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The Jets Paid An Awful Lot To Draft A Quarterback, But They Didn't Really Have A Choice

That the Colts would trade out of the No. 3 spot in the NFL draft has a fairly straightforward explanation: Indianapolis is pretty confident Andrew Luck’s shoulder will be fine (at some point), and the return the Colts got from the Jets—the No. 6 pick and two second-round selections this year, plus another second rounder next year—gives them a crap-ton of draft capital. Indy can use that massive haul to build around Luck and to maybe trade down again to pile up even more picks. Basically, the Colts did something smart!

The Jets, meanwhile, did what they had to do. They clearly have their eyes on one of the four quarterbacks at the top of most draft boards—Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen—and with the Bills and potentially others arranging their chessboards for a possible splash into the top five, the Jets felt they couldn’t guarantee any of those four QBs still being there at No. 6. Trading up was the latest step in the Jets’ Kirk Cousins backup plan—but it was a costly one, in large part because of past mistakes and current desperation.


How much did the Jets give up to make this move? Using his own draft pick value calculator, Chase Stuart of Football Perspective estimated it was more than the Bears, Eagles, and Rams all did to execute recent trades into the top five to draft a quarterback, but slightly less than Washington did back in 2012 to grab RGIII.

That’s a lot! And it leaves the Jets without any second-round picks this year and next—a less-than-ideal scenario for a roster that’s still lacking in several key spots and still doesn’t have much depth, even after an aggressive push in free agency. There were some complicating factors at work here, however. A number of teams had been angling to trade up, and this is a particularly QB-top-heavy draft. The price was going to be steep, and the Jets acted before it got even steeper, as it would have been had they waited until another team jumped in first.

So why do this after re-signing Josh McCown and adding Teddy Bridgewater? Last week, I explained the logic behind this plan, but now that the contract details are available, it appears to make even more sense. Both McCown and Bridgewater signed on for one year, but with little guaranteed. McCown got a guaranteed $5 million signing bonus, plus $5 million in non-guaranteed base pay. Bridgewater got just $1 million in guarantees ($500,000 in signing and workout bonuses), along with $5 million in non-guaranteed base pay and an additional $9 million in playing time and performance incentives. Both contracts are structured to allow the Jets to cut either before the start of the regular season. And they’ll actually have a surplus in the event some other team finds itself in need of a quarterback because of a major injury during the offseason program or training camp.


But they still have to get their guy in the draft, and the pressure’s on to get it right. Remember: GM Mike Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles got contract extensions in recent months, but they’re also coming off back-to-back 5-11 seasons and entering Year 4 without a long-term option at quarterback. And the Jets are only in this spot because Maccagnan already struck out on Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg, in addition to passing last year on Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes II.


Basically, the people making decisions for the Jets are throwing one last Hail Mary to keep their jobs.

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About the author

Dom Cosentino

Dom Cosentino is a staff writer at Deadspin.