The Jets and Colts staged their own version of March Madness on Saturday morning, agreeing to a trade that changes both franchises’ outlooks—in the 2018 draft and for the foreseeable future. It made one thing very clear: The Jets just pushed in all of their chips.
Colts Receive: Jets’ 2018 first-round pick (no. 6 overall), 2018 second-round pick (no. 37), 2018 second-round pick (no. 49), and 2019 second-round pick
Jets Receive: Colts’ 2018 first-round pick (no. 3 overall)
This Is the Jets’ Big Gamble
No pressure, but the Jets just bet their entire future on the player they select with the no. 3 pick in this year’s draft. The team’s front office must be banking on the notion that the difference between no. 3 and no. 6 overall is a franchise quarterback and is confident (some might choose other words) enough to sacrifice three second-rounders over the next two drafts to complete this deal. The trade comes less than four days after the Jets agreed to re-sign Josh McCown and add free agent Teddy Bridgewater, who secured one-year deals worth as much as $10 million and $15 million, respectively. Into that quarterback room should enter a rookie who will likely be anointed as the franchise’s savior from day one.
Three second-rounders seems like a lot to part with to move up three selections, but the Jets were presumably bidding against other teams, including AFC East rival Buffalo, which has two first-round picks (no. 12 and no. 22) and is reportedly interested in moving up in the first round even after signing AJ McCarron. Additionally, the Broncos are reportedly still in the mix to take a quarterback at no. 5 overall despite signing Case Keenum to a two-year, $36 million contract (with $25 million guaranteed) last week. Considering the picks the Bears traded away last spring to move up one spot to take Mitchell Trubisky, as well as all the teams who could have potentially leapfrogged the Jets to pick a QB in the 2018 draft, this haul shouldn’t be particularly surprising; it’s roughly the going rate for a trade that could net a quarterback in the top three.
If the quarterback the Jets draft pans out (we’re sure they’re not taking another safety, right?), the bounty that they gave up will be worth it. After all, the Eagles sent the Browns two first-round picks, plus second-, third-, and fourth-rounders in a package to move up six spots to draft Carson Wentz in 2016. Just two seasons later, the Browns went 0-16 while the Eagles won the Super Bowl. Of course, not every deal in this mold pays off. Washington sent the Rams three first-round picks and a second-rounder for the no. 2 overall pick in 2012 and selected Robert Griffin III; the team won 10, three, and four games, respectively, over the next three seasons before giving up on Griffin in favor of some fourth-round pick named Kirk Cousins. If the Jets whiff on this pick, especially in a quarterback-laden draft in which a highly touted QB was likely to fall to them at no. 6, it’ll go down as one of the biggest blunders in franchise history, and that’s saying something.
Again: No pressure Joshmar Darnrosenfield, or whomever the Jets draft.
The Colts Move Back to Push Their Team Forward
This is a no-brainer for Indianapolis. Even with Andrew Luck expected to return to the field in 2018 after missing all of last season with a mysterious shoulder injury, the Colts aren’t talented enough to compete come fall. General manager Chris Ballard inherited one of the thinnest rosters in football when he was hired last year, and this move allows Indy to turn one high-level piece into four. Suddenly, the team has a war chest of draft capital.
This move is particularly wise for the Colts considering that they’re not in the market for a rookie quarterback, so the player they might have been targeting at no. 3 has a good chance of falling to them at no. 6. Depending on how the draft shakes out, Indy could be in line to trade down again.
The Ripple Effect
Unless Cleveland has an unfathomable level of confidence that the QB it wants in this year’s draft will still be on the board at no. 4 overall, it’s likely that the first three picks in late April will be quarterbacks. The Bills, who entered this offseason with the 21st and 22nd overall picks, acquired the 12th pick in a swap with the Bengals earlier this week, seemingly putting them in line to land Lamar Jackson, Mason Rudolph, or any of the top prospects at the position who falls beyond the top three.
NFL teams apparently lose their minds when it comes to the draft and quarterbacks, though, so plenty could change over the coming weeks. For all the quarterback movement of the past seven days—Keenum to Denver, Cousins to Minnesota, Sam Bradford to Arizona, Tyrod Taylor to Cleveland, and the apparent logic behind this Jets trade—there’s still lots of time left for more Capital-T Trades. March is half over, but the madness of draft season is just beginning.