Reaching into the mailbag for the New York Jets question of the week:
Shouldn't the Jets trade Richardson and sign better player Mo? Why do the jets trade away their best player? Key, Abe, Revis, Mo? #jetsmail
— Ben Duggan (@beanzze) February 25, 2016
@RichCimini: You raise an excellent point, Ben. The Jets have a tendency to get into contractual pickles that result in them trading away top players -- Keyshawn Johnson, John Abraham and Darrelle Revis. In Abraham's case, character issues were a big factor in the decision to trade him. To be fair, the Jets did pretty well in those trades, landing Abraham and Anthony Becht (for Johnson), Nick Mangold (for Abraham) and Sheldon Richardson (for Revis). It's weird how they're all kind of connected, isn't it?
But let's get back to the original question: Should they sign Muhammad Wilkerson and deal Richardson? Personally, I'm on board with that scenario, but it's easier said than done. It would be difficult, perhaps impossible, to get fair-market value for Richardson because he's in the NFL's substance-abuse program and facing a likely suspension for his police-chase arrest last July. Richardson is a terrific talent, but teams are reluctant to trade for a player who could be sidelined a month (or longer) under the personal-conduct policy. If he didn't have that baggage, Richardson would be a hot commodity on the trading block. Of course, if he had a clean record, the Jets would have no reason to unload him.
What makes Richardson an asset -- aside from his ability -- is that his salary is price-fixed for at least two more years. He's entering the final year of his contract ($3.2 million cap charge), but he knows the team will exercise the fifth-year option for 2017. In 2018, he could get the franchise tag. He won't be happy about it, and he could make a bigger stink than Wilkerson ever did -- and that concerns the Jets. Nevertheless, I'd take a wait-and-see approach before handing him a mega-contract, finding out if he's serious about being a solid citizen. They also value Richardson because he's the only true 3-technique on the defensive line. Wilkerson and Leonard Williams are 5-techniques, and we know Williams isn't going anywhere.
The other aspect to your question is being able to sign Wilkerson. Honestly, I don't know what the Jets are offering, but it apparently isn't close to what he wants. Wilkerson isn't J.J. Watt, but he's a very good player. He's near the top of every free-agent ranking list, so that should tell you something. He's only 26 and he has no known off-the-field issues. I don't think they'll sign him before free agency, meaning the franchise tag. The deadline for a long-term contract is July 15. Maybe the Jets are hoping that Wilkerson, coming off the first major injury of his career, will take whatever is on the table instead of risking another one-year deal.
In the end, I think Wilkerson and Richardson will remain together ... for at least one more year, anyway.