Mike Maccagnan has taken the Jets from no man’s land to the promised land.
The fourth-year general manager pulled off a blockbuster trade Saturday morning, assuring the quarterback-starved Jets of a shot at one of the top passers in next month’s draft and positioning them for a major move that could solve a decades-long problem.
It cost plenty for Maccagnan to move from No. 6 overall to the Colts’ No. 3 spot, but rest assured, if it means finding the answer at quarterback, no one will care much about trading away three second-round picks. The Jets will surrender their own second-rounder and the one they acquired from the Seahawks in the deal that sent Sheldon Richardson to Seattle. They also gave up next year’s second-rounder to a Colts team in rebuild mode and looking for extra picks to move down.
But if that’s the cost of doing business to make sure you get a franchise quarterback, it’s worth the cost. Period.
With four legitimate prospects at the top of the draft — USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Wyoming’s Josh Allen and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield — the Jets have guaranteed themselves a chance to get one of them. Even if the Giants trade out of the No. 2 spot and a team such as Buffalo, which already has leapfrogged to No. 12 overall, moves up to get a quarterback, the Jets still are in fine position.
Maccagnan hasn’t offered any hints about which quarterback he might take, although there’s a growing consensus that Cleveland will take Darnold at No. 1, even if it means giving up a chance to get Penn State running back Saquon Barkley. Giants general manager Dave Gettleman also has been close to the vest about which way he’ll go at No. 2, although he’d be nuts not to take a quarterback there unless he sees definitive evidence that none of the prospects fits his criteria of greatness.
So let’s assume Gettleman stays put and takes Rosen, who has gone out of his way to say nice things about Giants coach Pat Shurmur and seems eager to land with the Giants. That leaves Allen and Mayfield for the Jets, and Maccagnan can have his choice.
The preference here is Allen, who has prototype size and an absolute cannon of an arm, over Mayfield, who not only is short at 6 feet but is easily triggered into unnecessary shows of emotion.
Yes, you want to see passion from your quarterback. What you don’t want to see is confrontation, and Mayfield has been all too willing to let his emotions get the best of him.
Allen has his own issues, starting with a sub-60 percent completion percentage at Wyoming, a clear indication that his accuracy needs work. But he’ll get elite coaching at the next level, and you can’t manufacture a 6-5, 233-pound athlete with as big an arm as you’d ever want.
Look no further than his eye-opening 70-yard completion at the NFL Combine two weeks ago. Arm strength isn’t everything when it comes to being a great NFL quarterback, but it certainly gives you an advantage.
Had Maccagnan not swung this trade, he’d be stuck at No. 6 overall and unlikely to get a top passer. Bills general manager Brandon Beane was in the midst of a dramatic move up the board when he acquired Cincinnati’s 12th pick last week, and it sure looked as if he were trying to duplicate Eagles general manager Howie Roseman’s trade to get Carson Wentz at No. 2 overall in 2016.
Beane still might get to No. 2 if the Giants are willing to trade, but Gettleman would be taking a massive risk by dropping to 12. At this point, it looks as if the best Beane can do is to swap picks with Cleveland at No. 4 or Denver at No. 5.
Maccagnan came close to a checkmate move by getting to 3, and he’s now in a great spot. Don’t forget, too, that he helped himself immensely with last year’s Richardson trade. Not only did he get a solid veteran receiver in Jermaine Kearse, but that second-round pick from Seattle may have been the difference in swinging Saturday’s trade.
Maccagnan clearly got the better of the deal with the Seahawks, who declined to re-sign Richardson. The former first-round pick wound up signing a one-year deal with the Vikings, leaving the Seahawks with nothing from this deal.
With a chance to build on a solid draft from last year — with safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye among the best acquisitions — Maccagnan now has the chance to get a franchise quarterback who once seemed out of reach. Especially after the Jets defied expectations last year. As it turned out, they didn’t have to tank and still are in line to find a big-time quarterback.
Maccagnan had made a strong pitch to get Kirk Cousins, which might have solidified the quarterback position for a half-dozen years. But after Cousins opted for a completely guaranteed three-year deal from the Vikings and showed no inclination to consider more overall money from the Jets, Maccagnan moved on and made a deal that can offer a greater benefit for the Jets, even if it takes a few years to materialize.