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Does NY Jets GM Joe Douglas really have a line in the sand?

NY Jets GM, Packers GM, Joe Douglas, Brian Gutenkunst, Aaron Rodgers Trade
Joe Douglas, Brian Gutenkunst, New York Jets, Green Bay Packers, Getty Images, Jet X Graphic

Joe Douglas reportedly has a line in the sand that he won’t cross in New York Jets negotiations, but is that accurate?

There’s a four-letter word around New York Jets parts right now, and it’s spelled L-E-V-E-R-A-G-E.

Everyone has an opinion about which team has the leverage in the Jets-Packers trade negotiations for Aaron Rodgers. The answer likely lies somewhere in the middle: both teams have leverage, and therefore, neither does.

Many Jets fans are confident in their hero and savior, Joe Douglas, to “win” the trade. Jamal Adams and Sam Darnold, they’ll say knowingly.

“In Joe We Trust” memes abound.

However, there’s been a curious trend in some of Douglas’ negotiations outside of those trades. Is Douglas really as savvy a negotiator as Jets fans believe?

Free agency

This is now Douglas’ fourth offseason as Jets GM. His track record from the previous three is spotty.


Connor McGovern’s three-year, $27 million deal with $18 million guaranteed was a blatant overpay for an average center. He was the 10th-highest-paid center in the league when his play was somewhere between 16th to 20th in each of his three years with the team.

George Fant, a career backup, received three years, $30 million with $13.7 million guaranteed. This was an overpay despite Fant’s strong 2021 season. In the end, his injury track record did him in.

The saving grace is that Douglas did not give Fant an extension prior to his injury-riddled 2022 season.


Carl Lawson has not lived up to his three-year, $45 million deal. His injury is no excuse, as it was his main issue in Cincinnati. The same goes for Corey Davis, Douglas’ other big-ticket signing that offseason.

Sheldon Rankins had one terrible season and one strong one for the Jets. Recency bias makes it a good contract.


The D.J. Reed signing is obviously a smashing success thus far, even if the three-year, $33 million price might still be steep. Laken Tomlinson’s contract was a big overpay compared to James Daniels’ and Austin Corbett’s contracts. It blew up in Douglas’ face in Year 1.

Douglas overpaid Braxton Berrios, and the Jets will now eat $3.2 million in dead cap as a result.

Signing C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin to starter-level contracts was confusing at the time. After the season, it’s even more befuddling considering the pair’s usage. Uzomah got $8 million per year to block, while Conklin functioned primarily as a safety valve.

Jordan Whitehead had a poor season, but his contract makes him easy to release. His 2023 cap hit of $10.2 million cannot be on the 2023 roster, though.

Jacob Martin was another sneaky overpay. With a player like Bryce Huff on the roster, Martin’s skills were redundant. His three-year, $13.5 million deal with $6 million guaranteed went to nothing.

Perhaps the worst move of the offseason was being forced to sign Duane Brown for $11 million a year. Douglas left the tackle position razor-thin, gambling that Mekhi Becton would stay healthy. When he inevitably didn’t, Douglas then ramped up conversations with Brown. The result was a contract with three void years and too much money for a 37-year-old tackle.

Overall, Douglas has found some value in free agency (such as signing Kwon Alexander and picking up John Franklin-Myers and Quincy Williams off waivers), but he has overpaid an awful lot.


Regarding the draft, it’s important to look at value, not just the player. This might sound foolish, but in business, the value of an asset is measured in surplus, not just absolute value. In other words, how much did you pay for the asset?

Furthermore, there is a strong concept of ceiling vs. floor for draft prospects. Teams must weigh whether they prefer to take a swing on a player’s ability to hit their ceiling or go with the safer pick.

Obviously, there are many factors that determine whether the player ascends in the league. One important one is player development. The GM must know he has the right plan in place to develop the players he drafts.

