greater, but there is a lot of Newton in the way Lance plays. My last thing about Lance is that I hope he lands in San Francisco. The chance to sit behind Garoppolo will give him a year to work for hands-on with Mike McDaniel and hopefully be ready to take the reins the following year.
4. Justin Fields
Pro Comparison: Deshaun Watson (Ceiling)/ Robert Griffin III (Floor)
It’s ironic how the guy who some viewed with the safest ceiling is now the guy I’d grade out with the lowest floor. I want to preface this by saying there is a route where we look back on this, and Fields ends up as the best or second-best from this class. People forget, but a few years ago, Deshaun Watson was slept on due to coming out of Clemson and factors related to that. The difference in my opinion with Fields is that although he has all the physical tools in the world, his processing of the game needs to develop. Lance, Wilson, and Lawerence all have demonstrated the ability to adapt to more advanced defenses and higher-level competition overall, but with Fields, when his reads are not there, he struggles to adapt. Now, in the right system that can either make his life easy as Ohio State did or teach him how to handle more complex coverages, Fields can grow into a star. His toughness, durability, and as I previously noted athleticism, is superb. His mechanics with his deep ball throws remind me of Kyler Murray and his shortstop-like throws, but the way he lunges his body into longer throws could leave himself vulnerable to injuries. Fields still has a very high ceiling, but his floor is more resembling of Robert Griffin. It’s all or nothing with Fields, it just depends on the fit.
5. Mac Jones
Pro Comparison: Chad Pennington: I have never been in the Mac Jones camp but not based on talent. Jones has great touch with the ball, is arguably the most comfortable and traditional pocket passer in the class, and has sneaky athleticism. He also obviously is well-liked, but Jones fails to resonate with me as a legitimate leader. There are issues off the field with his history of driving intoxicated and other actions that are moderately inappropriate. Jones has the potential to be a franchise guy, just like the other four guys, but it’s less about fit for Jones and more about the talent around him. If Jones were to land in a spot like Denver where he had guys like Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler, Courtland Sutton, and Noah Fant, he would be well equipped for success. Ultimately, Jones is going to need tools around him to elevate him, but most of all, he needs a support system to keep him on the right track. Pennington and Jones are similar passers and have very similar play styles as a whole, which made the comparison very easy to make.
6. Kellen Mond
Pro Comparison: Colin Kapernick
I think Kellen Mond is very underrated. He does a lot of things well. There is nothing that immediately sticks out to you as his breakaway trait, which is the reason he is at 6. However, he has great potential as a backup, and if he can develop properly, there is a lot of potential to build off of. I think Mond has a hose for an arm as well, which is very underrated. Mond and Kapernick have similar builds and similar skill sets. If Mond lands in a spot where he can learn from a veteran and perfect his craft, there is legitimate upside to him as a prospect.
Firmly established in their roles with the New York Jets, Robert Saleh and Joe Douglas addressed the offseason ahead.
With their traditional media meetings at the NFL Scouting Combine kiboshed by the ongoing health crisis, Robert Saleh and Joe Douglas, the respective head coach and general manager of the New York Jets took to Zoom on Wednesday to discuss the team’s upcoming offseason. The activities officially got underway with the release of three-year defender Henry Anderson on Tuesday night.
ESM highlights X quotes from Douglas and Saleh, and ponders their meaning, as the teandem’s fateful first offseason together looms large on metropolian calendars…
(Quotes via notes provided by the Jets)
“In terms of Marcus, we have had productive conversations with his representatives. Similar to the last question I answered, our stance on Marcus hasn’t changed as well. Marcus is a valuable member of this organization, someone that started his career here, who’s been a pro’s pro. Smart. He’s been reliable and he’s provided outstanding leadership. Our plan hasn’t changed. We are in the process of working to have Marcus be here long term.”-Douglas on Marcus Maye
What It Could Mean: The release of Anderson attracted the attention of Erik Burkhardt, the co-head of Select Sports Group, LLC and agent to Marcus Maye, by far the Jets’ most prized free agent this offseason. When ESPN’s Field Yates noted the Jets’ $8 million expansion (through Anderson’s release) to their already-healthy cap space situation allowed them “the resources to try and acquire..(a)ny player available”, Burkhardt brought up the Jamal Adams saga and strongly hinted that Maye would follow in his fellow safety’s footsteps.
Douglas’ quote, however, should put Jets fans at ease, at least those who wish to see Maye re-don New York green next season. He further addressed Burkhardt’s comments, passing them off as “business”. With Maye a prime target for the franchise tag, the capital earned through Anderson’s release could pay off a majority of the one-year such a disgnation would offer him (circa $10-11 million).
