After trying for over a year to trade defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, the Jets finally found a trade partner in the often aggressive Seattle Seahawks. Though the Jets will not receive the first rounder plus more that they wanted last year they will receive wide receiver Jermaine Kearse and a conditional 2nd/3rd round pick. Seattle picks up a tremendous defensive line who can be one of the best in the NFL when he is motivated to play.
Richardson’s career has been very uneven. He burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2013 and in 2014 had established himself as a Pro Bowler and the best defensive lineman on the Jets. With the departure of Rex Ryan things seem to go south. Richardson has troubles off the field being suspended for 4 games in 2015 and then 1 game in 2016. He was benched for a quarter for missing team meetings and clashed with Brandon Marshall, a feud he carried over to this year even with Marshall off the team.
I see this as one of those rare moves where everyone makes out better. From the Jets point of view this was just a bad fit, especially once the team drafted Leonard Williams and re-signed Muhammad Wilkerson. They didn’t have a real plan to use all three and Richardson was treated as the odd man out. That may have continued this season.
They pick up a wide receiver who is dirt cheap this year at just $2.2 million and can at least give them a professional on the field. They will gain net cap room of $5.869 million which will only add on to their massive cap space total moving forward. Kearse has a $5 million salary next year but none of that is guaranteed.
I am sure there are some Jets fans who were hoping for more compensation but it was not coming due to all of Richardson’s negatives. Some have already said they could have gotten a 3rd round comp pick in 2019 and had him anyway this season, but the odds are unlikely that would happen. Richardson is a rehab project and on a terrible team like the Jets there is no guarantee he would get a contract worthy of a 3rd round comp pick. More so than that the Jets have a million holes and over $80 million in cap room next year. No matter what they are going to have to sign a few free agents and the way that the compensatory process works one would be likely to cancel out Richardson even if the salary was much smaller.
I have no idea what the condition to move to a 2nd rounder is (and maybe someone has said it while typing this) but knowing these kind of deals it would not surprise me to have it be tied to Richardson re-signing with Seattle next year. That is a reasonable deal if that is the case provided they protected themselves with a date inclusion for that which extends well into the 2018 league year.
Seattle gets a potential superstar player in a contract season. If playing for a Super Bowl contender in a contract year doesn’t motivate Richardson nothing really will. He should seamlessly fit into the Seahawks defensive alignment and get to play a position that most benefits his skillset. He will cost the Seahawks about $8 million this season, effectively the same cost as Luke Joeckel who they signed this offseason. So for the way the Seahawks budget there can be no complaints about the salary even with his question marks.
Seattle is probably the most aggressive front office in the NFL. To get a player of this caliber and not have to give up a conditional 1st given their prior trades for Percy Harvin and Jimmy Graham is a big win for them too. That is a fearsome defensive line that can get after the far better QBs in the NFC. They do not give up much in Kearse who was going to be the 4th or 5th target on the team. If they fail to keep Richardson they will likely get a 3rd round comp or at least some draft compensation back since they, unlike the Jets, will likely not be in a spot where they are disqualified from a compensatory pick because of too much activity in free agency.
Richardson makes out better than anyone by landing in Seattle. He will go from playing in obscurity this year on a perceived JV team to being labelled the final piece of a Super Bowl team if they were to go that far. Think of the way big years on a good team bumped the pay of players like Josh Norman. He has a defined role and should thrive in it being able to just go after the quarterback. Seattle pays more than pretty much any other team in the NFL for talent so the door is open for a massive contract.
If Richardson has a big year in Seattle and has no off field issues or run in with teammates he should command $18 million a year. He is better than his former teammate Muhammad Wilkerson as well as the Eagles Fletcher Cox, who are both around $17 million a season. While he may have gotten there as a member of the Jets this is by far his easiest path to doing it.
Kearse gets the least from this by going to the Jets, but he does have incentives in his contract for yards and receptions that he will now at least have a chance to earn since he goes from a 4th target to one of the top 2 targets on a team. Even on a bad team those receivers get some looks and 55 receptions and 750 yards would net him $350,000. He’ll get a chance to showcase himself a bit as well and likely get another bite at free agency in 2018 if the Jets release him.
I am sure there are some Jets fans pretty distraught about the news because it is just another in a long line of evidence that the Jets are tanking this season. I get that, but given the mess that the team is I don’t think that they had any other options. The current and prior front offices neglected the offense so badly that the Jets are essentially trotting replacement players onto the offensive line and at various skill positions. They are also behind other teams who are rebuilding because unlike the Bills and Browns they failed to make multiple trades to acquire draft assets and also failed to make moves for a quarterback the way the Chiefs and Texans did this year.
The best case scenario for the Jets at this point is to be in a position to draft a QB with a top 3 or 4 pick and continue to stockpile cap room so they can surround that player with good talent next season while they develop their draft picks. Richardson is one of the few assets they had that can at least give them both draft capital and added cap room for the future. I cant say if this front office will be the ones making the decisions this year, but as long as they are honest about what they are doing and in the evaluation of the few players on the team that may be worth keeping that should be ok with most of us.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.