Mekhi Becton

Douglas swung for the fences by picking Mekhi Becton in 2020. Tristan Wirfs was more highly regarded by many draft analysts, but he was also seen as a right tackle. The Jets wanted a left tackle, and Becton had played there in college.

He was a bruiser with the ability to become a dominant tackle, but there was also the fear that he would never develop his technique. There were also whispers that he struggled to keep his weight down.

It’s easy to look at how things have turned out and say that Douglas should have taken Wirfs. Becton showed potential in Year 1 but has not played in two years, while Wirfs is a two-time first-team All-Pro.

There was reasoning for the Becton pick, but Wirfs’ floor was undoubtedly higher. Should Douglas have taken Wirfs?

Zach Wilson

According to SI’s Albert Breer, 23 out of the 23 front offices he polled would have taken Zach Wilson with the No. 2 overall pick. That should give Douglas a pass, right?

However, those who were looking more closely saw the low floor. Wilson’s NFL.com draft profile labeled him as a boom-or-bust prospect. The fact that he had ascended out of nowhere in the Covid-19 season after two nondescript years at BYU was a red flag.

Douglas once again took a swing for the fences. Perhaps it was a calculated swing, but he also did not put enough in place to be confident that the team could develop Wilson toward his ceiling.

Groupthink is dangerous in any business. With the track record of NFL front offices in the draft, taking the “consensus” pick is not always correct. Whether Wilson’s failure in the NFL is on him, his coaching, or a combination thereof, it was risky. Douglas swung for the fences and missed.

Alijah Vera-Tucker and Breece Hall

As good as Alijah Vera-Tucker and Breece Hall are, both picks shattered NFL positional valuations from an analytics perspective.

Alijah Vera-Tucker

With Vera-Tucker, it was mainly the cost. Giving up two third-round picks to take an interior offensive lineman is a very steep price to pay. As good as AVT is, as indispensable as he was last season, it may not have been the best use of resources.

Yes, the Jets needed an interior lineman, and AVT was by far the best available. But they also had other positional needs that could have been filled at both No. 23 and the third-round picks.

The Vikings picked Christian Darrisaw with that No. 23 selection. Does Darrisaw bring less value to his team than AVT to the Jets?

Breece Hall

The same applies to Hall. As dominant as he is, trading up to obtain a running back is not considered good business. In fact, the No. 146 pick that the Jets traded to the Giants to trade spots could have just as easily been used for an RB.

Hall is a phenomenal player whom the Jets are glad to have. But was it ideal team-building and use of resources? There is a strong argument against it. The counterargument that Hall’s production comprised most of the Jets’ offense until his injury is fair. So is the rebuttal that Hall’s ACL tear often befalls RBs and compromises their already-short shelf life, though.

That being said, giving up a fifth-rounder to move up two spots isn’t much. Drafting a running back at No. 36 is valuable capital, though.

Furthermore, the team really needed a free safety, more OT depth (which they never addressed properly), and defensive tackle help. From a one-year perspective, perhaps the pick made sense in giving Wilson as much help as possible. From a team-building angle, it was questionable.

Jeremy Ruckert

This was a strange pick at the time and continues to be so. The Jets had just given starter-level contracts to both Uzomah and Conklin. To take a developmental tight end in the third round when the team had other needs was odd.


As stated before, Douglas fleeced the Seahawks in the Adams deal and the Panthers for Darnold. He also got back a fourth-round pick for Chris Herndon and a sixth-rounder for Blake Cashman. He’s made a flurry of late-round draft trades.

However, he also traded away former first-rounder Leonard Williams for third- and fifth-rounders, which wasn’t necessarily great value. The aforementioned draft trades for AVT and Hall bring questions along with them.

2022 and beyond

It’s important to note that the NFL is on to Douglas. They won’t let him get away with fleeces anymore.

