The Jets traded away one of the most talented players on a talent-starved roster on Friday, but general manager Mike Maccagnan said it was done in service of the team’s bigger-picture plan.
Maccagnan sent defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, who is a free agent-to-be and unlikely to re-sign, to the Seahawks for receiver Jermaine Kearse and a second-round draft pick in 2018. The teams also swapped seventh-round picks.
“We’ve always talked about trying to build this thing through the draft, so that kind of stays with our plan from that standpoint,” Maccagnan said on a call with reporters. “We also picked up what we feel is a good player from the receiver standpoint, which will add to our wide receiver room and help some of our young guys come along.”
Richardson, 26, is due $8.1 million in the final year of a contract he signed as the 13th overall pick in the 2013 draft. A budding star in his first two seasons, he was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and went to the Pro Bowl in 2014.
But he served NFL suspensions each of the past two seasons for off-field transgressions and was part of a public feud with receiver Brandon Marshall last year that was emblematic of a torn locker room.
Coach Todd Bowles, who is working to change the team’s culture, was annoyed last month when Richardson again discussed Marshall, now a Giant, on ESPN radio. But Maccagnan insisted that had nothing to do with the trade.
“No, no, the simple answer is no,” he said. “I will say this: Sheldon from our standpoint as an organization, we really like Sheldon. From that standpoint, that has no bearing whatsoever on anything we decided to do.”
Still, the Jets had been looking to move Richardson for some time and finally did so by taking advantage of a surplus of talent on the defensive line to bolster an inexperienced receiving corps while also adding a high draft pick.
“We thought it was a good fit and good value for what we’re trying to accomplish here, both short and long term,” Maccagnan said.
Some of Richardson’s role might be filled by Kony Ealy, whom the Jets acquired off waivers this week and who played well in the preseason finale. He is a cousin of Richardson.
Richardson told ESPN, “Another team wanted me. Got to roll with the punches. I’m happy for the situation I’m in now. Fresh start.”
Kearse, 27, spent five seasons in Seattle after signing in 2012 as an undrafted free agent, totaling 153 catches for 2,110 yards and 11 touchdowns. He is due $2.2 million this season.
In Super Bowl XLVIII, he caught four passes for 65 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown reception, in the Seahawks’ 43-8 victory over the Broncos at MetLife Stadium. But his most memorable Super Bowl moment came the next year, when he made a circus catch in the final minute that seemed to set up the Seahawks for a late victory over the Patriots. Instead, their final offensive play resulted in an interception at the goal line and a 28-24 loss.
With Quincy Enunwa out for the season because of an injury, the Jets will look to Kearse not only to make plays but to mentor young wideouts.
Also on Friday, the Jets cut 10 players, including kicker Ross Martin, who lost a summer-long battle to Chandler Catanzaro. Also released were Spencer Paysinger, Chris Harper, Myles White, Jeff Adams, Craig Watts, Brandon Barnes, Jeremy Faulk, Armagedon Draughn and David Rivers. Enunwa, Chris Gragg and Corey Lemonier were placed on injured reserve.