Plan C might work out better than Plan A.
After being rebuffed by Kirk Cousins, their top free-agent target, the Jets moved toward Plan B last week, re-signing their starting quarterback from 2017, Josh McCown, and agreeing to terms with Teddy Bridgewater, with each getting a one-year deal.
What the Jets did on Saturday morning, however, most likely will surpass what they did earlier in the week with the two experienced quarterbacks. They swapped first-round picks with the Colts, moving from No. 6 to No. 3 and putting themselves in position to get one of the top quarterbacks in next month’s NFL Draft.
The Jets didn’t give up much to move up, trading both of their 2018 second-round picks (37th and 49th overall) and a 2019 second-round selection to the Colts.
Plan C it is.
And the Jets didn’t just stop at No. 3. They held discussions with the Browns about the No. 1 overall pick but couldn’t finalize a deal.
The excitement surrounding what the Jets did was felt internally. Their social media staff tweeted information about the trade with a gif of George Jefferson dancing with Helen Willis on the old show “The Jeffersons’’ with the comment “Moving on up.”
Yes, the Jets positioned themselves to find their franchise quarterback, something they thought they had when Mark Sanchez was drafted with the fifth overall pick in 2009. Sanchez led the Jets to a pair of AFC title games in his first two seasons but was gone after four years and now is a backup.
After his departure, the team started five different players at the position, continuing the frustrating search for a franchise quarterback.
After the Jets made McCown the starting quarterback last season, he produced career highs in passing yards (2,926), touchdown passes (18) and completion percentage (67.3) in 13 games before getting injured. He isn’t considered a franchise quarterback, though, and has acknowledged that he’s a bridge for the next one.
When free agency started, the Jets made a play for Cousins, but after they spoke with his agent, he never gave them much of a chance. Cousins visited one team, the Vikings, and signed a three-year deal that guarantees him $84 million.
During the news conference announcing that deal, Cousins said that when he visited Minneapolis in early February for the Super Bowl, he toured the area around the Vikings’ facility and thought the Midwest would be a great place to live. He never tried to see if the area around Florham Park, New Jersey, was any better.
With Cousins out of the picture, the Jets turned their focus to McCown, and he signed for $10 million. Jets officials told him he would be the starting quarterback in 2018.
The Jets weren’t finished, though. They agreed to terms with Bridgewater, taking a gamble on a player who hasn’t played in an NFL game in nearly two years because of a severe knee injury.
The contract is heavy with incentives that could bring it to $15 million, and if Bridgewater earns that, it will be because he took over the starting job from McCown.
But during the last few days, Jets officials kept searching for more. General manager Mike Maccagnan, who was attending the pro days of Baker Mayfield and Josh Rosen, worked the phones for a possible trade.
The Browns, Jets, Bills and Broncos are among the teams in play for a quarterback in the draft. With the No. 2 pick, the Giants also might elect to snag a quarterback to eventually succeed Eli Manning, 37.
Maccagnan realized this and knew he could swap his first-round pick, give up two high second-round picks and quite possibly one or two more selections to move up.
In 2016, the Los Angeles Rams gave the Titans six picks to move up, including a pair of second- and third-round picks. They eventually selected Jared Goff.
The Eagles gave up five picks to the Browns to select Carson Wentz at No. 1 overall in 2016.
Maccagnan traded away four picks, and now the Jets are in position to get the man who might become the next franchise quarterback.
Three weeks ago, at the NFL Combine, Maccagnan didn’t want to reveal what he was doing, but now it is apparent.
“We’re also kind of excited to see what the draft prospects look like,” he said. “I don’t think we solely focused on the quarterback, but it is definitely a position of interest for us. We’re going to evaluate this process going forward and see what happens.”
NOT ALWAYS PICK OF LITTER
A look at the seven times the Jets have had a top-three draft pick:
1996, No. 1
Keyshawn Johnson, WR USC
A HIT! Johnson wrote a book about wanting the ball more and in four seasons with Jets had two 1,000 yard seasons.
1990, No. 2
Blair Thomas, RB Penn State
A MISS! Averaged just a little over 500 rushing yards and scored seven touchdowns — including two on pass plays — in four seasons with Jets.
1981, No. 3
Freeman McNeil, RB UCLA
A HIT! A strong 12-year career where he rushed for 8,074 yards and was a three-time Pro Bowler.
1980, No. 2
Johnny Lam Jones, WR Texas
A MISS! Scored just 13 touchdown in five seasons with the Jets, averaging 464 reception yards per season.
1965. AFL No. 1
Joe Namath, QB Alabama
DIRECT HIT! Chose the American Football League Jets over the NFL St. Louis Cardinals and became the franchise’s iconic player, delivering on his guarantee of a Super Bowl victory. What more needs to be said?
1964, AFL No. 3
Matt Snell, RB Ohio State
A HIT! The three-time Pro Bowler ran for 4,285 yards and 24 touchdowns in nine seasons.
1963, AFL No. 3
Jerry Stovall, DB-Punter LSU
NICE TRY! The Jets’ instincts were good but the three-time Pro Bowler signed with the St. Louis Cardinals, who had made him the second overall pick in the NFL Draft.