Bent, theJetsBlog.com Follow on Twitter
Now that the first and second waves of free agency are winding down, NFL teams are fairly limited in their options. There may still be upgrades available, but most players still on the market are damaged goods in one way or another.
However, with plenty of cap space still remaining and, let's face it, several positions at which they could still upgrade, perhaps the Jets are in a position whereby they could explore the trade market instead.
The Jets just gave up three second-round picks to move up in the draft, probably taking them out of contention if a star player like Dez Bryant became available. Perhaps they could trade for someone without reducing their total number of picks by way of a pick exchange or even deal a veteran player from a position of strength. Would they be prepared to trade Bilal Powell, Jermaine Kearse or one of their young backup receivers or cornerbacks?
Here are five players who could be available by trade, each of whom should provide an upgrade. The compensation required to acquire these players will vary from player to player.
The Miami offensive tackle is still only 25 and due to enter the final year of his rookie contract under the fifth-year option. Can Miami justify paying over $9 million to a player they'll then have to sign to a big money deal next season? If they can find a tackle prospect in the draft, maybe they'll move on from James and use the money saved to continue to retool.
James has played on both sides of the offensive line in Miami, but he's been much better on the right. While he'd be an instant upgrade over Brandon Shell, the Jets may still be high on Shell's potential. However, if they can persuade their divisional rivals to deal James to them, it might help their chances of contending sooner.
The cap-strapped Saints may be looking to move on from Fleener, who has struggled to live up to his five-year, $36 million contract. After three straight seasons with 50 or more catches, the 29-year old started just one game and caught only 22 passes last year. For the Jets, though, he'd be at least a short-term upgrade over the inexperienced trio currently under contract.
With over half of his 2018 salary guaranteed, the Saints can't afford to release Fleener, but trading him gets them off the hook for that guarantee. He might therefore come extremely cheap, with possibly an exchange of late-round picks being all the Saints ask for. Fleener would cost the Jets $6.3 million and they can cut him after the season if he underwhelms, or retain him for two more years at a similar cost.
Liuget is another player who is regarded as overpaid that would provide the Jets with a veteran upgrade. He would start on the defensive line along with Leonard Williams and Steve McLendon. Liuget produced well last year, but his $8 million salary might be a little rich for the Chargers, who could instead draft someone and then opt to move on from him.
If the Jets were to acquire the 28-year old Liuget, he'd be under contract for the next three years at around $26 million, none of which is guaranteed, so they might be able to negotiate it downward.
The Jets tried to land Vernon back in 2016 and probably wouldn't have extended Muhammad Wilkerson's contract had they managed to sign him. Vernon has still been productive with the Giants but perhaps hasn't quite lived up to the five-year, $85 million contract he signed.
Cutting Vernon isn't an option, after $12 million of his 2018 salary became guaranteed over the weekend. However, trading him to their in-state rivals would create a useful cap saving as the Giants continue to rebuild. He'd join the Jets with three years and $44 million remaining on his contract, but no guarantees after this year.
While the Giants are not expected to draft a pass rusher with the No. 2 pick, they could very well trade back and acquire more first-round picks, in which case a pass rusher could be selected, making Vernon expendable.
If they can't find a starting rush linebacker, perhaps the Jets could upgrade in terms of their situational pass rush. The 25-year old Kikaha has one year left on his rookie deal.
Having re-signed Alex Okafor, the Saints may not have room for Kikaha anyway, so perhaps the Jets can pry him away cheaply. With Dylan Donahue's status uncertain due to legal issues, a player like Kikaha, who has recorded four sacks in each of his first two seasons could provide a boost.