“With regards to the roster, the one thing that’s very, very clear is the character of the individuals that put uniforms on for this Jets organization, they’re fantastic. They’re made of the right stuff. They’ve got the right mindset, they’re good young men who strive to get better. Obviously with every situation, when you study the roster and you try to make things fit with regards to what you do schematically, there’s always discussions to be had. Those are the things that we’ve been working on over the last month and we’ll continue to work on all the way up until the draft.”-Saleh on the current Jets roster
What It Could Mean: It feels like Anderson won’t be the first veteran to go, as the Jets have several other cap casualties that could find new homes fairly soon. Particularly intriguing is the case of Jamison Crowder, the team’s most consistent offensive weapon over the last two season, who would save over $10 million upon his removal. Beyond Maye, 25 other players are up for free agency, and there’s probably not a tight cause to keep any of them.
But Saleh’s words after roster analysis seem to indicate that he likes what he sees from the roster, particularly the younger pieces. Plenty of Adam Gase’s former proteges (including Ryan Tannehill and Kenyan Drake) have gone on to enjoy breakouts elsewhere. Saleh’s quote indicates that perhaps he’s not interested in a complete fire sale, but rather sees the talent that Gase left behind as clay ready for the molding.
“I feel like we’re well positioned. I feel like this isn’t going to hurt us in terms of free agents. Like I said, I feel like our evaluations, especially with the coaching staff, that’s been the main thing that we’ve been focusing on. For the remainder of this week, we’re going to be on the phone with the agents of our own current players that are hitting for agency. I really don’t feel like that’s going to affect our free agent plans or player free agent plans as it pertains to us.”-Douglas on how the Sam Darnold rumors affect the rest of the team moving forward
What It Could Mean: The only certainty of the Jets’ current quarterback quandary is that it will be over by April 29, opening day of the NFL Draft. While many have clamored for Douglas to settle the passing situation as soon as possible, Douglas indicated at several times that he is in no rush to settle the situation. One in favor of haste could argue that potential free agents would be scared away by the uncertainty under center, but Doglas appears willing to let the evaluation process, both on the free agency and draft fronts, play out. All in all, Douglas was relatively bureaucratic when it came to the Darnold conversation on Wednesday, praising his talents and contributions to the team thus far while re-confirming that he would indeed accept calls about his availability.
“There’s always comfort and familiarity. It’s almost human nature to gravitate to people you’ve worked with and people you’ve been around, but there’s still a process at which you go to. There’s a fit, there’s a value. There are all those different things, a lot of moving parts that go into it. While yeah, it’d be great, it’s not the main determining factor on whether or not we can get those people into the building, those players.”-Saleh on if he’ll target former 49ers in free agency
What It Could Mean: Don’t expect a San Francisco rebranding.
Countless offseason previews have situated former 49ers into the 2021 Jets’ roster. A popular choice has been Richard Sherman, who has been vocaly supportive of Saleh’s hire and has credited him with helping him refind his game in San Francisco. But with their cap space surplus, the Jets can’t afford to spend all that money in a single source. If they can bring some of Saleh’s former pupils over, it’s obvious they won’t complain, but they’re not just going try to assembles a San Francisco-style Avengers and call it a day.
“Joe’s made it very clear that he wants collaborative communication. He wants us to be all in this together, scouts, coaching staff, everybody within the organization speaking the same language and having a great amount of communication with regards to everything that happens in this building. Free agency and the meetings that we had, he alluded to it earlier were unbelievable. Got a lot accomplished over the course of that week. We’re going to continue to do that. There’s the old saying, “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I think Joe believes that, and he’s been practicing and preaching that since the day we walked into this building.”-Saleh
“I would say both Woody and Christopher, they want to win. They want to create the best culture and support system for that to happen. They’ve both been very supportive of the processes that we’ve had in place and continue to have moving forward. It’s been great having Woody back. I feel like the communication has been outstanding. The number one thing is that they both want to win.”-Douglas
What It Could Mean: In this instance, Douglas and Saleh each gave a look at what the communication has been like in the post-Gase era, one defined by endless rumors of in-fighting and power struggles. Eager to move on, the Jets have created a collaborative workspace, one where Woody Johnson, back on the right side of the Atlantic Ocean, has seamlessly reconfigured (all while delighting fans with his new found prowess for being a Twitter historian). Christopher Johnson said several years back that he would not be up for hiring a coach that demanded “total control” but Saleh sounds satifised with his role in the current organization.
