Revisiting the best trades by New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas
Trades are becoming an increasingly common method of roster-building in the NFL. A record total of seven first-round picks were traded in March 2021 alone.
Douglas has kept up with the trend. He’s been an active trader with the Jets, making 15 total trades since arriving in New York. Overall, Douglas has dealt a whopping 17 picks and seven players in exchange for 21 picks and four players since taking over.
Not all trades are equal, however, so I’m going to try to rank his top seven. I will base my decisions on the relative value of each exchange and the long-term impact.
7. Trading for guard Alex Lewis
Trading for Alex Lewis was one of Douglas’ first moves as the Jets’ general manager. The deal was among the first indicators of Douglas’ philosophy of building through the trenches. Douglas acquired the former Ravens guard for a seventh-round pick in 2019.
After earning the starting left guard spot in his first year with the Jets, Lewis was rewarded with a three-year extension. He started nine games in 2020 but unfortunately couldn’t complete the duration of the contract.
Lewis unexpectedly retired just before the start of the 2021 season. Head coach Robert Saleh had these comments when asked about Lewis’ status a month prior: “He’s going through some things which are much greater than football right now … We’re just giving him a chance to kind of sort through it all.”
While he may no longer be with the team, Lewis did play 24 games (21 starts) over two seasons in New York.
Given his role in stabilizing the offensive line and the fact he only cost a conditional seventh-round pick, I’d say this is a great trade by Douglas.
6. Turning Pick 143 into three players
At the end of the 2021 draft, Douglas went for quantity over quality and came away with three exciting players.
The Jets sent the 143rd overall pick (fifth-round) to the Raiders in exchange for the 162nd pick (fifth-round) and the 200th pick (sixth-round). Next, they traded the 162nd (fifth-round) and 226th pick (sixth-round) for picks 175 (fifth-round) and 207 (sixth-round).
While the difference in point value is marginal, Douglas was able to select cornerback Brandin Echols, safety Jason Pinnock, and defensive tackle Jonathan Marshall. While the jury is still out on these players, the early returns of Echols and Pinnock are encouraging.
Echols immediately won the starting job opposite of Bryce Hall. While it was a bumpy rookie year, he held his own and his ridiculous athleticism gives him a lot of upside.
This trade will be even better if Pinnock maintains the level of play that he showed at the end of the season. Once transitioning from corner to safety, Pinnock played very well, earning an 80.7 overall Pro Football Focus grade which ranked fourth-best among safeties over the final three weeks of the season.
5. Trading up for guard Alijah Vera-Tucker
Going into the 2021 draft, the Jets had a glaring need at guard. Alijah Vera-Tucker was a fan favorite but was quickly moving up draft boards, making it unlikely he would last until the Jets’ selection in the 23rd slot.
Douglas was aggressive for one of his top-rated players, sending the 23rd overall pick (first-round), 67th pick (third-round), and 87th pick (third-round) to the Minnesota Vikings for the 14th pick.
Some analysts criticized Douglas for giving up so much to acquire a guard but the results speak for themselves. Vera-Tucker immediately established himself as a top guard, especially dominating in the run game. In the end, he was named to PFF’s All-Rookie team.
While Vera-Tucker’s pass protection needs to improve, year one was an encouraging start.
4. Trading tight end Chris Herndon
Chris Herndon looked like a rising star as a rookie, finishing the season with a very similar stat line to future star tight end Mark Andrews. Herndon caught 39 passes for 502 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie.
Unfortunately, that would be the peak of Herndon’s career.
For the next two years, Herndon struggled with injuries and ineffective play. Just before the 2021 season, Douglas cut his losses, shipping Herndon and a 2022 sixth-round pick (184th overall) to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for a 2022 fourth-round pick (117th overall).
In 2021, Herndon would tally only four catches for 40 yards and one touchdown.
3. Trading tight end Daniel Brown for guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif
This trade is outstanding simply due to the amazing value. The Jets traded their third-string tight end, Daniel Brown, to the Kansas City Chiefs for longtime starting guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.
Duvernay-Tardif would take over as the Jets starting right guard in Week 11 and he stayed there for the rest of the season. Meanwhile, the Chiefs cut Brown and the Jets signed him back. Now that’s good value.
While Duvernay-Tardif is currently a free agent, his impact on the offensive line in 2021 cannot be understated. Despite several injuries to key players, the Jets’ offensive line played their best football down the stretch. This improvement translated to two late-season victories against the Texans and Jaguars.
2. Ending the Sam Darnold experiment
The Sam Darnold trade was good at the time but it became even sweeter as the 2021 season went on. Darnold fell apart after a hot start and now the Carolina Panthers are stuck with him and his $18 million cap hit in 2022, as they already decided to exercise his fifth-year option in April 2021.
Overall, the Jets sent Darnold to Carolina in exchange for a 2021 sixth-round pick (226th overall), a 2022 second-round pick (38th overall), and a 2022 fourth-round pick (111th overall).
The Jets’ additional picks in this year’s draft will allow them to capitalize on deep classes at the edge, wide receiver, and tight end positions. Or, they possibly use those picks in a trade for a star wide receiver.
The biggest impact of this trade is that the Jets would go on to select quarterback Zach Wilson out of BYU as Darnold’s replacement. It was a bumpy rookie season for Wilson, but after a strong finish to the year in which he showed a confident demeanor, Jets fans are feeling good about Wilson moving forward.
1. The Jamal Adams trade
The Jamal Adams trade not only set up the Jets for the next several years but also hastened the collapse of the Seattle Seahawks.
This deal is turning into one of the most lopsided NFL trades in recent memory. Douglas sent Adams and a 2022 fourth-round pick (109th overall) to Seattle in exchange for safety Bradley McDougald, a 2021 first-round pick (23rd overall), a 2021 third-round pick (87th overall), and a 2022 first-round pick (10th overall).
Since the trade, Adams hasn’t been nearly the player he was in New York and now the Seahawks are stuck paying him nearly $18 million per year after agreeing to a four-year, $70 million extension prior to the 2021 season.
Meanwhile, the Jets used their pair of 2021 picks to acquire Alijah Vera-Tucker, and they will have the chance to acquire another elite prospect with Seattle’s 10th overall pick in the 2022 draft.
This trade got even sweeter when the Seahawks hit the reset button by trading quarterback Russell Wilson.
Joe Douglas likely isn’t done
With a month until the NFL draft, Douglas likely is not done making trades and improving the roster. The Jets have been connected to several star receivers and appear ready to strike if an opportunity presents itself.
Douglas is also likely to continue being active on draft day. In each of his two drafts, Douglas made three draft-day trades.
The 10th overall pick has been traded in three of the last four drafts. With quarterbacks moving up draft boards, there is a good chance that could continue this year. I’ve already gone into some of the possible trade packages the Jets could get for their top picks here.
Overall, Joe Douglas has been able to get great value in his trades. With the 2022 offseason almost complete, I expect him to continue being aggressive in his pursuit to support Zach Wilson.