Jets general manager Joe Douglas speaks during a press conference...

Jets general manager Joe Douglas speaks during a press conference at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis on Feb. 25. Credit: AP/Michael Conroy

By any measure, the Jets received a great return on the trade of Jamal Adams, especially considering how their leverage was negatively impacted by the safety’s clear desire to leave the team.

But there’s a catch. A potentially significant one, at that.

The Jets received first-round picks in 2021 and 2022, a third-rounder next year and veteran safety Bradley McDougald in exchange for Adams and the Jets’ fourth-round pick in 2022. That’s quarterback-type compensation for a safety who wanted out, and Jets general manager Joe Douglas got tremendous value.

But circumstances beyond Douglas’ control could have an important impact on how the trade turns out. And they worsened over the last several days and could get even more complicated.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 announced on Tuesday that all fall sports would be postponed until at least next spring due to the coronavirus, meaning big-time programs such as Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, USC, UCLA, Oregon and Stanford won’t play football until next year. And even then, there are questions about if they might have a season. The SEC, ACC and Big 12 are moving forward with plans to play, meaning powerhouses LSU, Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma and Florida State are ready to go.

But given the unpredictability of the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s no telling what kind of a college season will be played. And the challenge of scouting college players for next year’s draft has become that much harder.

Douglas already knew that when he made the deal.

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - DECEMBER 12: Quarterback Lamar Jackson #8 of...

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - DECEMBER 12: Quarterback Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens drops back to pass against the defense of the New York Jets at M&T Bank Stadium on December 12, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Credit: Getty Images/Patrick Smith

“We don’t have a crystal ball to know exactly what the college season is going to look like,” Douglas said in a recent interview. “What I do feel confident about is the guys on our scouting staff.”

Once Douglas knew he had a deal for Adams, he immediately told his scouts and impressed upon them the importance of getting an early start on next year’s draft. “There was a lot of excitement, because the onus is on us to hit on these picks moving forward,” he said. “Obviously, there will be challenges this year.”

How do you scout a college player who won’t be playing this year? It’s a question Douglas – and the rest of the NFL – may eventually face. We’ve often seen college players take a quantum leap from one year to the next and shoot up the draft board the following April. But in many cases, they simply won’t have that opportunity.

That puts an enormous amount of pressure on Douglas for next year, when he has two first-round picks and the additional third from Seattle. The Jets also have two first-round picks in 2022.

Then-Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens walks off the field after...

Then-Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens walks off the field after a loss to the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on Dec. 29, 2019, in Cincinnati. Credit: Getty Images/Bobby Ellis

The Scouting Combine and the draft itself may be in limbo next year, too. If there is a spring college season in 2021, the league may want to wait until after that’s over before evaluating draft-eligible players. In that case, both events could be moved to the late spring or even early summer. An NFL spokesman declined to comment when asked if the draft could be delayed.

Either way, it’s a huge challenge for Douglas. Turning the picks he acquired into long-term contributors for the Jets may prove to be a more complicated task. The draft is an inexact science to begin with. Now, it has the chance of becoming even more of a risky proposition.

Not necessarily a good place to be in 2021. Especially for a team with plenty of draft capital.

A new start for Kitchens

Freddie Kitchens was once viewed as the Browns’ answer at head coach. And as so many before him in Cleveland have discovered, that didn’t last very long.

Kitchens was one-and-done with the Browns in 2019, going 6-10 and failing to get the most out of quarterback Baker Mayfield. But he’s back in the game as the Giants’ tight ends coach, hoping to resurrect his career alongside Joe Judge.

The two first met in 2004, Judge’s final year as a player at Mississippi State and Kitchens’ first year as the team’s tight ends coach. They worked on the same staff in 2005 before Kitchens joined Bill Parcells’ Cowboys as tight ends coach in 2006.

“I enjoyed my time and the opportunity in Cleveland, and I gained valuable experience moving forward,” said the 45-year-old Kitchens. “All of us have had experiences along the way, some good, some bad.”

Kitchens was chosen as the Browns coach over Gregg Williams, who was the team’s interim head coach after Hue Jackson was fired in 2018. Williams is now the Jets’ defensive coordinator. It was a tumultuous season for Kitchens, whose team entered the season with big expectations, especially after Mayfield’s promising rookie season and the acquisition of former Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. But the Browns flopped, and Kitchens was gone.

He could have sat out the 2020 season and looked for another head coaching job or coordinator position, but Kitchens didn’t want to wait.

“I’m a ball coach,” he said. “I take pride in being a football coach, which in theory is a teacher. I love teaching. There’s no better feeling in the world of teaching someone something and watching them have success with it and see the look on their face.”

Over the moon about Lamar Jackson

Lamar Jackson is coming off an MVP season in which he led the Ravens to a league-best 14-2 record, but there’s more room to grow for the third-year quarterback.

“I don’t want to use the ‘One giant leap for mankind’ quote,” said Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman. “But I felt like last year, [Jackson] made a gigantic step in every phase of his game. And I feel this year, there’s an opportunity to make some [more] steps, constantly striving for improvement.”

The biggest areas of concern?

“Consistency, and then decision-making,” Roman said. “If we can get two to five percent better in those areas, it’ll be pretty impressive.”

Quick hits

Stat of the week: Through Tuesday, the league had a 0.46 positivity rate for the 109,075 COVID-19 tests conducted among players, coaches and staff members. That’s remarkably good news, but it’s just a start … Doug Pederson of the Eagles was the second NFL coach to be diagnosed with COVID-19 and missed 10 days before rejoining the team on Monday. Pederson was mostly asymptomatic and kept up with the team with the help of computers, film and virtual video sessions. “I was able to watch the practices and stay up on everything that we did and still run the team from my home,” he said. “I think that’s something that the offseason taught us and taught me, how to do that virtually. But at the same time, I was chomping, I was ready to get back here and be out on the grass with the players.” … The Cowboys’ already deep defensive line got deeper with the addition of free agent Everson Griffen, the former Vikings’ pass rusher. He joins Demarcus Lawrence, one of the league’s premier pass rushers, along with recently signed Gerald McCoy. With Aldon Smith looking good in his comeback bid, this has the makings of one of the league’s top pass-rushing units.


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