There are some impressive defensive prospects sitting at the top of the NFL draft this year, including a few that are a perfect match for exactly what the Jets need. They might even have their choice of any defensive player they want with the third overall pick.
But it seems they really would prefer not to make that pick.
According to multiple NFL sources, the Jets seem "determined" to trade down in the first round of the NFL Draft, which begins on Thursday in Nashville. Jets GM Mike Maccagnan has made it clear several times that he's "open" to the idea, though he may be downplaying just how open to it he actually is.
"They seem to really, really want to move down," said one NFL executive. "Maybe they're just keeping their options open, but it sure seems like that No. 3 pick is for sale."
As far back as the NFL scouting combine in late February, Maccagnan said he was willing to listen to offers, and at the NFL owners meetings in late March he admitted he'd had "conversations" with teams about a possible deal. His motivation, according to multiple sources, is that the Jets only have six picks in what is considered by most scouts to be a very deep and rich draft, at least through the first four rounds.
Maccagnan's goal, one NFL source said, is to at least recoup the second-round pick he gave up last year when the Jets moved up in the draft to get quarterback Sam Darnold.
Maccagnan was aggressive with that deal, making it in mid-March. Any trade down, though, likely won't happen until Draft Day -- and most likely not until the Jets are on the clock -- because there are many variables still at play. The biggest one remains whether the Arizona Cardinals select Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray No. 1 or not.
If they do, the Jets know that two of the three best defenders in the draft -- Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa, Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, Kentucky edge rusher Josh Allen -- will be waiting for them at 3. And if the San Francisco 49ers end up trading the second overall pick to a team looking for a quarterback, the Jets could have their pick of all three.
Getting a shot at the best, or even the second-best defensive player on their board, could be too tempting to pass up. Then again, if someone like Bosa somehow slips to 3, it could also help drive the Jets' asking price way up.
Maccagnan already thinks the price for the third pick should be high, regardless. After all, he paid a high price last year -- three second-round picks -- to move up three spots for a franchise quarterback, and he would expect another team trying to move up for a quarterback to do the same.
"My personal opinion is if you're trying to go chase a quarterback, it's sort of whatever the market is and then some," Maccagnan said at the combine in February.
There definitely are teams behind the Jets in the draft that might be interested in paying market price "and then some" to move up for a quarterback like Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins, Missouri's Drew Lock or even Duke's Daniel Jones. The Raiders (at No. 4), Giants (6), Broncos (10), Bengals (11), Dolphins (13), and Redskins (15) have all done extensive work evaluating the quarterbacks this offseason. Some NFL people believe that if a team sees the franchise quarterback they want, the only way to truly be sure he'll be there is to move up ahead of the Raiders and Giants, just to be safe.
How far would the Jets be willing to move down, though? That likely depends on the price. Any move outside of the top five would eliminate them from the truly elite defenders in this draft, but there are highly regarded defensive players sure to be available in the middle of the round and beyond. The Jets could drop all the way to 15, for example, and still be potentially staring at players like Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell, Florida edge rusher Brian Burns, LSU cornerback Greedy Williams and Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. And who knows? Maybe a player like Michigan defensive lineman Rashan Gary or Mississippi State edge rusher Montez Sweat slips that far, too.
And the price could be enormous. When the Eagles moved up from 8 to 2 to draft quarterback Carson Wentz in 2016, the Cleveland Browns got the eighth pick, a third- and fourth-round pick, and the Eagles' first-rounder in 2017 and second-rounder in 2018. In that same draft, the Los Angeles Rams moved from 15 to 1 to draft quarterback Jared Goff, and the Titans got the 15th pick, two second-rounders, a third-rounder and the Rams' first- and third-rounders in 2017 (though the Titans did have to throw in a fourth- and sixth-round pick to sweeten the deal).
If the Jets could pick up multiple picks this year, including a second-rounder, and maybe a first-round pick next year, and still get a player in the Top 15, that would sure seem like a no-brainer for a team that is still rebuilding and has a lot of holes to fill.
"It's going to be really hard to pass on those elite defensive players -- they're all future Pro Bowlers," one NFL scout said. "But I could see why they'd want to do it. Teams get desperate for quarterbacks, so the return could be huge."