FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — At the New York Jets‘ home base in Northern New Jersey, the Trader Joe’s is always open for business.
General manager Joe Douglas has made 14 player trades in his 28 months on the job, an unusually high number even in a league that recently began to embrace the idea of dealing veteran players. All told, he has moved or acquired 15 players, sixth-most in the NFL since June 2019, according to ESPN Stats & Information. With his track record, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he makes a move before the league trading deadline next Tuesday.
Basically, Douglas makes two types of trades:
1. Small deals to address short-term needs, as he did Monday with the acquisition of backup quarterback Joe Flacco for a 2022 conditional sixth-round pick. He made a similar trade in August, picking up defensive end Shaq Lawson for a 2022 sixth-rounder.
2. He sells off established starters, often on expiring contracts, to stockpile future assets. Most notably, he traded defensive end Leonard Williams, safety Jamal Adams, quarterback Sam Darnold and tight end Chris Herndon.
The one trade he hasn’t made is the blockbuster that imports a big-time talent. Don’t expect that to change in the coming days.
At 1-5, the Jets are out of contention, casting themselves as sellers, not buyers, as the deadline approaches. Wide receiver Jamison Crowder and safety Marcus Maye, both in the last year of their contracts, fit the profile of players who could get moved by Douglas.
Coach Robert Saleh punted on a question about whether he’d be in favor of a deadline fire sale.
“My commitment is to our players, obviously,” he said. “My job is to try to make Joe’s life miserable with regards to trying to pay them all the money that they need to get paid and keep them all under the salary cap. That’s my job. Whatever happens in between, that’s not my focus. I’m really just focused on trying to get these guys to play their absolute best so we can show the entire Jet nation why I truly believe we’re going to win championships. I know it’s hard to see right now, but I know the direction we’re going in, I know where it’s going to get.”
Douglas has a knack for knowing when to cut bait, receiving good value in return. The package for Adams included two first-round picks from the Seattle Seahawks, an impressive haul when you consider the player wanted out.
The Jets saw Adams as a very good player, but limited as a pass defender. Because of that, they couldn’t justify a massive contract extension. Adams got his money from the Seahawks (four years, $70 million), but has yet to record an interception in 19 games.
“That was a great trade for the Jets, to get two No. 1s for Adams,” said ESPN front-office insider Mike Tannenbaum, a former Jets GM. “It has turned out better than expected because of the Russell Wilson injury. Joe really maximized the value.”
The struggling Seahawks (2-5) are currently projected to have the No. 12 pick in the 2022 draft, which goes to the Jets, who also have the No. 2 pick.
The Darnold trade also looks good from a value standpoint. He brought back three draft picks, including second- and fourth-rounders in 2022. He already has been benched once by the Carolina Panthers, and his future is murky. Tannenbaum said the most impressive part of that trade was that Douglas got as much as he did in a depleted quarterback market, with the league knowing the Jets were looking toward the draft for a quarterback.
Douglas’ most underrated trade was sending Herndon to the Minnesota Vikings for a fourth-round pick — “a miracle move,” as one league source called it. Herndon, an unproductive player in the final year of his contract, has been a bust in Minnesota — one catch for two yards (a touchdown).
The one sell-off trade that can’t be considered a slam-dunk win for the Jets was the Williams deal with the New York Giants. They got fair-market value (third- and fifth-round picks, which they turned into safety Ashtyn Davis and cornerback Michael Carter II), but Williams parlayed an 11.5-sack season in 2020 into a massive contract extension — three years, $63 million.
The Jets didn’t lose the trade; let’s call it a draw.
While Douglas has mastered the art of the fire sale, he hasn’t imported any impact players via the trade route. He thought Bradley McDougald, a throw-in in the Adams trade, could be a serviceable safety, but he didn’t play well and got hurt. The worst move was giving a sixth-round pick to the Indianapolis Colts for cornerback Quincy Wilson, who lasted only three games.
Of the seven players acquired in trades, five of whom are out of the league, none cost the Jets more than a sixth-round pick. Those misses “aren’t a big deal because they didn’t give up much,” Tannenbaum said. “There are a lot of different ways to build depth on your roster.”
Overall, Douglas has made 19 trades, including draft-pick swaps, tied for the fourth-most during his run as the GM. He’s conservative when it comes to trading for players; he’s aggressive when it comes to parting with them. Eventually, it may take a blockbuster trade to find the proverbial missing piece. Right now, they’re nowhere close to that stage.