He traded Martin and a 2024 fifth-rounder in exchange for a 2024 fourth-rounder. NFL GMs generally value a future pick as one round lower than the actual round. That means Douglas got the equivalent of a fifth-rounder back for Martin. The team still has $2.3 million in 2023 dead cap from that trade.

The James Robinson trade was a necessary gamble. Still, Douglas could have questioned why Jacksonville was so eager to part with him. The answer was evident almost immediately: Robinson’s knee was not healthy.

The lost sixth-rounder isn’t going to sting too much and the Jets did need a back. Since they ended up using Bam Knight anyway, though, the trade looks somewhat spotty.

The most recent Elijah Moore trade is worse than the Jimmy Johnson trade chart will have fans believe. Teams rarely use the Johnson chart at this point. Rather, they use a chart that assesses true performance-based pick value.

According to the chart based on Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value, the Jets got back the equivalent of the No. 130 overall pick for Moore, a fifth-rounder. That’s poor value for a player who’s not yet 23 and has shown potential. Yes, this trade happened for reasons unrelated to talent, but it’s a bad look.

Rodgers trade

All this leads to the supposed “line in the sand” that Douglas has when it comes to doing business. Jets and Packers fans are involved in heated debates about who has the leverage in a Rodgers deal.

Ultimately, this is a question of how stubborn each side is and who blinks first. If Douglas is truly willing to wait until the beginning of the season to acquire Rodgers for the absolute minimum possible, he can keep the leverage on his side indefinitely.

Conversely, the Packers can stow Rodgers and wait for Douglas to bite as mandatory minicamp approaches, making the media calls for a trade hit a frenzy.

Then the question is if Woody Johnson can withstand the public pressure. Douglas is beholden to his boss. If all the people in Jets camp are on the same page, though, they can hit a real Packers pain point.

Will they?

Leverage questions

Can Douglas go past the draft with no QB? Will the Packers give in because they desperately want 2023 draft picks? Or do they not believe in Jordan Love as much as they say they do?

Green Bay reportedly wants a first-rounder “plus more” for Rodgers. The Jets refuse to give that. The Packers feel that Douglas is lowballing them.

For now, neither side has conceded. The Packers seem to be using the media to build leverage more than the Jets are. The tidbits leaked to Adam Schefter are clearly coming from the Green Bay side of the aisle.

As Robby Sabo previously explained, Douglas needs this Rodgers trade to happen. Can he negotiate from that place and still be effective?

This is, perhaps, the biggest test of his Jets tenure.

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1 year ago


I may be misinterpreting the meaning of your story, but, I am not sure how value is being weighed. Whether it is salary, availability, production, etc.

So, what I wrote below may be not aligned with your story, or what you were aiming to convey. 

However, I took so much time looking this stuff up that I wanted to, at best, get your thoughts.


“He was the 10th-highest-paid center in the league when his play was somewhere between 16th to 20th in each of his three years with the team.”

In 2020, the NY Jets was not a preferred destination. It was most likely pretty low on many free agents wish lists, due to their abysmal history.  

With that in mind, slightly overpaying to bring in a center is more the going rate for a bad team to acquire competent talent.

“George Fant, a career backup, was an overpay despite a strong 2021 season. In the end, his injury track record did him in.”

In regard to George Fant, who was signed to provide the team a swing tackle with starter abilities, probably also cost the Jet’s more based on reputation at the time.

However, George played in 75 out of 81 games prior to the 2022 season. He was inactive for two games his rookie year, and missed 4 games due to his knees in 2020 (2) & 2021 (2). I suppose a minor injury track record, as he did not suffer any major injuries until this past year, in his NFL career.

“The D.J. Reed signing is obviously a smashing success thus far, even if the three-year, $33 million price might still be steep.” 

I am not sure it is a steep price to pay the 10th best NFL cornerback in 2022, and the16th highest salary for a cornerback. Especially, when half of the players with higher salaries didn’t even make the top 10 list.

