Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan said Wednesday that he’s open to trading up to draft a quarterback in the first round.
The Jets have the No. 6 overall pick, and Maccagnan, in his three seasons as GM, has yet to move up in the first round. But with the Jets needing a franchise quarterback, the time appears right to do so.
“Yeah, I would say it would actually pertain to any player you felt extremely strong about, too,” Maccagnan said on ESPN 98.7. “But we’ve moved back a little bit in the draft and there’ve been situations I’ve tried to move up in the draft. But I would say the simple answer to that question is yes, and if that was a player we felt very strongly about we would have no qualms about potentially trying to go and get him.”
Josh McCown was the Jets’ starting quarterback for the first 13 games of the season before he broke his left hand. Todd Bowles moved Bryce Petty into the starting role and he played the remaining three games. Christian Hackenberg received some first-team reps in practice during the last two weeks of the season but didn’t take the field.
Maccagnan said that was Bowles’ decision, but the GM has the power over the draft, and 2018 has a high value for quarterbacks. USC’s Sam Darnold and UCLA’s Josh Rosen are the favorites to go 1-2 overall, and both announced Wednesday night that they will enter. Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, the Heisman Trophy winner, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, the 2016 Heisman winner, and Wyoming’s Josh Allen also are prospective first-round picks.
Moving up in the draft requires assets, and the Jets have two second-round picks to mortgage as well as a 2019 first-rounder. Would that be enough to get in position to take a top-rated quarterback? Very possibly.
In 2016, the Eagles and Rams each moved up and traded multiple picks to get in position to draft quarterbacks Carson Wentz and Jared Goff, respectively. The Eagles swapped first-round slots with the Browns, moving from eighth to second. The Rams made a deal with the Titans and went from 15th overall to No. 1 so they could pick Goff.
So it’s been done, and the Jets understand that finding a quarterback for 2018 is vital.
“You’re always looking for that,’’ Jets CEO/chairman Christopher Johnson said. “Whether we have that person on the roster already is another question and has yet to be resolved. Yes, it’s obviously the most important position on a team, and it’s not going to be overlooked.”
Maccagnan has the option of bypassing the draft for a quarterback and signing one in free agency, where the Jets will have a projected $100 million in salary-cap space. The Redskins’ Kirk Cousins, the Vikings’ trio of Teddy Bridgewater, Case Keenum and Sam Bradford and the Dolphins’ Jay Cutler are possible targets. The Jets expressed mild interest in Cutler last year before he retired. He later changed his mind and signed with the Dolphins.
“Right now, there’s some potential players that are going to be in that market,” Maccagnan said Tuesday. “If we think there’s a way to improve the talent on this team through free agency and/or through the college draft, we wouldn’t rule anything out, quite frankly. I think all options are going to be on the table. And I think we’re going to go through that process and see how we can improve this team.”