I know there are a number of people questioning why the Jets would trade for Kalen Ballage. They are wondering why the Jets would give up anything in return for a player with such a limited resume.
I am not going to tell you I think this addition is likely to impact the team in a positive way. I don’t.
It isn’t clear, however, that the Jets will actually give up anything for Ballage.
Plot twist: The #Dolphins are trading RB Kalen Ballage to the #Jets for a conditional late-round pick, source said. Miami had planned to release him, but NYJ stepped in before it was official and the two have a deal.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 27, 2020
The key word there is “conditional.” Ballage will need to hit some benchmark for the Jets to actually send a pick to Miami. It might be based on performance such as rushing for X number of yards. It might have to do with playing time such as playing X number of snap. It might be remaining on the roster by a certain date. It might be some combination of these things or some factor I haven’t mentioned.
We might never find out exactly what they are, but for a Draft pick to change hands some condition will need to be met.
Last summer the Jets traded with the Colts and got Nate Hairston for a conditional late round pick. Hairston actually saw somewhat extensive playing time with the Jets. He started six games. He played in over one-third of the snaps for the Jets defense.
Ultimately, though, this wasn’t enough to meet the conditions of the trade, and the Colts never got the pick from the Jets.
Jets have more NFL Draft 2020 picks than initially thought https://t.co/WPuRTzHE0U via @nypostsports— Brian Costello (@BrianCoz) February 20, 2020
It had been assumed and reported the Jets only had seven picks in April’s draft, but Gang Green actually has eight.
The discrepancy came because of the team’s trade for Nate Hairston in August. In that trade, the Jets sent a conditional sixth-round pick to the Colts. The conditions were not met, so the pick was returned to the Jets.
Hairston saw the field a lot, and it still wasn’t enough to meet the conditions of the deal. He remains on the Jets roster. They essentially got Hairston for free.
Why did the two teams make the trade? At the time the Colts were likely to cut Hairston and lose him for nothing. A conditional pick was better than that, even if the conditions were so stringent that they were unlikely to ever get it.
The Jets took uncertainty out of the equation by making the deal. If Hairston was put on waivers, the Jets could have tried to claim him. However, there were teams ahead of the Jets on the waiver priority list. If one of those teams put in a claim, they would have gotten him. The trade guaranteed the Jets they could get a player they wanted. As it turns out, they got him for nothing essentially finding a cheat code in the waiver system.
I would imagine similar dynamics were at play here. The Jets didn’t want to risk another team claiming Ballage. Miami was reportedly about to waive him. The two sides worked out a trade. Given the circumstances, the Jets could likely set the conditions very high. Even a conditional pick they are unlikely to ever see would be better than nothing from the Dolphins’ perspective.
Only time will tell, but I tend to doubt the Jets will ever give Miami that pick. If they do, it likely means Ballage exceeded even the wildest expectations and was well worth a late rounder.