In the end, there was nothing the Jets could have done to make Tyreek Hill the No. 1 receiver for Zach Wilson’s offense. He already had made up his mind about whom he'd be playing for, and it wasn't the team in green.
The former Kansas City All-Pro had his mind made up long before coach Andy Reid and general manager Brett Veach agreed to a trade offer from Jets GM Joe Douglas. The Jets’ deal didn’t include either of their two first-round picks (fourth and 10th overall), while the Dolphins surrendered five picks, including their first-rounder, in an offer that also was acceptable to Kansas City.
But Hill had been given the option to decide where he wanted to play, and it was Miami all the way.
When asked at his introductory news conference on Thursday how close he was to selecting the Jets, Hill replied, “How close was I? Who? The Jets? . . . I knew I was going to pick Miami no matter what, because I’m basically from here, I’m here all the time. This is home for me, for us.”
End of story. The Jets never had a chance.
But credit Douglas for taking his cuts here; the third-year GM continues to aggressively search for ways to improve his roster and get Wilson the help he needs. Douglas already has added quality tight ends in C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin, signed free-agent guard Laken Tomlinson and re-signed wide receiver Braxton Berrios. Landing Hill would have given Wilson a home run hitter at receiver, but Douglas now will wait for the draft, in which a deep pool of receivers awaits.
Then again, he also might need to consider cornerback now that the Jets must face Hill twice a year. The Dolphins already have Jaylen Waddle, who comes off a terrific rookie season, and the Bills feature Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis as well as former Jets slot receiver Jamison Crowder.
Oh, and don’t worry too much about Kansas City, which gave up its top receiving threat in Hill. All-Pro quarterback Patrick Mahomes hasn't gone anywhere, nor has Reid, the best offensive coach in football. Keep in mind, too, that Reid very rarely misses when it comes to trading away players, including his time in Philadelphia – see: Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb, Marcus Peters and Dee Ford.
Reid and Veach quickly rebuilt the offensive line after losing tackles Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher, and he’ll do the same at receiver, even if the explosiveness won’t be the same without Hill. Kansas City signed Steelers free agent JuJu Smith-Schuster and Packers free agent Marquez Valdez-Scantling, and Reid likely will use some of his draft capital at receiver next month.
Scrutiny won’t end over Watson trade
If you were skeptical about the Deshaun Watson trade to the Browns against the backdrop of 22 civil lawsuits by massage therapists alleging sexual misconduct and sexual assault by the quarterback, then Friday’s introductory news conference in Cleveland did little to ease those concerns.
Neither Watson nor general manager Andrew Berry nor coach Kevin Stefanski could go into specifics about Watson’s legal situation, but the cloud of controversy won’t soon go away. It was particularly uncomfortable when Berry was asked if he and the organization believe “there was no wrongdoing” concerning Watson.
“We feel very confident in Deshaun the person,” Berry said. “We have a lot of faith in him. And we believe that, as he gets into the community and our organization, he’s going to make a positive impact.”
Team owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam, who didn’t appear at the news conference because of a previous commitment out of the country but spoke on a Zoom call, insisted they did their due diligence on the decision.
“Bottom line, we got very comfortable with Deshaun Watson the person,” Jimmy Haslam said.
Dee Haslam acknowledged those who are not on board with the move, saying: “Our compassion for those individuals is really deep. We know how hard this is on them.”
While Watson said he doesn't need counseling because he doesn’t have a problem, Dee Haslam suggested counseling would be helpful.
Ongoing litigation prevented Watson from going into details. “My intent is to continue to clear my name as much as possible,” he said, reiterating his contention that he did not act inappropriately.
Watson has not been criminally indicted, and it remains to be seen whether he will defend himself in the civil cases against him or settle them out of court.
Regardless of how Watson proceeds, he still faces the likelihood of a suspension. The NFL’s investigation has yet to conclude, and it is widely expected that commissioner Roger Goodell will hand down a significant suspension under the league’s personal conduct policy.
No one should be under any illusion that the Browns made this deal for anything other than football considerations, and it will take a long time for Watson to convince his new team’s fans that he will reflect positively on the organization.
Ryan and Colts an excellent match
The only thing the Colts knew after the season was that they were done with Carson Wentz. What they didn’t know was which quarterback would replace him after just one year.
