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Resource allocation and New York Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner

Should the Jets consider trading Sauce Gardner?

NFL: New York Jets at Buffalo Bills Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

It’s pretty rare that I write an article and think to myself “This is going to go over poorly.” This one though? Probably going to go over poorly.

The basis of the article is going to focus around a concept that may be absurd at face level, but, personally, I think the general idea makes sense. That idea? The New York Jets should consider trading budding Hall of Fame cornerback Sauce Gardner.

You may be saying “why?” Hopefully “why” without any colorful words thrown in surrounding it, but I wouldn’t blame you if you did. I mean Sauce Garder is really good. Why would you trade him? A team isn’t supposed to get rid of good players. Actually though, my rationale to why I’d consider this has everything to do with just how good Sauce Gardner is. More specifically, how valuable Sauce Gardner is, which is to say “extremely, extremely, extremely valuable.”

If we think about what a football team is at its core, then it is really just an allocation of resources. Some players will be good. Those are valuable resources. Some will be bad. Those are not valuable resources. What you hope is that the sum of all those resources is good enough to compete with the sum of every other team’s resources. For the Jets, the quality of those resources is extremely skewed towards the defense, while the offense limps around in a state of (seemingly perpetual) woe. I can’t imagine anyone thinks I’m overselling that, but just in case let’s look at the expected points added across the two units.

Defense? Pretty good. I would argue it is one of the league’s best. The offense? Really bad. I would argue it is the league’s worst (and based on EPA is actually is).

It’s important to note that when I say resources I don’t mean money or draft picks spent. I view those as theoretical resources. They can be used to acquire resources so they’re valuable, but the real “resource” that a team wants is player talent. As shown here, the Jets have player talent on defense; they also have basically none of offense. And the goal of an NFL team isn’t to have the best defense (or the best offense for that matter), but rather the best team. Right now, it seems like a far stretch that the Jets are going to have the best team with anything resembling their current offensive personnel.

I would be remiss to not acknowledge the role of quarterback Aaron Rodger’s injury in this mess of an offense. Admittedly, some of that is attributable to quarterback Aaron Rodgers getting hurt. Personally though, I don’t think Aaron Rodgers alone is the difference between a good offense and the league’s worst offense. I definitely don’t think that after watching the offensive line seemingly struggle every single week for the past three months. Or after the Jets’ wide receivers after Garrett Wilson look like they’d be better suited playing in the Canadian Football League rather than the National Football League. This offense is currently lacking seemingly any talent after Garrett Wilson and running back Breece Hall, and that simply isn’t a recipe for success regardless of who the quarterback is.

You could argue (and I would argue) that the Jets enter this offseason in need of two wide receivers and five offensive linemen. That’s a big ask from a team if they had their full slate of draft picks and a boatload of cap space. For the Jets though? That’s an even bigger ask because they don’t have either, which means that they need to get creative.

That brings me to the “consider trading Sauce Gardner” point. Sauce Gardner is simply an elite player. I don’t now why anyone would ever argue otherwise. Pro Football Focus had him as the top ranked corner in 2022. They have him as a top 6 corner in 2023. The eye test matches their grades. He is only 22 years old. He is a certified superstar at a position that has so few. All of this makes him extremely valuable to the Jets... and to every other team in the league because not a single one wouldn’t be upgraded by adding Sauce Gardner to their team.

To that point, I would argue that Sauce is, in fact, the Jets most valuable player when accounting for both talent and his rookie contract that pays him well below what he’d get on the open market. Given that, this positions trading Sauce as the quickest way to even out the resource disparity between the offense and the defense via trading him for players and/or draft picks that can then be distributed to the offense.

By no means do I think they should trade Sauce for something cheap. In fact, I would only trade him for an absolute haul. In the past, players like cornerback Jalen Ramsey, cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick, and safety Jamal Adams fetched multiple firsts when traded as early career superstars in the secondary. That kind of draft capital can net some serious player talent if spent correctly. That also assumes that the Jets trade him for draft capital rather than an elite offensive player of a similar value, which would obviously come with less risk while better evening out the resource distribution between the offensive and defensive units.

With all that in mind, let’s assume the “worst” acceptable offer would be draft picks, only because it has the most risk. If that were the case, then would the Jets not be better off with a slightly worse secondary, an additional first round pick they can spend on a tackle or a wide receiver, and then some additional premier picks down the line that can also be spent on the offense?

I think that’s an interesting question, especially when the Jets defense would be as able to withstand that kind of loss as any team ever would. Why do I say that? Because they have two other top 30 cornerbacks in D.J. Reed and Michael Carter II, which would still leave them as one of the better secondaries in the league. Beyond that, they have a dominant pass rush that lessens the pressure on the secondary by providing quarterbacks with less time to throw. The Jets beat the Super Bowl contending Philadelphia Eagles with a secondary made up of backup players in large part because of the quality of their pass rush. When you have a strength, you should leverage it. I would argue that trading Sauce would do just that.

With all that said, I don’t know that the Jets “should” trade Sauce. Rather, I think they “should” see what teams are willing to pay for him. They need to find a way to dramatically improve their offensive resources, and sometimes you have to give a lot to get a lot. For the Jets, Sauce is the absolute most they can give which also means that he’s the opportunity to add the most resources they can get. And right now, the Jets need all the offensive resources they can get.

Poll

Should the Jets consider trading Sauce Gardner?

This poll is closed

  • 53%
    No. No. No. No. No. No. Are you insane man?
    (507 votes)
  • 34%
    I see your point, but no
    (326 votes)
  • 12%
    Trading him would stink, but yes
    (115 votes)
948 votes total Vote Now