The trade deadline is two weeks away, and I want to focus on two players that have come up in recent days requesting trades. Tight end David Njoku from Cleveland and wide receiver John Ross from Cincinnati have both been linked to trade rumors. There are a lot in the community that have expressed the desire to suck for Trevor Lawrence, or to go on a shopping spree in 2021 to add talent to the roster. I am not of either of these opinions, and I will explain why below.
I'll start with John Ross. He was drafted 9th in 2017 in the 1st round with the Bengals. He's had a couple of injuries, and the Bengals did not pick up his 5th year option. This tells you the Bengals are ready to cut bait after the season as they don't want to pay a big salary to a player with an injury history. He had a knee strain in 2017 which cost him most of the season, then played 13 games in 2018. In 2019 he had 500 yards receiving through 8 games and then seriously broke his clavicle after dominating some games. Ross's biggest claim to fame is posting a 4.22 40 yard dash at the combine, becoming the fastest to ever do it. I'd say he would be a great trade deadline target, because he replaces what Breshad Perriman was supposed to do. He is very similar in size, speed, stature, and abilities to Henry Ruggs, whom a lot of people within the Jets organization wanted to draft. He is only 24 years old, and already has a 7 touchdown season under his belt. The Jets may be able to dangle a late round pick with escalator bonus to the Bengals and pry him loose. As his 5th year option was not picked up, the Jets would have exclusive rights to retain him next year if they can hit on him the last half of this season providing a Tyreek Hill/Henry Ruggs type deep threat where he'd only need to catch 50 or so passes a year and provide the deep threat to Jamison Crowder's slot machine magic. This would leave the Jets with one real deficiency, and that is to figure out if Denzel Mims will be the guy to carry that X receiver position.
The next player is David Njoku. He was drafted in the 1st round, 29th pick of the 2017 draft by the Browns. Unlike John Ross, the Browns did pick up his 5th year option, but they are not playing him. As a result he has twice requested a trade from the 3-3 Browns. Njoku played all 16 games his first two seasons, before being injured last season. The Browns signed another tight end Austin Hooper as their primary tight end, and drafted two other tight ends in the past few seasons, creating a log jam of four tight ends either drafted high, or signed through trade. Njoku isn't getting the reps or playing time he craves. Luckily the Jets have Chris Herndon who's averaging 1 drop per game, while only being targeted twice a game. Njoku could produce the tight end receiving threat the Jets thought they'd get with Herndon, but with the actual hands, and speed to be effective. For all the talk of Herndon being a key this year, I'd like to put this into perspective. Herndon ran a 4.8 40 yard dash. Tristan Wirfs who is the offensive tackle for the Tampa Bay Bucs ran a 4.85 40. I understand that a 40 time does not make or break a players production, but in Herndon's case he is simply not fast enough to create separation from a linebacker, and unless he is finding and sitting in a hole against zone coverage, he's not going to be targeted. Njoku ran a much more respectable 4.6 40, and for a 250 pound tight end, it is noticeable as far as the difference and his on field speed.
While the draft and free agency are the times most teams target to pick up players, they are also the most competitive and drive up player salaries. This time of year presents a unique opportunity to reshape the Jets roster, provide Sam Darnold with some young weapons that he can potentially grow with, while also not requiring a lot of investment in either draft capital or salary cap money. Trading late round picks, or fringe players would also give the Jets flexibility in 2021 as they would not need to reach for draft picks, or sign players in free agency from a position of desperation. They can simply take the best available having added some starters before the rest of the league.
Last point is this. The NFL draft is a crap shoot. By my estimation, the depth of receivers will be no where near as good as it was this year. I would put Ja'Marr Chase, Rashod Bateman, Devonta Smith, and Terrace Marshall Jr. as the 4 receivers that would be capable as starting as outside receivers. After them most players are either slot specialists, or are just not as good as the 2020 class. The Jets may not be able to secure a starting caliber receiver, or tight end in the draft. That leaves them either reaching for picks to fill needs, or overpaying in free agency. With 10 games left, I'd say it's time for Joe Douglas to stop shipping players out, and start shipping players in.
I want to see the Jets win. I am not willing to see an 0-16 team, on the belief that yet another quarterback can save a team bereft of offensive weapons. I believe in Sam Darnold's ability. I believe in Sam Darnold's talent to play the position. I do not believe receivers like Chris Hogan, Jeff Smith, Vyncint Smith can be the answer. The need to get receiving talent equal or better to Juju Smith-Schuster, Deontay Burnett, Michael Pittman Jr. is necessary. They were the players that made Darnold a success and a generational QB talent we believed in 1000 days ago. We need receiving talent equal to that now to help him shine.