New York Jets Head Coach Robert Saleh was making an appearance on the Rich Eisen show earlier this week and he made an interesting comment on the trade down from #13 to #15:
“The difference between 13 and 15 and the way everything shook out made no difference to us, so you can throw that one out”
The Pittsburgh Steelers made a deal with the Patriots to jump from #17 to #14, sending a 4th-round pick to New England to allow them to draft offensive tackle Broderick Jones.
The theory is that the Jets were desperate for Jones and the evil genius Bill Belichick thought it would be a good idea to take less compensation to spite his old employer.
The problem with this is that it’s all rumor. Robert Saleh seems to imply here that Will McDonald was their guy all along. It’s been extremely difficult to get any information out of 1JD, so I think it’s a little naive to just believe that everyone and their gran knew who the Jets wanted at #15. It’s more likely that people looked at the Jet's need and then the options available, and put two and two together. The issue with that is that the Jets are a best-player type franchise and Saleh alluded to this by saying:
“We’re always going to take the best player available when it presents itself, and I think what surprised everybody is that, you can make an argument that the best available wasn’t a need. You never want to pass up somebody who you think can change a game for you, and you look at a guy like Will, who’s got ridiculous length, ridiculous bend, and a ridiculous get-off, and as he continues to mature and develop, once he gaines his power, he’s gonna be very, very hard to block”
Saleh is obviously not going to come out and admit that the Jets were eyeing someone other than Jones, but at the same time, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the truth either. The Saleh defense is predicated on pressure and Carl Lawson is entering the final year of his deal, maintaining a supply line at the key position on your defense makes a lot of sense.
I also think this whole episode is just playing up to the evil Bill narrative. Would he really take less compensation to put one over the Jets? If he did then the story shouldn’t be about Bill putting one over on the Jets, it should be about Bill putting one over his own franchise. The Patriots are coming off a sub .500 season and have Mac Jones, Trace McSorley, and Bailey Zappe as their quarterbacks, if Bill turned down more compensation just to ensure the team moving up took a player he perceived the Jets wanted, then that’s GM malpractice.
Either way, if McDonald turns into the destructive edge rusher we think he’s capable of becoming, I can’t imagine anyone in Bean Town will be doing cartwheels.