“We’re better positioned than we were this time last year. I would say that our philosophy and stance has not changed however. I think our goal and our plan is to be, like I said earlier, a team that really builds this through the draft and hitting on draft picks, obviously using free agency to supplement our roster. If the opportunity and the value meet, that’s going to be the point where we’re going to be aggressive and get someone that we feel good about, helping this team not only on the field, but with the culture and inside the building. While we are positioned better, I think our philosophy has stayed the same.”-Douglas on the draft
What It Could Mean: Every armchair/desk chair/beanbag chair general managers in the tri-state area has the Jets sharing some of their expanded draft capital, almost always in an attempt to land Deshaun Watson or Russell Wilson. But the general manager of the Jets doesn’t sound quiet ready to part with his picks just yet. Sure, it wouldn’t be shocking in the slightest to see the Jets make a deal, and any potential Watson/Wilson offering would more than likely include either the second overall choice or the pick obtained in the Adams trade from Seattle. But Douglas’ words indicate that he won’t be as trigger happy as Jets fans may expect him to be.
“We’re going to get better. We’re going to win championships here. To give you a timeline, I wish I knew, I’d go to Vegas. But we’re excited about the opportunity that we have in front of us. We’re excited about what Joe and his staff have been able to accomplish since they’ve gotten here. Now it’s just a matter of being able to piece the whole thing together and have fun doing it.”-Saleh on 2021 expectations
What It Could Mean: It’s not exactly Joe Namath’s guarantee, but Saleh’s promises of championships…with an s…should be enough to make any Jets fan run through a brick wall. But, as he iterated in his opening statements…patience will be the key.
One way or another, the 2021 offseason is going to be one to remember, for better or worse. It’s a year where the decade truly begins for the Jets. But Saleh, while hopeful, is realistic. There’s a major chance to take a step forward, but the time to judge will come September. For now, it’s time to get to work and for the fans to enjoy the ride…the football gods know they’ve paid the token.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags
After a breakout season in the midst of a brutal year for the New York Jets, Quinnen Williams wants to stick around for the long haul.
Armchair general managers of the New York Jets have routinely shipped off Quinnen Williams in hypothetical trades that often end with Deshaun Watson…or, after Thursday, Russell Wilson…wearing green (or, at least in Wilson’s case, a different shade of it).
But Williams made it clear this week that he would be the first to veto such a trade.
Appearing on The Zach Gelb Show on CBS Sports Radio, Williams expressed his wishes to keep wearing a Jets helmet after his breakout sophomore season.
“I’d be disappointed…I really want to be a Jet for life. I like New York, and I want to play in New York,” Williams told Gelb. He referred to Watson as an elite quarterback but reiterated his desire to play in Robert Saleh’s defense. Williams was one of the first players to praise the hire of Williams, joining his former San Francisco pupil Richard Sherman. The Jets’ top pick in the 2019 draft (third overall) understands a potential trade is a business decision out of his hands. But the praise for Saleh continued on Gelb’s program.
“I just handle what I can handle, just control what I can control. Just go out and work hard as I can for any team that I’m on. Hopefully, it’s the Jets so I can play with Coach (Robert) Saleh, but any team I’m on, I just work my hardest so that when that comes around I can be the best player I can be.”
“To get the chance to see that scheme and that front four and just the different things Coach Saleh brought to that defense, I can’t wait to get around him and pick his brain and get him to bring that to the New York Jets,” he continued. “You can tell he brings passion to the game, passion to where he’s coaching, just passion…You have to bring passion, you got to bring love and dedication to your job. So you could see he brings all of that into coaching.”
This isn’t the first time Williams has found himself in the middle of speculation. His name was previously the subject of rumors during the 2019 trade deadline, but the Jets opted to stand pat. Their patience paid off. In the midst of a brutal 2-14 season, Williams established himself as one of the top interior defensive linemen in football. He led the Jets with seven sacks and ten tackles for a loss.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson will be on the move this offseason, but not to the New York Giants. The team is priced out of a deal for him thanks to the high demands of the Texans. And while those demands seem to be a rumor so far, there’s no way the Giants can make a deal happen if they’re true.
The Rams-Lions trade will have nothing to do with a Watson trade if the Texans do it. They'll want 2 ones, 2 twos and 2 young defensive starters, at the least. Watson, 25, under contract, great QB, team leader, beloved by fans, pillar of the community. Start with the Jets.
— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) January 31, 2021
We’ve seen some trade ideas that would send Watson to the Giants, from ones that could actually happen to those that seem to be from the realm of fantasy. But these demands look impossible for the Giants to fill, even moreso than some of the wild ideas such as sending three first round picks and Saquon Barkley to the Texans.
