CLEVELAND — The text message told Sheldon Richardson all he needed to know. By Tuesday, he might not be a Jet.
Hours before he and his teammates defeated the winless Browns, 31-28, one of Richardson’s friends sent him a screenshot of an article that had been circulating on Twitter. And for the first time, the defensive lineman was forced to confront his uncertain future with the franchise.
NFL.com reported Sunday morning that Richardson could be on the trading block in advance of Tuesday’s league deadline.
“I just heard them today. This morning,” Richardson said of the rumors during a one-on-one interview outside the visitors’ locker room at FirstEnergy Stadium.
A league source confirmed to Newsday on Sunday evening that Richardson’s name “is out there” but added: “He is a two-strike guy, so [the Jets] won’t get what they want.”
Richardson, the 2013 Defensive Rookie of the Year and a 2014 Pro Bowler (as an alternate), has twice been suspended by the league. He missed the first four games of the 2015 season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy (failed marijuana tests) and was forced to sit out the Jets’ Week 1 game against the Bengals because he violated the NFL’s personal-conduct policy stemming from a July 2015 arrest for speeding in St. Louis.
It’s no surprise that the Jets — a team that already has 2011 first-round pick Muhammad Wilkerson and selected Leonard Williams sixth overall last season — have had internal discussions about the possibility of dealing Richardson. They’re a struggling franchise trying to rebuild, with plenty of roster holes and far too many recent draft busts.
But Richardson, the 13th overall pick in 2013, insisted that he’s not overly concerned about his future with the Jets — at least not yet.
“It’s big business. That’s what it is,” he told Newsday. “We’ve got a surplus of defensive linemen that are capable of being starters. And they drafted Leo, paid Mo . . . So we’ll see.”
As Newsday previously reported, the Jets tried to trade Pro Bowler Wilkerson in the offseason and failed. Then in July, they gave him a five-year, $86-million contract while he still was rehabbing from a broken leg.
Because of Richardson’s playmaking ability, his versatility and relentless motor, he’s sure to garner attention. But it remains to be seen if the Jets will be able to pull off a deal.
Richardson, who missed two days of practice last week to attend funeral services for his maternal uncle, said he’s not worried about being the odd man out. “I can’t let myself think about it,” he said. “It is what it is. I’m here on paper until Tuesday. I’m still here. So we’ll see.”