The Jets were barely active at the NFL trade deadline on Tuesday, shuffling Jacob Martin to Denver for some future draft picks. This a week after they acquired running back James Robinson from the Jaguars when rookie Breece Hall tore his ACL. They were modest, mature moves made by a front office that is rightly confident in what it has on its roster both in terms of active players and those expected to return from injury in the very near future.
Yet they very well could wind up being the biggest losers in what has become the league’s annual frenzy to put the finishing touches on championship-caliber teams.
That designation has nothing to do with any swaps general manager Joe Douglas did or did not make. It’s more about what happened elsewhere in the AFC East. Both Buffalo and Miami launched aggressive campaigns to improve their teams and push themselves closer to the playoffs, adding talent that could very well pay enormous dividends in December, January and perhaps even February. Three of the Jets’ final nine games are against those two rivals. They also have one against a Patriots team they have not beaten in their last 13 tries. The one positive for the Jets is they already notched a victory over the shorthanded Dolphins.
The Jets got no worse as a football team this week, but their division undeniably became tougher.
Robert Saleh agreed with that assessment on Wednesday.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “Miami did a really nice job. I feel like they’ve done a really nice job with their draft capital and ending up with the players they ended up with. Buffalo is already fantastic and then you add a little bit more speed… Credit to Miami and Buffalo for being able to add a little bit.”
The trade deadline has evolved from the sleepy afternoon of NFL inaction it once was to a chance for teams with championship aspirations to show just how invested they are in getting there. The last few years have all seen Super Bowl participants who made such deals: Von Miller acquired by the Rams last season, Emmanuel Sanders added by the 49ers in 2019 (with Saleh as defensive coordinator). Both players, interestingly, arrived via the Broncos.
That seems to be the kind of result the Dolphins are hoping for with their trade for linebacker Bradley Chubb from… yep, the Broncos. Miami’s defense has been suspect and held just two opponents under 340 yards this season. Through eight weeks, they are tied for the ninth-fewest sacks recorded (15). Chubb already has 5.5 this season along with 26 total pressures but had zero sacks against the Jets when the Broncos lost to them last month.
The Jets will face Miami in Florida in Week 18, a game that may determine which team plays on and which team’s season ends. It’s a game that, who knows, may be decided by Chubb.
Of more immediate concern for the Jets, though, is Buffalo, the team coming to MetLife Stadium on Sunday. They have Von Miller, the darling of last year’s yard sale who then signed with the Bills in the offseason, but also newly added running back Nyheim Hines who was traded from the Colts on Tuesday.
On the surface it doesn’t seem like a huge upgrade, but Hines should add versatility to an already overpowering passing offense. He had 234 receptions for 1,725 yards with seven touchdowns in 72 games for Indy and according to Pro Football Focus has the second-best receiving grade among running backs in the NFL since 2020 at 91.3, trailing only another running back who recently switched teams to join a potential trophy chase: Christian McCaffrey.
“He’s fast,” Saleh said of Hines. “We saw him last year, unfortunately, on Thursday Night Football (when Hines scored on a 34-yard run in Indy’s 45-30 victory). He’s a really good football player. Good addition for them.”
It isn’t just the AFC East landscape that became more rugged. Improvements abound in the entire conference. Kansas City added Kadarius Toney from the Giants, and while his brief tenure in New York was overwhelmed by injuries he could help Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid down the stretch this season. The Ravens added middle linebacker Roquan Smith from the Bears. These could be the teams the Jets wind up jostling with for wild card berths if their division hopes fizzle.
Of course the Jets still have a chance to contend even in a revamped AFC East. One of the reasons Douglas didn’t make any splashy, sexy moves is that he thinks the Jets are strong enough just as they are. Or maybe as the rest of the AFC East was.
“It’s a division that has four really, really good football teams,” Saleh said. “Four teams that are capable of making a run.”
The moves on Tuesday will only make that run more challenging for the Jets.