Many teams will be ruled out by the Texans’ demands
The Texans wanting two first round picks and two second round ones is already enough to scare off many teams, but two young defensive starters may just rule out most of the suitors for Watson. It should especially rule out the Giants, who don’t have the kind of depth to just ship off two young starters on defense as well as draft picks that will have a big impact on the future of their team.
It looks like the Jets might be in the market for Watson given these criteria. The Jets have less room to fall compared to the Giants, who have started to turn things around after hiring Joe Judge. Giving up talent wouldn’t hurt them as much. However, a rebuilding team like the Jets may also be scared off by the draft pick requirement. Those picks will likely play a big role in their future plans, after all.
At the end of the day, it’s easy to see why the Texans want so much for Watson – but don’t be shocked if no one takes the deal.
We’re probably going to hear about a lot of trade ideas involving the New York Giants soon. Some of them good, some not so good, and some of them flat out controversial. But ESPN analyst and former quarterback Dan Orlovsky might have made the most controversial proposal possible for a Giants trade this offseason.
The idea involves sending away Saquon Barkley, so a lot of people will be against it no matter what the Giants get in return. And it’s not hard to see why. The Giants have largely rested their hopes on Barkley’s career panning out over the next few years, allowing them to win without exceptional play from Daniel Jones and a strong running game. But this idea from Orlovsky says just a good running game isn’t enough to win big.
What did Orlovsky propose?
The analyst thinks the Giants need to pull the trigger on a deal for Deshaun Watson.
“If I was Dave Gettleman of the New York Giants, I would take Daniel Jones, I would take Saquon Barkley, and I would take three first-round picks and call Houston, and not allow them to get off the phone with me,” Orlovsky said. “As a general manager in this moment, if you ever were going to take a swing, this is the swing to take. As a general manager, the last thing you want to do is look back with regret that we didn’t try hard enough, that we didn’t throw in one extra first rounder. That’s the type of player and person you’re going to get with Deshaun Watson.”
Watson is one of the highest valued quarterbacks to ever leave his team in a trade – that is, he will be if the Texans make the decision to trade him.
It’s looking, though, like keeping Watson is becoming impossible for Houston. It’s only a matter of whether the Giants will get Watson, or another team.
Evaluating the trade idea
Trading Jones is understandable. The Giants wouldn’t need another starting caliber quarterback if they gain Watson. Trading three first round picks will make most fans take a pause. It’s a big price, and would hurt the Giants in the future if they can’t win now with Watson. Three first round picks plus Saquon Barkley is a king’s ransom.
And the Giants potentially could win now if they made this trade. It’s tempting to have a quarterback like Watson, but it would also carry significant risks. If they fail to start winning, they’d have to cope with trading away one of their best players and losing three first round picks. Those picks may be valuable if the Giants need to keep reshaping their team.
The Giants front office is many things and relatively conservative is one of them. The Giants aren’t typically a team to make a crazy deal like this one, so in the end, it doesn’t look like it’s likely to happen in reality. That’s not to say Watson definitely won’t end up a Giant, though. If the Giants can get a lower price, it’s easy to see them being in the market for his skills.
Some quarterback scenarios are more likely than others for the New York Giants, but it’s worth looking into all options. The Giants have been listed by many as one of the teams that could benefit from a Deshaun Watson trade, but there may be another high profile quarterback on the market – that quarterback could be Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers is, of course, the older player. He has a longer track record of success but also has less effective years less in the league. He’s 37 years old and it’s likely not long before his age shows more in his game on the field.
However, Rodgers is still an elite quarterback as of now and some QB needy teams may be interested. Here’s what ESPN had to say about the situation.
Sources around the league don’t believe Rodgers is on the trade market at this point, but if Rodgers asks for a trade, the belief is that a team — or teams — would be willing to part with a first- and either a second- or third-round pick for Rodgers.
A Watson trade could help set the market as well, but the expectation is that the Texans would be able to land more than what Rodgers is worth given that Watson is 12 years younger.
What would this mean?
It seems the Packers may ask for more if Watson is traded and Rodgers is left as the one high profile quarterback available for a trade this offseason.
Why should Giants fans care about this?
Obviously, Aaron Rodgers making the switch to the Giants is an unlikely scenario. Daniel Jones has more years left in the league, after all. But if the Giants wanted to win now at all costs and take the next step to getting back in the Super Bowl, a move for an aging Rodgers is one fringe but still somewhat interesting path.
At the end of the day, if there’s a Rodgers trade, it’s likely there will be other QB needy teams that reach out before the Giants do.
But with the amount of talk created about the possibility of a Deshaun Watson trade, you have to wonder if the Giants would consider making a different trade for a franchise quarterback if Watson was considered but ultimately not traded for due to his contract or the Texans’ demands.
