Considering how little leverage Mike Maccagnan had with Sheldon Richardson, coming away with a second-round pick in 2018 and a capable veteran receiver in Jermaine Kearse is as solid a deal as the Jets general manager could have hoped for.
Richardson clearly didn’t fit into the Jets’ long-term plans after consistently running afoul of the team in the Maccagnan-Todd Bowles era, and despite a wealth of talent was not going to be back season after earning $8.1 million in the final year of his rookie deal. A 2013 first-round pick under ill-fated general manager John Idzik, Richardson had been suspended twice under Bowles, was chided for posting a profane Snapchat video before a game, was benched once for being late to a team meeting, was part of a simmering locker room feud with Brandon Marshall both during and after Marshall’s run with the Jets and was simply not a part of any long-term solution.
Maccagnan tried to move Richardson last year around the trade deadline but couldn’t get any worthwhile nibbles, in part because any would-be suitors realized the Jets no longer valued him and weren’t willing to part with a meaningful package of draft picks. But if someone had told you last October the Jets would be able to get a second-round pick and a solid receiver in exchange for a player no longer in their plans, you’d take that in a heartbeat. The fact that they got that deal right before the regular-season opener, and it’s still every bit as valuable for a team clearly in a rebuilding mode and in need of draft picks.
Richardson had been a member of the only overstocked position on the Jets. With a defensive line that already included Muhammad Wilkerson and rising star Leonard Williams, the Jets could afford to part company with Richardson and still have enough talent left over to field a strong line in Bowles’ 3-4 defense. It also helped that the Jets claimed defensive end Kony Ealy off waivers last week from the Patriots.
Bowles often had trouble fitting Richardson into his defensive line rotation, and even had him playing at outside linebacker last year. So it’s not as if he had been an essential part of the defense anyway.
“We have some good, young defensive lineman,” Maccagnan said. “Sheldon was part of that, but in return, it allowed us to entertain options. Short-term and long-term, we’re still committed to building this thing through the draft.”
Richardson will be much better off with the Seahawks, who have a need for depth on the defensive line and will surely fold the highly athletic Richardson into a mix that already includes defensive end Michael Bennett, tackle Jarran Reed and end Cliff Avril. He’ll give Pete Carroll’s defense, already one of the best in the NFL, another player capable of getting up the field quickly.
Kearse will provide a veteran presence among the inexperienced receivers that the Jets sorely need. With Quincy Enunwa out for the season with a neck injury, the Jets were left with second-year wideout Robby Anderson as their top target. Kearse, 27, will help fill at least part of the void left by the release of Eric Decker and Marshall.
“It was an opportunity to acquire some draft capital and also acquire an element to our team, not just from a talent standpoint, but from a character and intangible standpoint in the receiver room,” Maccagnan said of Kearse.
Kearse is best known for his circus catch late in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl against the Patriots, an acrobatic reception in which the ball was deflected into the air and he caught it as he was going to the ground. The Seahawks were in position to win their second straight Super Bowl, but wound up losing, 28-24, after Russell Wilson’s pass intended for Ricardo Lockette was intercepted in the end zone by Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler.
Kearse can’t be happy moving across the country from a Super Bowl contender in Seattle to a team in complete rebuild mode, but he was no lock to make the Seahawks’ roster. With a $2.2-million salary this year, he’s an affordable piece for an offense that needs all the help it can get.
All in all, it’s a worthwhile deal for a Jets team just at the beginning of a massive reconstruction project.