That it would be Matt Ryan was about as good as the Colts could have asked.
After the Falcons lost a bid to trade for Watson, it was obvious that Ryan’s time in Atlanta was over. Landing in Indianapolis, where he now has a chance to reach the playoffs, was an excellent move. The Colts were within a win of reaching the playoffs last year, but Wentz’s loss to the Jaguars on the final regular-season weekend sealed the team’s fate. It also meant the end of the road for the quarterback the Colts acquired in a trade with the Eagles.
Ryan joins an Indy team that certainly is playoff-worthy, even if it might not be among the AFC elite. But with a good offensive line in front of Ryan and running back Jonathan Taylor coming off an All-Pro season, there is a lot to like about a team that now has a reliable pocket passer. At 36, Ryan may have lost something off his fastball, but he’s still good enough to get Indy back into the playoff mix.
The Colts’ defense, which features linebacker Darius Leonard and lineman DeForest Buckner, is stout. And if the Colts can make up for the retirement of reliable tight end Jack Doyle and add depth at wide receiver, there’s no reason Ryan can’t enjoy a renaissance with his new team.
Momentum builds for changing overtime rules
NFL owners may not be ready to make a significant change to the overtime format, but competition committee chairman Rich McKay sounds as if an adjustment eventually will happen.
When owners gather this week in Palm Beach for their annual spring meetings, they will consider two rules proposals. The first, submitted by the Colts and Eagles, would guarantee each team one possession in overtime, regardless of whether the team that possesses the ball first scores a touchdown. Under the current format, a team that scores a touchdown on the opening possession wins the game.
The other proposal, submitted by the Titans, would guarantee one possession for each team, with one important caveat: If the team that gets the ball first scores a touchdown and then is successful on a two-point conversion, that team wins the game.
“I do think there’s a lot of momentum to have a change,” McKay said.
But that change might not come immediately, as any adjustment requires 24 of 32 teams to vote in favor.
“My history on this tells me 24 votes is not easy to get to,” he said. “But I do think the statistics absolutely warrant [consideration] of whether our OT rules need to be modified.”
The most significant statistic of all: In 12 playoff games since overtime rules were changed to allow teams at least one possession unless the team with the ball first scores a touchdown, 10 have been won by the team that won the coin toss. Of those 10, seven were won by a team scoring a touchdown on its first possession. That included Kansas City against Buffalo in the divisional round of this year's AFC playoffs.
McKay said the NFL’s emphasis on reducing taunting will continue despite criticism over some 15-yard penalties called last year that seemed questionable. “We looked at a lot of plays, made some clarifications on sportsmanship, but at no time did we hear anything from the surveys or coaches’ subcommittee that either college or pro football should be backing off on the issues of sportsmanship,” McKay said. “That includes coaches and players.”
Willis and Pickett climb the charts
This may not be a deep quarterback class, but the top two passers – Malik Willis of Liberty and Kenny Pickett of Pittsburgh – appear to be gaining momentum as first-round picks. Maybe high first-rounders.
Both quarterbacks are coming off strong 2021 seasons, and they excelled in their respective pro days this past week. Pickett, whose only drawback may be relatively small hands that create concern about a potential fumbling issue, was nearly perfect in his drills. Ditto for Willis, who was exceptionally good at throwing the deep ball. On one throw in which he eluded a would-be pass rusher and then spun to his left, he connected on a long pass that drew cheers from the players at the workout.
Two teams in the top 10 – Carolina at No. 6 and Seattle at No. 9 (after trading Russell Wilson to Denver) – could be interested in the quarterbacks. And don’t discount a team trading up – possibly with either the Jets or Giants, both of whom have two picks in the first 10. The Steelers, who are at No. 20, are high on both quarterbacks; coach Mike Tomlin had dinner with Willis the night before his workout and a full contingent of Steelers coaches and scouts were at the workouts.
While Pickett is a more traditional quarterback, Willis offers the ability to run as well as throw. He had 47 touchdown passes last season and also ran for 1,822 yards and 27 touchdowns.
In a league that is driven more and more by quarterbacks, Pickett and Willis likely will benefit from what’s expected to be an early run on both.