I would also like to add that the 3rd best (Bradberry) signed for 3/38, and Dean (TB) resigned for 4/52, so in context, Joe paid a good price for Reed and does not look as steep anymore.

“Signing C.J, Uzomah and Tyler Conklin to starter-level contracts was confusing at the time. After the season, it’s even more befuddling.”

Tyler Conklin was the 10th best tight end in the NFL last year, despite our QB play, according to NFL.com. 

In addition, Uzomah was the blocking tight end on the roster, other than Ruckert, in a scheme that calls for a blocking tight end for the run game. 

Both players have restructured their contracts in order to bring in players. 

“Perhaps the worst move of the offseason was being forced to sign Duane Brown for $11 million a year.”

The contract (2yr./20M) was signed 31 days before the 1st game. It has been reported that this man played through an injury despite having his salary guaranteed. 

He could pass protect, but had little to offer in the run game. 

Joe found a warrior willing to continue to strap it up for a team that went south, and despite that, still refused to take the easy road. 

He wants to come back, and though he is “long in the tooth” in NFL years, I will be proud to cheer for this person, whether he is on the field or the sidelines.

The players, coaches, and organization was so impressed with his toughness and team-first attitude, that they created a team award in his honor.(“Selfless Warrior” award)

This was just a bad predicament, not a “worst move”. This has value beyond the Benjamins.

“Douglas swung for the fences by picking Mekhi Becton in 2020. Tristan Wirfs was more highly regarded by many draft analysts, but he was also seen as a right tackle.”

Tristan Wirfs entering the draft was as a pro bowl worthy guard, who may be able to play right tackle, due to limitations, but also because of his skills.

We needed a left tackle, and I understand the career/injuries Mekhi has experienced.

However, if he can somehow finish this upcoming season healthy, he may remind people of what he offers, and his past injuries moving forward will be meaningless, as he could be a pro bowl caliber left tackle.

“As good as Alijah Vera-Tucker and Breece Hall are, both picks shattered NFL positional valuations from an analytics perspective.”

“The Vikings picked Christian Darrisaw with that No. 23 selection. Does Darrisaw bring less value to his team than AVT to the Jets?”

“The same applies to Hall. As dominant as he is, trading up to obtain a running back is not considered good business.”

AVT was on his way to being an all pro/pro bowl player this past year, despite playing multiple positions, very effectively. It would also have made no sense to draft a left tackle after what Mekhi did his rookie season.

I will like to wait for Breece to carry the rock again to make any predictions. But, he looked worth it. 

His injury opened the door for Garett Wilson to win Rookie of the Year. 

This was a strange pick at the time and continues to be so. (Jeremy Ruckert)

Let time dictate this pick, but drafting a TE from NY, after signing a couple, is also hedging your bet by adding a developmental type player with upside to effectively block and/or catch.

However, he also traded away former first-rounder Leonard Williams for third- and fifth-rounders, which wasn’t necessarily great value.

Leonard Williams signed a 3yr, $63M contract with the Giants, including a $22M signing bonus, $45M guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $21M. 

In 2023, Williams will earn a base salary of $18M, while carrying a cap hit of $32M and a dead cap value of $20M.

Joe felt paying Williams did not help the team at that time in their rebuild, and possibly other teams knew that.

Joe chose another tackle whose contract is currently being negotiated. He took those picks, and thanked Leonard for his services. 

Quinnen was a 2022 1st team All Pro, Pro Bowl, and CM team MVP.

“It’s important to note that the NFL is on to Douglas. They won’t let him get away with fleeces anymore.”

I think every Jet’s fan can see this and say that is why we have faith in what Joe is building. It is the same reason he hasn’t blinked on the Packers demands. 

That means Douglas got the equivalent of a fifth-rounder back for Martin.

Martin’s skills were redundant. His three-year, $13.5 million deal with $6 million guaranteed went to nothing. 

