(CBSNewYork) — The New York Jets would like to keep Sam Darnold healthy and upright this season. And the NFL Draft, which starts tonight, is the perfect opportunity. The Jets have a nice array of picks, including the 11th and 48th spots. Unfortunately, they also have a variety of needs, offensive tackle, wide receiver and cornerback chief among them.
If the Jets focus on the offensive side of the ball, an upgrade at tackle and/or wide receiver would improve the passing game. And the draft classes for tackle and wide receiver are fairly deep. The team seems to be leaning toward selecting a tackle, if mock drafts are to be believed, and Tristan Wirfs out of Iowa and Mekhi Beckton out of Louisville are both possibilities early.
The Jets are also rumored to be considering another way to upgrade at left tackle… trading for the Washington Redskins’ stud left tackle Trent Williams. The tackle and his current team have been on the outs for awhile and would like to part company sooner than later. The Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles are also interested in Williams, and the price may ultimately be too high for the Jets. But the scenario is worth unpacking a little.
Last season, the Jets offense ranked near the bottom of the league in many passing categories including yards per play (6.6), yards per game (194.4), touchdowns (19), sacks allowed (52) and quarterback hits (106). Some of that can be blamed on injuries. But every team has injuries, and players need to step up.
The team signed 27-year old tackle George Fant, formerly of the Seattle Seahawks, in free agency. His contract is worth $30 million over three years. This may solve the problem, and it may not. Fant has been inconsistent in his pro career to date. He’s appeared in 40 NFL games, starting 20 of them, but grades out as a subpar solution to the Jets’ offensive line woes.
Williams, at 31 years old, has been among the game’s best left tackles during his time in the NFL, making the Pro Bowl in each of his last seven active seasons (2012-2018). He excels as a run blocker and in matchups with speedy and powerful edge rushers in the passing game. And he’s done it while playing for the Redskins, one of the NFL’s worst and most dysfunctional teams.
Sometime in early 2019, Williams and the Redskins had a huge falling out. The star left tackle held out until the end of October 2019 and didn’t play at all last season. The reason, initially assumed to be contractual, actually stems from how the Redskins handled a growth on Williams’ head that turned out to be cancerous. The player had been alerting team doctors to the growth since the 2013 season. But the team didn’t seek a diagnosis until five years later, when it was found to be cancerous and promptly removed.
Williams has long since lost all trust in the Redskins organization, and it’s been obvious for awhile that he will never play for the team again. However, only recently had the team given him permission to seek a trade. That window closed yesterday for Williams, but the team remains motivated to exchange the tackle for assets. As noted, plenty of teams are interested securing the services of a proven, top-flight left tackle who is still under contract. Though it should be noted that Williams, who is scheduled to make $12.5 million during the 2020 season, is looking to be paid somewhere closer to $20 million per season.
So what would it take to make Williams a Jet? Maybe only a second-round pick or multiple lower-round picks. The Redskins are motivated to sell, so there are likely other trade scenarios that might get a deal done. (And it should be noted that the Redskins also have a strong tendency to shoot themselves in the foot when it comes to personnel matters, which could benefit the Jets.) Exploring them makes sense for a Jets team that could conceivably then use its top pick on another position.