Joe Douglas and the New York Jets cannot afford to sell the farm for disgruntled Houston Texans star quarterback Deshaun Watson.
OK. Now we venture into the tricky phase of the Deshaun Watson noise.
Prior to this very moment, it was acceptable to say the New York Jets should do anything to land the disgruntled Houston Texans stud quarterback. The position is the most important in sports, and why not get the offseason party started with a pro-Watson sentiment?
Today, the evils of such a motive come to light, as every pro-Houston individual looks to drive up the price. This simply means Joe Douglas‘s job becomes that much more difficult.
The Houston Chronicle’s John McClain recently informed everybody what the Houston Texans are looking for in return.
The Rams-Lions trade will have nothing to do with a Watson trade if the Texans do it. They'll want 2 ones, 2 twos and 2 young defensive starters, at the least. Watson, 25, under contract, great QB, team leader, beloved by fans, pillar of the community. Start with the Jets.
— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) January 31, 2021
McClain laid out a price of two first-round picks, two second-round selections and two young defensive starters, at least. Others have suggested four or even five first-rounders will be required to snag Watson.
There’s only one thing to say: Have we lost our minds? The Jets cannot afford to sell the farm for this quarterback. And what McClain just laid out qualifies as “the farm.”
Firstly, what’s important to remember is this fact: Not all first-round picks are created equal. Everybody continues to throw around phrases such as “three firsts and a second” or “four firsts and a young defensive starter.”
The Jets potentially including the No. 2 pick changes everything. Just how many first-round picks is the No. 2 selection worth?
Jimmy Johnson‘s NFL draft value chart puts No. 2 at 2,600 points. No. 32 is worth just 590. That means, for all you math or non-math majors, at least four No. 32s are needed to even come close to equaling the value of No. 2.
The No. 2 pick’s involvement should mean no more than two other first-rounders should be included, sans any young player such as Quinnen Williams or Mekhi Becton. Sam Darnold can be involved, as can a second or third-round pick. No. 2 and No. 23 both carry incredible value based on the positioning and the timing—as a current draft pick is head and shoulders more valuable than a future one.
No. 2, No. 23 and a 2022 first-round pick should only be accompanied by Darnold and maybe a third-rounder. No. 2, a 2022 first-round pick and 2023 first-round pick would need a bit more in the package, perhaps two 2s or a 2 and a 3.
This isn’t the NBA.
As much as the media world (and social media world) would love to turn the NFL into the NBA—with its highlight-only-watching young demographic increasing—the two sports couldn’t contrast more.
The quarterback’s importance is obvious. But as critical as that position may be, it cannot begin to touch the NBA superstar’s value. What a LeBron James does for an NBA franchise is nearly laughable. He, alone, can take a 20-win team and turn it into a 60-win team. His absence does the reverse.
Watson is not LeBron. He’s an excellent quarterback who deserves to be included in the top five of the league at his position, but what’s his real worth?
The 2020 Texans won four games. They also won just four games in 2017. Over the last four seasons, Watson’s franchise is 29-35. Even the great quarterback can’t do enough damage to overcome any situation—unlike the NBA star.
Even the man many call the “most talented quarterback ever” can’t lift a team to greatness if the other pieces aren’t in place. Aaron Rodgers‘s one Super Bowl ring is something that would never happen to a LeBron.
It wouldn’t even happen to another guy who plays Watson’s position, Tom Brady, a man who finds himself in the Super Bowl for a 10th time. And yeah, even Brady needs a team around him, but Watson isn’t even Brady. Is he even Peyton Manning? Both Brady and Manning oozed value in a way that forces their respective teams to at least consistently make the playoffs. Watson’s done it two of four seasons thus far.
Perhaps “selling the farm” is worthwhile when a man makes the laughable impact routine. I’m not so sure that’s the case when thinking about Watson.
Recklessness needs to be avoided.
Dishing out No. 2, No. 23, a 2022 first-round pick and Quinnen Williams package hurts the Jets more than it helps them. Sure, they’d have Watson, a headline-grabbing player that’ll surely drum up excitement. But how will the future be built?
Douglas would still have a second and two thirds in the upcoming draft. He’d also still have a first, a second and two thirds in 2022. With Big Q gone, that interior stud would need to be found again.
An elite cornerback, two serious edge rushers, at least one legitimate play-maker and a couple of dominant offensive linemen would still be needed. Suddenly, the flexibility Douglas once enjoyed would be gone. Douglas couldn’t afford to miss on any of his premium picks in a league that routinely sees good talent evaluators miss.
Additionally, his salary-cap maneuverability would be decreased. In Douglas’s world, free agency can never be viewed as the top part of team-building. It’s the cherry on top of the already-built roster that came mainly from the draft. (Anybody who paid attention last offseason would already realize that.)
Giving up too much for Watson and going crazy in free agency is simply not an option. It’s not a legitimate team-building strategy that yields consistency. Think of that situation as one that could produce several good seasons and another several that totally miss the mark—sort of how the Texans’ last four seasons have unfolded. You know, the same team who now finds itself in a disastrous salary-cap situation.
The Jets’ personnel holes are drastic. The team’s depth is nonexistent. A coaching upgrade can drastically change fortunes over a short period of time, but rushing into a headline-grabbing move while relenting too much won’t help the organization reach its long-term goals.
In 2011, the Denver Nuggets sent “star player” Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks. The first picture-perfect night included “I’m Coming Home” and a whole lot of pomp and circumstance. Great. Where did it get them in the end?
Anthony, the soon-to-be free agent, could have signed with the Knicks the following year while they kept every asset. Instead, a load of assets was sent to Denver. The Knicks produced one tremendous season in the Melo era, as it became clear that Melo was no LeBron. His “star” status was greatly overrated.
The Jets and Watson cannot make the same mistake. Watson’s no-trade clause looms large in a way that’ll help his new team find more value in the deal. And obviously, Watson won’t want his new team to give up more than it has to.
Two firsts (including No. 2) and two seconds work. Three firsts (including No. 2 and No. 23) with Darnold as an option also works. Three firsts (including No. 2, 2022 first-rounder and 2023 first-rounder) plus a second and a third also works.
Anything past that should be a no-go. The No. 2 pick is incredibly valuable and allows the Jets to work under salary-cap freedom that comes when paying a rookie quarterback. Yes, quarterbacks are important, but perhaps not as important these days. If Jared Goff, Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Foles, Joe Flacco, Cam Newton and even Matt Ryan can get to Super Bowls, perhaps we need to reevaluate how important quarterbacks are in a salary-cap world that greatly favors the organization with the affordable rookie quarterback contract.
Go ahead and get him, just don’t sell the farm. The number of draft picks, salary-cap space and rookie contract benefits that come with the No. 2 pick equals a tried and tested NFL formula that began with the Seattle Seahawks a decade ago.
The New York Jets are still not ready for primetime. Deshaun Watson would be a tremendous thing but not at the cost of grinding the program to a near halt.
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