Martin’s base salary was $1.035 million in 2022, and was traded. Only Martin’s 2022 base salary and $1 million of his 2023 salary are guaranteed.

The true results will not be decided until after this upcoming season. The difference between the Jet’s and Broncos draft order will provide the best context to this signing.

Joe adding two DE’s in the draft that were ready to produce, made Jacob redundant. Otherwise, he was signed for a reason.

Joe is sometimes limited choosing players that fit his vision of character and culture.

However, he seems to be building an organization that can sustain success, and he will continue to improve our reputation. 

Without further context of overpaying or overlooking injury history, none the less, has led to this moment in time. 

We are, at least, a destination, provided they are willing to accept Joe’s offer, for players that want to win. 

With our coaches, locker room leadership/culture, and what winning a super bowl here would have on their careers and lives, we are improving with an eye on longevity.

Maybe I just misunderstood your position on value you were trying to paint. 

So, consider this me throwing two cents into the fountain of thought.

Thanks & Enjoy!

Jim G
1 year ago

Your analysis is very sound. While refraining from second-guessing is virtually impossible in an article like this, you did an admirable job of avoiding it.

My problem with the Zach Wilson draft pick is that JD locked onto Zach Wilson from the onset and never really considered the other options, such as Trey Lance or Justin Fields. One NFL Radio analyst who attended Zach Wilson’s pro day described JD’s reaction to Zach Wilson as a “man-crush.” That same analyst said this was the reason the 49ers never even approached the Jets to trade for the second pick, that JD had found his franchise QB, he wasn’t up for a trade and there was no point in discussing a trade with him. Like you said, groupthink is dangerous in any business, and it certainly was in the case of Zach Wilson.

A different problem is that not all swings and misses are created equal. The Zach Wilson swing and miss set the Jets back at least 5 years, maybe more. The Becton swing and miss, if it becomes one, sets the Jets back maybe 3 years. It is much easier to find a plug and play tackle than a franchise QB. But if Becton flames out in 2023, that means that we have only AVT left from the 2020 and 2021 drafts.

I must, however, give credit where credit is due. The roster is the strongest it has been in years and JD deserves credit for that. So, overall I would say the record is mixed but trending upward.

1 year ago

Fair points about JD. I know you remember how bad this team was when he got here. We now have a top defense great skill players and solid special teams. We are a couple OL DL and a qb away from being serious contenders. He’s not been perfect by any stretch but he’s done a great job rebuilding the disgrace he was left with. I don’t expect him to fleece the Packers but don’t think we’ll get fleeced either.

Peter Buell
1 year ago

Does Joe get too much credit…possibly. But regarding the point of fixing the Adams situation, even if everything was peaches and cream between Adams and the team…which team constantly picking in the top 5 (which presents a bad team)keeps and pays a safety rather than getting two 1sts and a 3rd.
This is the Jets….90% of the free agents coming here were going to be over-paid or go elsewhere.
To bottom line it, the progress the team has made and the GMs posh Parcells…maybe Rex make Joeloij all the better and JDs first order of business was fixing the mess created by his last 2 predecessors.

1 year ago

I am confident that this deal will get done on the second day of the draft. Will get nervous at about pick 38

1 year ago

Another wonderful well thought out article Rivka. Your articles are so thorough and contain so much information. I sure hope the Jet beat writers read your columns.

I think the answer is someone in the middle. Jet fans have exaggerated the good and ignored some other things. First I think it should be obvious that Douglas’ reputation as being conservative is far from the truth. Rather I think he is a bit of river boat gambler where he swings for the fences taking the high ceiling players in Becton, Wilson and so on. Last year’s FA was really eye opening to me about Douglas in that he was not conservative and moved all his chips in and borrowed form future caps to sign a lot of players. This year he appears to be doing that even more with his pursuit of Rodgers with little concern for the future.

