One of the most difficult things to do in the NFL is self scout. It is not easy to honestly evaluate where exactly your team stands. We have seen self scouting plague the Jets and be one of the primary drivers of their six year playoff drought. In 2011 they evaluated Wayne Hunter as a starting caliber offensive tackle and Derrick Mason as an improvement over Jericho Cotchery. In 2012, they evaluated and paid Mark Sanchez like a franchise quarterback and Tim Tebow like a valuable offensive weapon. In 2014, they misevaluated their need for cornerback depth and David Nelson’s ability to be a starting receiver. In 2016, they didn’t recognize Ryan Fitzpatrick’s season as an outlier and thought Darrelle Revis’ late 2015 struggles were a mirage.
Right now the Jets are 3-3, better than most expected (not everybody). They have not been shy to embrace trades in recent months. How active or inactive should they be at or before October 31st?
One approach could be looking at this team and concluding they can be 10-6 with the ability to win playoff games. If that is the belief, they could look to attack their current weak spots and potentially part with one of their nine draft picks. Is there any team selling at pass rusher? How about inside linebacker or returner? If you think you can make a run, you chase after it.
Another approach that is likely more realistic, although likely to be substantially more unpopular with some fans is concluding that the ceiling for this team is 8-8 and not competing in the playoffs. If that is the belief, you want to position yourself as strongly as possible for the 2018, 2019 and 2020 season. Who are some players that could be moved?
Josh McCown – He is playing slightly below average at a time when more than a few teams are slightly below average or worse at quarterback. You know he isn’t going to be your starter next year. Would Green Bay like some Brett Hundley insurance? Does Jacksonville think they could make a playoff run led by their defense if Blake Bortles is camped out on the bench? Do the Titans want better insurance for the inevitable Marcus Mariota injury that could happen at some point?
Bilal Powell – Nobody likes Bilal Powell more than this blogger but if you want picks back, you need to give up actual talent on a favorable deal. Let’s get something out of the way: nobody is trading for Matt Forte, Muhammad Wilkerson or Buster Skrine. Everybody knows they are underperforming for their contract and will be cut after the season. Don’t bother putting them in your trade rumors. Powell is younger than Forte, on a friendly deal and can be highly productive for short spurts of games. Running backs are a dime a dozen but maybe the Jets could find a team desperate for a little more offensive juice down the stretch.Jermaine Kearse – 26 catches, 299 yards, 3 TDs…he has been good for the Jets so far, which is why it could be time to sell high. He is only 27 years old but do you really see him as a key competent on a contending team in 2018 or 2019? Is he worth being a progress stopper to Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa (when he’s back), ArDarius Stewart and Chad Hansen? It is a fair question to ask. Don’t the Bears want somebody proven for Mitchell Trubisky to throw to? How about the 49ers and CJ Beathard? Or the Browns if they go back to DeShone Kizer?
Jeremy Kerley – See above. Every single thing above applies to Kerley as well, except Kerley is a year older than Kearse.
Morris Claiborne – What? Claiborne? Arguably the Jets Defensive MVP through six games? Yes. He is 27 years old and has missed 33 games in his career already. Even if he plays good football the next ten weeks, how much are you really willing to commit to him long term with his injury history? His trade value will never be higher and a cornerback desperate team may just bite.
–Now, let’s level set here. This is not a call for the Jets to trade all of these players. Trades are not easy to execute in the NFL and it would be surprising if they pulled off one or maybe, maybe two moves this October. Yet, the NFL Draft is a crap shoot. The more assets you have, the better you can improve your odds. You take more shots with 11 picks than 9 picks. You have more of a chance to trade up for a quarterback with 11 picks than 9 picks.
Here is a thought exercise: If the Jets traded McCown, Kearse and Kerley tomorrow and replaced them with Bryce Petty, Chad Hansen and ArDarius Stewart. What happens? They are probably 15% worse on offense for the first 3-4 weeks before that number gradually drops to closer to less than 5%. They may lose one or two more games but in exchange be better positioned for those three young players to be ready as contributors in 2018 and beyond (Petty as the backup QB, Stewart as the slot receiver and Hansen an outside receiver).
The Jets still have two weeks before October 31st and don’t need to make any decisions now. Some of these decisions are easier to make if you are 5-3 or 3-5, rather than 3-3. The point is the Jets should not be afraid to think outside the box and be pragmatic about the long term ceiling of an offense led by pieces like McCown, Kerley, Kearse and yes even our beloved Powell.
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com