Deshaun Watson, Jared Goff, Matthew Stafford
Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams’ misleading trade package for Matthew Stafford shouldn’t impact the New York Jets-Deshaun Watson possibility.

Robby Sabo

Diehard New York Jets fans comfortably went to bed Saturday night thinking the trade package required to snag Deshaun Watson didn’t have to be beyond outlandish. Those very same folks woke up Sunday morning believing it would take five first-round selections to bring the Clemson stud to New Jersey.

All it took was one trade.

The Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Rams kickstarted the league’s quarterback carousel Sunday morning when Matthew Stafford found out his new professional employer makes its business in the wild west. Stafford was sent to the Rams for Jared Goff, a third-round pick and two first-rounders, thus ramping up Watson’s perceived trade value.

Two first-round selections for a soon-to-be 33-year old quarterback forced shouts of “what?!” to echo around the league.

Let’s say it again: “Two firsts.” Nobody ever thought a 32-year old who doesn’t scare anybody with his legs could garner such a package—and that’s with 26-year old Goff. What would it take for the Jets to acquire Watson, five or six first-round choices?

The devil is always in the details.

All first-round picks are not equal and the casual information swapping social media brings football fans allows the “two firsts” sentiment to carry over into any Jets-Watson speculation. Simply labeling “two firsts” as “two firsts” is the first big mistake.

The Rams do not possess a 2021 first-round selection, courtesy of the Jalen Ramsey trade. What they officially gave up for Stafford’s services was a 2021 third-round pick, 2022 first-rounder and 2023 first.

The first-round selections in 2022 and 2023 are each drastically different than a 2021 first-rounder. The value drop-off is incredible—something so many onlookers seem to be overlooking.

Imagine Los Angeles did have a 2021 first-rounder. What would the trade package have looked like if that 2021 first had been sent to Detroit in the deal? It’s tough to think another first-rounder on top of that 2021 first would have been included.

Los Angeles Rams acquire:

  • Matthew Stafford

Detroit Lions acquire:

  • Jared Goff
  • 2021 first-round pick
  • 2021 third-round pick

That’s it. Perhaps another 2022 third-rounder would have been thrown in. Or, maybe a second could have been the fourth asset. Either way, the two future first-rounders serve as the substitution for the Rams not owning a current first.

In the Jets’ case, weighing “current” vs. “future” is still important, but it’s nowhere near as critical as it was in the Los Angeles-Detroit deal.

Joe Douglas currently has his mitts on two current first-rounders, No. 2 and No. 23. Obviously, No. 2 and No. 23 in 2021 don’t equal the two firsts Detroit just acquired. Yet, mysteriously, many pundits and fans believe the “two firsts” seen transferred in the Stafford deal will set the available quarterback market.

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While the Stafford trade package does technically “set the market,” how so many individuals are evaluating it is misleading. Not only are those “two firsts” misleading when mentioned, but Los Angeles was forced to give up more than it wanted to thanks to Goff’s disastrous salary.

Goff’s four-year, $134 million deal with over $57 million guaranteed became a hindrance. Relenting more than they had to was a necessary evil to make this deal happen for the Los Angeles side.

“Two first-round picks” are never just “two first-round picks.” Yet, mysteriously, the details often get lost in translation. From a Jets’ point of view, three firsts and a little extra can possibly still be enough to get a Watson deal done.

New York Jets acquire:

Houston Texans acquire:

  • 2021 first-round pick (No. 2)
  • 2021 first-round pick (No. 23)
  • 2022 first-round pick (NYJ)
  • Sam Darnold or a 2021 third-round pick (NYJ) or 2022 second-round pick

This is especially the case if Watson uses the no-trade clause to his and the Jets’ advantage.

Those who went to bed Saturday night optimistic to only wake up Sunday morning completely depressed should fear not—at least not when thinking about how the Stafford deal impacts things.

It doesn’t.

The real conversation surrounds Douglas’s willingness to dish out three first-rounders for Watson, or if the Texan quarterback even wants any part of the Jets. After all, the rookie wage scale allows general managers incredible freedom under the salary cap, and Douglas, a man who understands value, could easily opt for Zach Wilson or Justin Fields at No. 2.

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Robby Sabo is a co-founder, developer and credentialed New York Jets content creator for Jets X-Factor | Jet X, which includes Sabo's Sessions (in-depth film breakdowns) and Sabo with the Jets. Host: Underdog Jets Podcast with Wayne Chrebet and Sabo Radio. Member: Pro Football Writers of America. Coach: Port Jervis (NY) High School. Washed up strong safety and 400M runner. Founder: Elite Sports NY - ESNY (sold in 2020). SEO: XLM Email: robby.sabo[at]
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Sean Bird
2 years ago

Last time that the #2 pick when it has a franchise quarterback value was the following in the Eagles-Browns trade of 2016:
The #8 pick, #64 pick, #77 pick, #100 pick, and a 2017 first

Jim Franklin
Jim Franklin
2 years ago

Firsts are not equivalent. i’ve been arguing that since the Watson talk began.

The 2nd pick is worth the other 3 picks combined. I think its’ the 2nd and Sam or the late 3s (watson and saleh has got to make the jets pick a late 3 next year)

2 years ago

Thanks for bringing some much-needed sanity to the discussion, Robby. Great piece. 100% concur. Joe deals for Watson on his terms or not at all. The package you propose is robust and fair to both sides, and is as far as he should go. It is literally, for me anyway, the point of indifference, which is to say, the point at which I am indifferent to whether the Jets trade for Watson or decide to use the #2 overall pick on the QB of their choice, and use all those picks to surround that QB with talent.