The public facing part of the Giants organization has expressed loyalty to Daniel Jones so far. But if the Giants want to go in a different direction, there may be a very good quarterback on the market for less cost than Watson.
Will the New York Giants be trading for a quarterback this offseason? It’s highly unlikely after head coach Joe Judge firmly committed to Daniel Jones, but not impossible. General Manager Dave Gettleman can be unpredictable at times.
Gettelman traded away the face of the Giants’ franchise just a few seasons ago. It is not crazy to think Gettleman makes a move to acquire a player like Deshaun Watson or Matthew Stafford.
On Monday, BetOnline released odds on the potential destinations for both Watson and Stafford. The Giants were a 28/1 for Watson and 35/1 for Stafford. Vegas oddsmakers are not sold the G-Men will sit this one out.
The Giants are not the favorites to acquire one of these two quarterbacks. New York would have to give up valuable assets to acquire one of these quarterbacks, especially Watson.
What are the favorites?
The New York Jets are considered favorites to land Watson at 15/4, while the Indianapolis Colts are considered favorites to land Stafford at 3/1.
Watson came out publicly saying his preferred landing spot would be the New York Jets. Why not go to a team that has a more built-up roster, and there are still in New York, the Giants?
Ultimately, do not expect the Giants to be serious players for either Watson or Stafford. However, it would be foolish if Gettleman didn’t at least put a call in to see what the asking price is on both.
ESM opens its New York Jets offseason preview by pondering what they’ll do at the quarterback slot in 2021.
The Position: Quarterback
On the Roster: Sam Darnold, James Morgan
Free Agents: Joe Flacco
Reserve/Future: Mike White
When will green smoke arise from One Jets Drive?
The New York Jets are once again pondering its future at the franchise quarterback slot, as a potentially turbulent stretch awaits. Many still have hope in the potential of Sam Darnold, but new regimes often bring sweeping changes to NFL franchises. The primary quarterback start is often the first spot to undergo a makeover. New York is in the second full year of Joe Douglas’ tenure as general manager, while Robert Saleh is ready to succeed Adam Gase as the head coach.
It’s easy to dismiss the struggles of Darnold as being trapped in a situation far from his own doing. In his three years at the helm, Darnold has eeked out flashes of brilliance despite endless waves of turmoil and turnover. To put things in perspective, only a single Darnold target from Darnold’s rookie season of 2018 was on the Jets roster in this past season, and that one outlier (fellow 2018 draftee Chris Herndon) hasn’t matched the promise shown in his debut campaign. The blocking wall in front of Darnold has seen more names flipped than the departures board at Grand Central Terminal. Long-term options in each spot have appeared to present themselves through Denzel Mims and Mekhi Becton respectively but with so many attractive names through both free agency and the draft presenting themselves, the temptation to start over might prove too great. Darnold’s early misfortunes when it comes to injuries also may not work in his favor, as he has yet to play a full NFL season.
In his opening statements as Jets head coach, Saleh praised Darnold repeatedly, noting the difficulty in scouting him when his former compatriots came to New York for a September tilt earlier this season. But, nothing the gap between winter and training camp, Saleh did leave the door open to change.
“He’s got an unbelievable arm talent. There’s a reason why he was the number three pick in the draft. He’s fearless in the pocket, he’s got a natural throwing motion, he’s mobile, he’s extremely intelligent, and he’s tough as nails,” Saleh said in video provided by the Jets. “We’re just getting the (coaching) staff into the building, so there’s so many things that we have to do from an evaluation standpoint with regards to the entire roster, not just at quarterback. To give you that answer right now would not be fair.”
Also under contract for the Jets is fourth-round pick James Morgan, who did not dress in any games last season.
The former Super Bowl MVP did a respectable job in four starts in substitute duties, throwing for 848 yards and six touchdowns. His Total Quarterback Rating, calculated by ESPN, of 57.9 was his best since 2014.
While Flacco could be brought back as a veteran mentor and backup to Darnold or the new, younger franchise man, the former Super Bowl MVP hinted that he believes he can still be a consistent NFL starter.
“I obviously still believe that I’m a starting quarterback,” Flacco said in May, per Andy Vazquez. “You never know what three years down the line is going to look like, so I still have that confidence and I still have the want, the want to to do that. But at this moment, that’s not my role.”
Will They Draft?
It’s very possible, depending on how the free agency market shakes out. Falling out of the top spot of the draft no longer seems like a tragedy it was made out to be after the College Football Playoff, particularly during its Sugar Bowl leg. Ohio State thrower Justin Fields outplayed presumed top choice Trevor Lawrence en route to a 49-28 victory, leaving the first choosers in Jacksonville a big decision to make while the Jets can swoop in and take who’s left. Of course, if the Jets land one of the names below, drafting a quarterback would be null and void.