That being said there is a lot to really like about Douglas. His maneuvering around the draft is better than we have ever seen with a Jets GM. He has a plan and sticks to it. He has increased the scouting staff. He hired high level assistants in Hogan and others. He is on the same page as the coaching staff and signing and drafting players that fit their system.

I think he gets way to much credit for the Adams trade and too much grief for the Wilson and Becton picks. The Jets were really fortunate in the picks we got for Adams. The Seahawks had not drafted below 25th in 10 years. In terms of draft trade value the deal offered by the Cowboys os a 1st and 3rd n the previous draft was much greater than the expected trade value we got from the Seahawks. Douglas should get blame for bungling the whole Adams situation as Adams acted out a few times before forcing the trade and Douglas failed to resolve the issue and make Adams happy. That was a bad call on his part which forced the trade. The process here and how he handled the Adams situation was poor even though the results were very good. Both Saleh and Douglas preach process and I love them for that. The process in how they handled Adams was poor.

In regards to Zach Wilson. I agree with you. The Breer study is telling. There is not another GM that would not have taken Wilson. It is hard to criticize him for that. His options were trade back or draft Wilson. Trading back was certainly a viable and attractive option considering the haul the Eagles got for 3. The criticism for Wilson IMO should not be for drafting for him but how they handled him. Young QBs are all about confidence. It became apparent quite early in Wilson’s rookie season that confidence was his issue. Saleh talked a lot about it prior to the Falcons game. Wilson put together a decent 9 game stretch. The last 7 of the 2021 and first two of 2022 where when he plays with confidence he plays a ton better. But when he makes a mistake he falls off a cliff. Douglas smartly brought in Gregg Knapp to help build Wilson’s confidence and then after the tragedy brought in Beck but in 2022 they had no one there for him. MLF allegedely did not believe in giving a QB a pat on the back and preached tough love but Douglas failed to pair this bad cop with a good cop, After what we saw in 2021 and as big an investment as a young QB is I would argue it is malpractice to not give him someone to support him. That is where I would criticize Douglas for Wilson. The pick was fine the handling of Wilson was the issue.

In regards to FA it’s a mixed bag. FA is a tough place to find good deals. He has found bargains in cast offs in JFM and Berrios and a gem in UDFA Huff. reed was an amazing pickup. I agree that he paid a lot for Fant but he had a good year. Both Davis and Lawson were pretty reasonable contracts and Lawson could have been a monster signing absent the achilles. But that is FA most will fail.

Overall he deserves credit. He has turned around the a morbid franchiose and infused it with young talent. He has done the same for the FO and for ince is a GM that is working hand in glove with a CS. What concerns me is the bill we will have to pay to go all in this next two years. I would rather tget the Douglas who said when he was hired that he would build slow and methodically to build a sustainable long term winner. I am concerned about Douglas selling out our future for short term gains. But, overall I still have great respect him and an very happy he is our GM.

1 year ago
Reply to  Rivka Boord

Thank you for the great thoughtful reply. I am a bit more optimistic on JD but I hear and recognize your points. For me, the wins may not be there but the roster is and the level of play as well. Last year there were only a handful of games where I felt the jets were not the better team. Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit and Jacksonsville. I like not only what he has done with the roster but the type of positions he has emphasized but I also realize he was very lucky on some fronts such as the return from JA. I am not a fan of the Rodgers move but I am still excited to see what happens this year. It has been a long time since I have been excited about a Jet season. It could blow up in our face but there is something here to be excited about even if we disagree with the decisions.

1 year ago
Reply to  Rivka Boord

What an amazing comment! I’ve never read such a well thought-out comment. Great job! I liked your point about consistent mediocrity. You need a star QB. Why? The flags!! People are not talking about this. TB12 had so many flags go his way, he could have ran on the field with his own flags hanging off his belt. We all knew he would get a pass interference call at crunch time more often than not. Don’t even think about tackling him! Aaron brings the star calls. Its in all of sports, especially the NBA (with the exception of Steph Curry).