It’s easy to get on Mike Maccagnan. His performance his first two years as Jets‘ GM has fallen somewhere between John Idzik and Mike Tannenbaum on the faulty executive scale.
His free-agent signings thus far are lackluster. His draft picks mostly inept. The Jets are no better now than they were when he first walked in the building. They’re worse.
But it would be ignorant to ignore Maccagnan’s latest transaction. Wrong not to give credit where it’s due.
The way he handled the trade of Sheldon Richardson was perfect.
One day after the Jets concluded their preseason, Maccagnan shipped the troubled defensive end and a 2018 seventh-round pick across the country. In exchange, the Seahawks sent back receiver Jermaine Kearse, a 2018 second-round pick, and their own seventh rounder.
It brought an end to a two-year will-he, won’t-he saga regarding a possible Richardson trade. The Jets waited and waited until a team offered them something they liked. Then, they agreed.
And what they liked turned out to be quite the haul.
“We have some good young defensive linemen,” Maccagnan said. “Sheldon was a part of that. But, in return, it allowed us to sort of entertain options there.
“Sometimes teams that have needs and surpluses find fits that work well for potential trades.”
Here’s what you need to remember: Richardson was never a part of the Jets’ future. This was solidified last July. After drafting Leonard Williams sixth overall in 2015, Maccagnan had to pick between Muhammad Wilkerson and Richardson. Wilkerson’s five-year, $86 million extension punched Richardson’s ticket out of town.
Maccagnan believed then, and still believes now, Wilkerson is the type of guy he can build around. He’s not perfect — missed team meetings last year — but his spotless off-field record make him more reliable than Richardson.
Richardson is a two-strike player. He began each of the last two seasons serving suspensions — four games in 2015 for a positive marijuana test, one game in 2016 for a personal conduct policy violation. One more mishap, and he’ll serve a significant ban.
Furthermore, he tends to create off-field headlines, and last year was at the center of a team-splitting feud with former Jets wideout Brandon Marshall. He kept it going with routine shots at the receiver this offseason once Marshall signed with the Giants. Despite coach Todd Bowles’ sterm warning, Richardson couldn’t keep his mouth shut.
On Aug. 8, Bowles finally had enough.
“I really don’t have time for a bunch of BS that happened a year ago,” said Bowles. “We had six months to talk about it. All that sh– is over. [Richardson] has been well informed of it, and we’ve moved on from there.”
The Jets were never going to extend Richardson. He was going to walk in free agency this offseason to the highest bidder. By trading him now, the Jets created addition by subtraction in a rebuilding year.
The second-round pick will go a long way in furthering their roster overhaul and Maccagnan’s desire to “build through the draft.” If they select draft a quarterback this April, as many expect, they’ll now have additional means to surround him with talent.
Maybe that’s used on a receiver or an offensive tackle? Maybe it’s packaged to move up and get a game-changer? The Jets aren’t a better team without Richardson this season … but they could be in 2018, 2019 or 2020.
As for Kearse, there’s no point in comparing him to Richardson. Richardson, when on, is among the game’s more dominant defensive ends. Kearse, at best, is a competent No. 3 receiving option. The 27-year-old has never had more than 700 yards receiving in a season. He caught just one touchdown in 2014 and 2016
But Kearse will mean more to the Jets this year than Richardson would have. New York is loaded on the defensive line with Wilkerson, Williams, Steve McLendon and the recently-claimed Kony Ealy. But their receivers are potentially the NFL’s worse.
Without Quincy Enunwa, Robby Anderson, ArDarius Stewart, Charone Peake and Chad Hansen (among additional lesser names) are atop the depth chart. Stewart and Hansen are rookies. Anderson and Peake entered the league last year.
There isn’t one experienced wideout on this roster to help teach the young guys how to be a pro. Kearse, and his 153 career receptions, can do that. He’s an established, reliable veteran.
This deal, on paper, looks great from the Jets’ point of view. They traded an expendable asset at a position of strength, to better their roster both in the present, and for the future. That’s a win-win.
Now, is Maccagnan the right guy to draft the right player in the second round? Would he have needed Kearse if didn’t cut vetern Eric Decker midway through OTAs?
All fair questions. But here’s a fact: Maccagnan made the right call in dealing Richardson where, and when, he did.