In 2007, Cleveland Browns WR Braylon Edwards had a breakout season by shattering a 40-year-old team record for receiving TDs after scoring 16 times. However, despite a bold bet with Olympic champion Michael Phelps that he could break his own mark in 2008, Edwards regressed.
Fast-forward to the first week of October in 2009 and Edwards was an absolute wreck. On October 5, 2009, after failing to be targeted at all by the Browns in Week 4, Edwards was reportedly part of an off field incident involving an acquaintance of Cleveland megastar LeBron James outside of a nightclub.
On October 7, 2009, Browns head coach Eric Mangini - just five months removed from making a blockbuster trade in the NFL Draft that delivered Mark Sanchez to his former team - was more than willing to part ways with the troubled Edwards for the right price. Luckily enough for Mangini, the Jets were ready, willing and eager to give the assets he wanted to help their rookie QB.
Mark Sanchez, despite a 3-1 start to his rookie campaign, was coming off a tough loss to the New Orleans Saints in which he threw 0 TDs but 3 INTs and gave up 14 points to defenders. With a Monday Night Football game against the Miami Dolphins looming, Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum pulled the trigger and gave the Browns a 3rd- and 5th-round draft pick plus depth players Chansi Stucky and Jason Trusnik in exchange for Braylon Edwards.
History will show that while neither side exactly fleeced the other, the Jets "won" that trade.
Edwards' impact for the Jets was immediate as he caught 5 balls for 64 yards and a TD in the 31-27 loss to the Dolphins. Though still plagued by drops, Edwards' deep threat ability helped force defenses to remain honest and aided the Jets ground and pound offense.
Ironically, during Edwards' 12 games for the Jets in 2009 the Jets would go on to lose every game where he played well - going 0-and-5 in regular and post-season games where he had at least 50 receiving yards.
The celebrated 2010 campaign was where Edwards really made his mark with the New York Jets. With Santonio Holmes working across from him for three quarters of the season, Edwards had another renaissance year, catching 53 balls for 904 yards and 7 TDs with an impressive 17.1 yards/reception.
To date, Edwards remains the only Jets player since the AFL-NFL merger to average over 17.0 yards/catch with 50+ receptions in the same season.
Unlike in 2009, the 2010 version of Edwards was a much bigger contributor to the team's success as they went 12-2 in regular season/playoff games where he had at least 40 receiving yards, and 8-0 in games where Sanchez found him in the endzone.
Edwards continued to be plagued by off-the-field incidents though, notably getting a DUI in the middle of the 2010 season while several other Jets players were in his car. He would be suspended for quarter of a Sunday Night Football game against the Dolphins but redeemed himself with a huge game.
Arguably the most memorable play of his entire NFL career came in the 2010 AFC Divisional Playoff game against the New England Patriots. With 0:33 remaining in the half and the Jets leading 7-3, Mark Sanchez found Edwards on a short pass to the right where he was quickly met by Pro Bowl defenders Brandon Meriweather and Devin McCourty. Rather than go down with the two star DBs right on top of him, Edwards dragged the duo into the endzone to give the Jets a 14-3 lead they would never relinquish.
After the marquee 28-21 win, Edwards famously did a cartwheeling backflip in the middle of Gillette Field to celebrate - a moment almost as iconic as Bart Scott's famous "Can't Wait" speech.
In the 2011 offseason, when forced to choose between offering a big-money contract to Edwards and Santonio Holmes, the Jets went with Holmes and let Edwards move on. He came back briefly in 2012 for three games but was a shell of his former self and never played again after the short reunion with Mark Sanchez.
Edwards will certainly go down in Jets lore as one of the more polarizing players in team history. His overwhelming talent was offset by his frequent drops and legal issues, as well as Mark Sanchez being Mark Sanchez on far too many occasions.
Nonetheless, it is hard to make the argument that the Jets would have been more successful than they were in 2009 and 2010 without a player who offered the kind of big-play ability that Edwards brought to the table. His time with the Jets was short, but his impact was large.