If the Jets do decide to stick with Darnold, it’s possible they could use one of their day two picks (owning an extra through the Jamal Adams trade with Seattle) on a quarterback to raise the heat on the incumbent. Options in a relatively deep class could include Kyle Trask and Mac Jones.
Deshaun Watson, Houston
Not even the chase for the Super Bowl could derail the hype around Watson and his potential next destination. Things hit a green fever pitch over the weekend when Watson reportedly declared that New York would be his ideal destination. Saleh celebrant Richard Sherman has done nothing to dispel the rumors, joining Cris Collinsworth’s podcast to encourage Watson to get to the metropolitan area. It speaks volumes that Watson, who has also reportedly expressed interest in working with Saleh, would be willing to come to a team that is potentially rebuilding.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit
Over the weekend, ESPN Adam Schefter reported that Stafford and the Lions appear headed toward a divorce. The Jets, again, have the cap space to work with a big contract like Stafford’s, but, like Watson, it wouldn’t be fair to subject him to the franchise the way it is now…there is no Calvin Johnson on this team, at least at the moment. But since the Jets have the assets to work with, it would almost be foolish to not consider the possibility.
Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis
Would the Jets be better off with a placeholder quarterback of sorts as they seek to regain their NFL footing? There are few better options than Brissett if they opted to go that route. Brissett faces a bit of a crossroads in his career, in that he could fight to regain the starting position with the Colts now that Phillip Rivers has retired, or seek a new opportunity elsewhere. He did a solid job stepping for Andrew Luck upon the latter’s sudden retirement and later developed a slight niche for coming in on short-yardage or deep-ball situations.
It seems safe to assume that the Jets’ quarterback situation will be different going into the 2021 campaign, whether it’s at the top or in terms of understudies. If prior regime changes across the NFL are any indicator, it seems that the Jets will indeed move on from Darnold, with the only question being whether it comes through the draft or free agency.
Opting to find a new franchise man through the draft might be a conservative but far more affordable option. Adding a name like Deshaun Watson to New York sounds like a lot of fun and the Jets have plenty of assets through draft picks and cap space to negotiate with. But the fact of the matter is that the Jets have many, many holes to fill beyond the quarterback spot…which, in the eyes of some, may not need to be filled in the first place. If there’s little left to spend to fill the other holes, then a player like Watson or Matthew Stafford would be no better off than when they started.
To spend a majority of the offseason budget on a single big-ticket item wouldn’t be smart. There’s time, however, to make the situation more attractive to an incoming rookie quarterback by parceling those assets through building blocking help and more weaponry.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags
A report from the Miami Herald has indicated that the outgoing Texan’s destination of choice would be the New York Jets.
According to a report from Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, Deshaun Watson’s seeking an AFC East destination when his move from the Houston Texans inevitably comes. Watson’s first choice is reportedly the New York Jets, with the Miami Dolphins appearing in the runner-up slot.
Salguero’s report claims that Watson prefers New York over Miami because of the hiring of Robert Saleh as head coach. A separate report from Mike Florio of ProFootbalTalk claimed that Watson wanted the Texans to interview Saleh for their own head coaching vacancy but that Houston management wasn’t interested. Jim Caldwell and former Jets quarterback Josh McCown have been more recently linked to the search for Bill O’Brien’s replacement, but the refusal to bring Saleh in has only made the relationship between Watson and the Texans even icier. Noted Saleh celebrant Richard Sherman encouraged Watson to go to the Jets on Cris Collinsworth’s podcast, advising him to get out of Houston “as quickly as possible”. Watson has a no-trade clause in his contract.
Both the Jets and Dolphins own high picks in the upcoming NFL Draft. The Jets will choose second and Miami selects immediately after. Miami’s slot was originally held by the Texans, but they sent it to Miami in exchange for Kenny Stills, Laremy Tunsil, and a pair of day three picks. The Jets, however, may have more trade ammunition, as they own two first-round picks in each of the next two drafts thanks to a summer trade with Seattle that involved Jamal Adams. New York will also begin the offseason with the second-most cap space at over $65 million, behind only Jacksonville.
Watson is looking for new surroundings after the relationship between him and the Texans soured after a 4-12 season, one notably marked by the absence of top receiving topic DeAndre Hopkins, who traded to Arizona for rusher David Johnson and two picks beyond the first round. Despite the raw feelings, Watson posted a career-best 33 touchdown passes and 4,823 yards, the latter mark leading the league.
