Been doing a lot of thinking and research into whether or not we should try and get Deshaun Watson from the Texans and here is what I have come up with.
It is extremely rare that a QB of this caliber is traded as he is about to enter his prime years. A number of writers have pointed out Jay Cutler as a comparison, when the Broncos traded him to the Bears after a season where he had made the Pro Bowl and was top 3 in the AFC in all major passer categories. He was a month shy of 26 when the Bears acquired him (and a 5th) from the Broncos for 2 1sts and a 3rd as well as Kyle Orton. The Broncos used the picks on 2009 1st rounder DE Robert Ayers, TE Richard Quinn (trade up with the 84th overall from Chicago used by Pitt on Mike Wallace), and WR Eric Decker (after two trade downs, including one that involved the selection of Brandon Graham with Chicago's original pick at #13).
The draft pick return for Cutler was mostly underwhelming with Ayers accounting for only 12 sacks in 5 seasons with the Broncos, Quinn having 1 career NFL reception for 9 yards, and Decker who did have 2 1,000+ yard seasons, but only played for the Broncos for 4 seasons total.
Cutler went on to play 8 seasons for the Bears and even though he is mostly thought of as one of the most up and down QBs in recent history, he does hold the Bears career passing records for completions, attempts, yards, passing touchdowns, 4th Quarter comebacks, and game winning drives. Looking at that information it would be hard to say that the Bears weren't the winners in the deal.
Now I believe Watson to be a much better player than Cutler at the point in their careers where they were (or may be ) traded. Watson has played 3 and a 1/2 seasons and thrown for 14,539 yards with 104 TDs and 36 ints. Cutler had played 2 and a 1/2 seasons and threw for 9,024 yards with 54 TDs and 37 ints.
So let's look back even further. Let's look at Watson vs HOF Fran Tarkenton who was also traded at the age of 26 from the Vikings to the Giants (and back again at 31). Unlike Watson and Cutler, Tarkenton was a 3rd round pick (5th round in AFL). When the Giants acquired Tarkenton, he was 1 year removed from back to back pro bowl seasons with the Vikings. The Giants traded two 1sts and 2 2nds for Tarkenton including the #2 overall pick in 1967 RB Clint Jones (2 picks before the Dolphins selected HOF Bob Griese). Besides Jones, the Vikings also acquired RB Bob Grim with the 1967 2nd rounder, HOF OT Ron Yary with the 1st overall pick in 1968, and 4x Pro Bowl Guard Ed White. While Yary and White went on to stellar playing careers, Jones only ran for 2008 yards over 6 seasons with Minnesota and Grim was even worse at 1414 yards over 7 seasons. Tarkenton meanwhile went to the Pro Bowl for 4 straight seasons with the Giants, although he was never able to put them over the top.
In this case, it appears that the Vikings probably won the deal as they received 2 players who anchored their line for many years and eventually reacquired Tarkenton and made a few Super Bowl appearances after they built the team around him. Now it is way too early to compare Watson to Tarkenton career-wise and even era-wise, but I believe it will take a similar package to get Watson as to what the Giants paid to get Tarkenton.
So, let's look at how that cost would affect the Jets today. Losing the #2 overall and their 2nd rounder #34 overall in 2021 still leaves the Jets with the #23 overall and 2 3rds (66 and 87) as premium picks. Losing their own 1st rounder in 2022 still leaves them with Seattle's #1, and their own 2nd and 3rd rounders as premium picks. Losing our 2nd rounder in 2023 would leave us with just our 1st and 3rd rounders as premium picks in 23. Trading Sam Darnold could recoup a 2nd or more likely a 3rd pick in either 21 or 22. So in other words, we would not be bereft of draft capital even giving up 4 prime picks in total over the next 3 years.
While I have been aboard the "trade the pick train" even when Lawrence was the prize, in this case I am much more willing to use the draft capital to go and get the young, proven signal caller. I don't think this signals a major shift in philosophy between build through the draft vs build through free agency as there will still be a lot of draft picks to use, we just won't have to use one to get our QB anymore.