Most NFL observers believe the Jets will deal Teddy Bridgewater, but it’s unclear what Mike Maccagnan and the front office might require in a trade.
The New York Jets have an enviable problem at the quarterback position. In a league where most teams struggle to have two decent options at the most important position on the field, Todd Bowles’ team has three. Their surplus of talent at the position makes a trading one of them an attractive option.
Sam Darnold is the only one of the trio who is safe after the team spent the No. 3 pick on the former USC standout. General manager Mike Maccagnan is committed to him being their quarterback of the future. His solid play during the preseason gives him a chance to be the team’s offensive leader of the present as well.
That leaves Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater as the remaining options. McCown was the team’s starter last season, but at 39 years of age, no one is going to give up anything of value to acquire him. He simply doesn’t have any upside as a starter. McCown can be a caretaker for the Jets, but his value to another franchise would be minimal at best.
Bridgewater, in sharp contrast, is a player who interests a number of other teams. This preseason he’s proven that his comeback from a horrific leg injury is complete. At the very least, that means he’s easily capable of being the backup for almost every team in the NFL. Several teams should view him as a serious threat to unseat their current starter. The Jets will take a lot of phone calls about Bridgewater right up until the day they deal him.
The interesting question is what the Jets might reasonably hope to get in return. His contract status is going to restrict what they might be able to get. New York signed him to a one-year deal to minimize their risk in signing a quarterback with his type of injury history. That was a smart thought at the time, but they’d much rather have him on a multi-year deal to offer to a potential trade partner now.
As it stands, any team dealing for Bridgewater will make the move knowing that if he plays well, they’ll be forced to offer him a big money deal to keep him in place after the 2018 campaign. That isn’t a problem for teams that don’t have big money committed to a current starter, but it will cause some teams with established veterans to give the transaction serious pause.
The Jets will likely be looking for draft compensation if they deal Bridgewater.
In some ways, the Jets front office might feel entitled to ask for a first or second round pick for Bridgewater. That’s a pretty expensive price to play for a guy with his injury history, but he is still young and has some upside. It’s highly unlikely any team will give that sort of asset up for a player who has the ability to walk after the season via free agency.
The appropriate middle ground will be for the Jets to ask for a middle-round pick that has the chance to rise up the board depending on what Bridgewater accomplishes during the season. A selection that is guaranteed to be a fourth rounder with the chance to rise based on playing time triggers would make a lot of sense. The Jets would be smart to ask for a third rounder in the event that Bridgewater starts eight games and a second rounder if he starts more than 12. If they can get it, the Jets should add a further clause requiring a first rounder if Bridgewater makes the Pro Bowl.
The key is for the Jets to position themselves to get a greater asset if Bridgewater blows up for his next team. The franchise can’t allow themselves to look foolish if their signal-caller goes elsewhere and leads his new team to a deep playoff run. The Jets have to manage the optics of such a risky deal.
Look for quite a few teams to offer a conditional Day 3 pick for Bridgewater, but the Jets aren’t going to bite on that low price. The team needs to get at least a fourth rounder for the talented signal-caller. Anything less and they should just keep him as insurance for the 2018 season.