Notably, each of Watson’s preferred destinations has an established franchise quarterback option. The Jets will have Sam Darnold in the final year of his rookie contract, while the Dolphins’ offense struggled in Tua Tagovailoa’s rookie campaign last season. Saleh was noncommital when addressing Darnold’s future with the organization during his introductory statements earlier this week, but mentioned that was “premature” to call Darnold his top thrower entering training camp.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags
The idea of Deshaun Watson moving to the New York Jets sounds too good to be true. That’s because, frankly…it is.
Somehow, someway, the Houston Texans…a team blessed with the talents of one of the most recognizable names in football on each side of the ball, winners of four of the last six AFC South titles…managed to become a more toxic gridiron wasteland than the New York Jets.
To paraphrase the great Ron Burgundy, one can’t even be mad. It’s amazing.
The biggest story outside of the NFL playoff picture by far is the fate of Watson, the beleaguered franchise quarterback. No playoff games await Watson, but he is apparently nonetheless on a mission this postseason: to get out of Houston as fast as possible. It’s a liberation that has been brewing for some time and the rumbling has only intensified upon the end of the Texans’ 4-12 season. Adam Schefter of ESPN brought things to a fever pitch through a report that strongly indicated that Watson “has played his last snap for the team”.
Despite the lack of a formal trade request (and the prescience of the no-trade clause in his contract), Watson has been linked to several of his non-playoff brethren, including the Jets. The sleuths of Instagram took notice of one of Watson’s recent “likes”, one featuring potentially the first of many punny headlines from the New York Post. Richard Sherman, a noted fan of new Jets boss Robert Saleh, advised Watson to “head to New York” on Cris Collinsworth’s podcast. Video has surfaced of Watson purchasing a car his associates wanting it painted “jet green”.
don’t know if this is from today or years ago but this is deshaun watson buying a car in philly. the salesman says he wants deshaun to sign with philly. his agent says they want the car to turn “jet green”.
— jets west (@jetstothewest) January 20, 2021
From a Jets standpoint, all the pieces appear to align in their favor. The light at the end of their two-win tunnel was the second overall pick in April’s draft, a pick the Texans desperately need after shipping their own first rounder (which became the pick right after New York’s) to Miami. That more than likely won’t be enough to satisfy the Texans (who likely won’t be appearing in Wid Card Saturday’s afternoon slot anytime soon), but the Jets have the picks to atone for it, including guaranteed first-rounders from Seattle via the Jamal Adams trade. Assets beyond picks could include contributors under contract that might become salary cap casualties anyway…talented names like Jamison Crowder and Henry Anderson that could potentially save the Jets a pick. Thier cap space is already pretty attractive as is; entering the 2021 offseason, the Jets have just over $65 million to spend, behind only Jacksonville ($73 million).
The Jets have been looking for a lasting franchise quarterback after since Joe Namath took his final green snaps in 1976. False prophets have come and gone, but a name like Watson, only starting to tap into his true potential and power, could give the Jets long-term assurance and stability at arguably the most important position in all of sports.
If all of this sounds too good to be true…especially when it comes to a franchise as star-crossed as the Jets…that’s because, frankly, it probably is. A union between Watson and the Jets wouldn’t be fair to either side, tantalizing as it may be.
For Watson, a New York collaboration wouldn’t be much different from his current situation in Houston…except it would be a lot colder. From a Jets’ standpoint, there would little separate a potential era of Watson from the Sam Darnold saga. The way the team is constructed now, there would be plenty of instances of Watson running for his life, and this would be after he led the league in passing yardage despite being brought down 49 times with the Texans (third-worst in football). Watson’s mobile talents would perhaps spare him some of the carnage, but likely nothing where he would be able to make a meaningful difference in the Jets’ offense, one that finished at or near the bottom of most major statistical categories.
To the Jets’ credit, namely general manager Joe Douglas’, they’re starting to making sensible, rational, if not conservative, decisions with their offensive roster. In his first draft last spring, Douglas bypassed the name-brand receiving talent to take tackle Mekhi Becton. Not only did Becton turn out to be one of the brightest emergences of the 2020 rookie class, but Douglas was also able to earn a big-play receiver in Denzel Mims in the second round. There’s also plenty of time between now and Week 1 of a hopefully normal 2021 season…heck, there’s plenty of time even before the draft…for Douglas, Saleh, and the Jets to stock up and become more attractive to a new franchise quarterback, whether it’s Watson, Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields. There’s no guarantee they’ll even move on from Darnold, who has reportedly caught the eye of both Saleh and his reported new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur.
Unfortunately for Douglas, however, his debut veteran acquisition class left much to be desired, riddled with names that were plagued by injuries (Bradley McDougald, Greg Van Roten), inconsistency (Connor McGovern, Pierre Desir), or both (Breshad Perriman). Adding Watson is the type of move a team makes when they’re the proverbial “one move away” from the Super Bowl. If the Adam Gase era proved anything, it’s that the Jets are many, many moves away from a mere playoff berth, much less the Big Game.
The Jets needed to use every asset, every piece of roster capital they have to end this cycle of rebuilding. Dedicating a majority of those resources, be it picks, be it cap space, to Watson and his contract (which includes a $40 million cap hit next year) would be reckless spending, using excess fund to plug one hole when there are many, many, many holes to be filled. Bringing Watson in would sell jerseys, but it wouldn’t necessarily lead to wins.
Modern NFL endeavors have provided countless examples of such irresponsible spending. The Jets’ MetLife Stadium co-tenants, for example, were on the verge of something at least entertaining at the end of the 2016-17 season. In the first year of their post-Tom Coughlin endeavors, the New York Giants won 11 games and showcased six All-Pro men on their roster. Their season ended in a listless 38-13 Wild Card playoff loss in Green Bay, but hope was on the horizon, manifested in several high-profile transactions. Big Blue welcomed in receiver Brandon Marshall to work alongside Odell Beckham Jr. They used their first-round pick on tight end Evan Engram, an Ole Miss alum to gear up fellow former Rebel Eli Manning for one last run to glory. Later in the draft, the Giants took Davis Webb in the third round, perhaps the most serious they had come to seeking an heir to the Manning throne. The team also re-upped with fan favorite pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul to the tune of a four-year contract with $40 million guaranteed.
But in their marquee spending, the Giants failed to account for some of more dour problems hidden on their roster, namely the offensive line. The Giants did little, if anything, to upgrade their line, letting reliable veterans like Andrew Whitworth fall by the wayside. Cursed with little to no blocking help, the Giants sputtered to a brutal 3-13 season and fell down a hole they have yet to emerge from. Beckham has since been traded, and there is little left from the promising 2016 campaign.
The story of the modern Giants and so many other “offseason champions” in the NFL serve as cautionary tales to active Super Bowl seekers. A house renovation could serve as a strong parable to what the Jets are going through at this moment. Bringing in Watson would be a high-profile purchase, immediately spending a windfall on, say, a luxury vehicle or swimming pool. However, doing so would ignore more grimy, subtle problems in the house that could bring the entire structure down…mold damage in the basement, perhaps. Even if the Jets admit that Darnold isn’t the answer, there are still situations to resolve, such as their porous blocking, uncertain rungame situation, and lack of offensive weapons and defensive depth. Filling every blank with Watson isn’t going to work, no matter how hard the Jets try. The Texans have tried doing that with Watson and J.J. Watt…chaos has enused.
It seems hard for Jets fans to believe, but that’s the cruelly funny thing about life in the NFL: there’s no situation, no matter how dire, where things can’t actively get worse. The Jets have been blessed with a plethora of offseason capital through multiple draft picks and excess cap space. To cash it all in on one big-ticket player would be reckless.
Another reason why Watson’s potential New York arrival sounds so promising is because not only has he made an impact on the field, but he continues to be a vital prescience off of it as well. Watson has made it clear he wants to use his voice for good as Americans seek an end to systemic racism and he has also come through for Houston medical staffers fighting the ongoing health crisis. Bringing in a high-character superstar would be the perfect way to open a new Jets era, one that could allow them to shatter the losing status quo that New York football has become far-too-accustomed to. Watson’s rumored eagerness to join a two-win team bearing what’s by far the longest playoff drought in the NFL (10 seasons) speaks volumes as well, signifying a welcome counter to the concept of “ring-chasing” that has spread throughout the major professional sports leagues.
But to ask Watson to come to New York and become a lone, instant fixer-upper…which is essentially what he would be if the Jets bestow all of their offseason funding unto him…when he’s on the precipice of entering his prime is a little too much to ask for. A more established contender, a Miami, an Indianapolis, would be better for a player of his talents. If the Jets truly want to make a change at quarterback, they would be far better off using their cap space to create a more attractive environment for a rookie quarterback, or even build around Darnold if Saleh and LaFleur are impressed enough to keep him around.
This is a new, exciting time to take an interest in the New York Jets…it’s so rare to say that. While there’s a chance that Douglas could make the Watson revolution work, it’s best, for the time being, to avoid temptation. It’s never good to use an “all for one” mentality…the assets, an “all for all” situation, would be better spent on many helpers, never mind just one, showstopping as he may be.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags