2 veteran stars NY Jets could trade 13th pick to acquire

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By: Michael Nania

New York Jets could flip No. 13 to get a veteran star

The New York Jets currently possess the 13th overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft. There are many different directions they could go with the pick, and which one they choose will largely depend on the quarterback they bring in.

Derek Carr and Aaron Rodgers are the current favorites to be the Jets’ starting quarterback going into the draft. In my opinion, the Jets’ approach with the 13th overall pick would change significantly depending on if they got Carr or Rodgers.

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If the Jets land Carr, I believe they will almost certainly keep the pick and select a player. The Carr route allows the Jets to maintain a healthy long-term roster outlook. Carr is young enough to be the Jets’ quarterback for years to come and would not require any trade assets to acquire, so the Jets will not be in a rush to pivot into win-now mode. They can continue building in a traditional way with an eye to the future. Keeping the 13th pick fits into the timeline that Carr would set for them.

If the Jets land Rodgers, their entire offseason mindset will flip. The future will be tossed to the wayside and every move will be made with the intention of maximizing the Jets’ chances to win a championship in 2023.

The Jets may have to trade the 13th pick to land Rodgers, but a recent rumor suggests the Jets might be able to trade for Rodgers without giving up a first-round pick.

Should that be the case, I believe there is a reasonable chance the Jets would trade the pick for a veteran player. Using the 13th pick on an established veteran gives them a higher probability of getting immediate results than using it on a rookie. And if you land Rodgers, the priority will be to add players who can help now, not later.

Trading first-rounders for veteran players has become increasingly common in the NFL. A.J. Brown, Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs, Marquise Brown, Orlando Brown, and Laremy Tunsil are just a few top-tier offensive players who have been acquired using first-round picks in recent years. Defensively, players like Bradley Chubb, Jamal Adams, DeForest Buckner, and Minkah Fitzpatrick are among the stars who have been traded for first-round picks recently.

Without further ado, here are two players the Jets could potentially target in a trade using the 13th overall pick. Keep in mind that these targets were chosen to supplement a world in which the Jets have traded for Rodgers and are gunning for a Super Bowl. If the Jets don’t get Rodgers, I do not think these trades will be considered.

WR DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals are entering a new era as they just hired a new general manager and a new head coach. They could be headed for a rebuilding season as it’s possible that franchise quarterback Kyler Murray misses the entire year.

These circumstances have made veteran receiver DeAndre Hopkins one of the most obvious trade candidates in the NFL this offseason. Hopkins is clearly not a fit for the direction Arizona is going.

Hopkins, who will turn 31 in June, has two years and $54.5 million remaining on his contract, including $42.8 million guaranteed.

The Jets’ main priority with the 13th overall pick, whether it is used or traded, will likely be to improve the offensive line. But if the Jets can use free agency and/or the trade market to complete the offensive line prior to the draft, why not use the 13th pick to get another proven weapon for Rodgers?

With two years remaining on his deal, Hopkins would perfectly fit the Jets’ timeline with Rodgers, who, ideally, has two seasons left in the tank. Hopkins would undoubtedly require some cap wizardry for the Jets to bring in, but remember what our philosophy is here: The Jets are going all-in to win a title in 2023 or 2024, paying no mind to what happens after that. If this is the mindset, acquiring Hopkins makes a lot of sense.

Hopkins played only nine games in 2022 (six of his eight missed games were due to a PED suspension), but when on the field, he still looked like a top-tier weapon. Hopkins averaged 7.1 catches for 79.7 yards per game despite playing without Murray in four of his nine games.

Playing alongside Garrett Wilson, the aging Hopkins would slide into a comfortable role where he doesn’t have to carry the load as the go-to guy, which is what he’s essentially done for his entire career. It’s a good landing spot for him to maximize his longevity.

Considering his contract and age, I’m not even sure that it would require the 13th overall pick to land Hopkins, but I figured he was worth mentioning anyway. Perhaps the Jets could send over the 13th pick and get back a mid-round pick alongside Hopkins to even out the value.

WR Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

On the same token as Hopkins, Mike Evans could make sense as a big-ticket target if the Jets solidify their offensive line pre-draft and then want to go all-in with their weaponry for Rodgers.

Evans, who will turn 30 in August, is entering the final year of a five-year contract he signed back in 2018. He will be a free agent after the 2023 season.

The Buccaneers seem to be headed for a rebuild. Tom Brady is out and it does not appear Tampa Bay is looking to remain competitive by pursuing a veteran quarterback; there have been no rumors of the Buccaneers being interested in Derek Carr or Aaron Rodgers. Plus, the Buccaneers are in cap hell (they are an NFL-worst $56.5 million over the cap, per OTC).

Trading Evans before he leaves in free agency could help the Bucs kickstart their rebuild. And, as we discussed with Hopkins, Evans can make sense for the Jets if they want to mortgage their future to build a present-day superteam that supplements Rodgers’ timeline.

Coming off his ninth consecutive 1,000-yard season to begin his career, Evans has yet to show any signs of slowing down.

Should the Jets use the 13th pick to go all-in if they land Aaron Rodgers?

An offense led by the trio of Aaron Rodgers, Garrett Wilson, and DeAndre Hopkins/Mike Evans would be championship-caliber. Toss in Breece Hall, Elijah Moore, and the rest of the gang, and you have a unit that can keep pace with any of the high-octane juggernauts in the AFC.

The possibility of building such a star-studded lineup has to be enticing for Jets fans, who are only two years removed from watching Sam Darnold throw to Breshad Perriman and Chris Hogan. Yes, the cost would be grand and the window would be short, but for a lineup like that, isn’t the lofty price worth it?

At the same time, it’s imperative to keep your cool and avoid devolving into impractical star-chasing when building an NFL roster. Constructing your team with a win-now approach can result in crippling consequences for many years to come.

If the Jets acquire Rodgers and then double down on their short-term window by dealing their first-round pick for a one-or-two year rental, it could severely constrict their future. Perhaps the Jets’ best path would be to hedge their bets if they land Rodgers – trying to find a balance between maximizing their current Super Bowl chances and maintaining their long-term roster health. This would undoubtedly involve keeping and using the 13th overall pick to land another young, cost-controlled player with long-term potential.

Of course, if the Jets go all-in with Rodgers and win a Super Bowl, no Jets fan will care about what happens after that, even if the team stinks for the next five years. Maybe trading their picks for proven veterans is the Jets’ best path if the goal is to win immediately with Rodgers. I’m sure Rams fans have no regrets.

However, we need to be careful about using the Rams as a guide to winning a championship. The Rams are always brought up as an example of a team that can win by star-chasing. But they are an extremely idealistic example – one that will be difficult to replicate.

Los Angeles went on a 4-0 playoff run in which they were tied or trailing in the fourth quarter of the latter three games. If one single play bounced a different way, the Rams would have fallen short of a title and they would be sitting here today with no ring and no realistic hope of competing again for the foreseeable future. That was a keyhole-sized window and the Rams managed to defy the odds and get the job done. The risk was massive, though, and the odds of pulling off the win were slim, even if they actually did pull it off. Winning a Super Bowl in any one given season is highly unlikely no matter how good your team is.

Plus, the Rams already established a strong nucleus before they started making all-in moves, so it made sense for them to try and get over the top with those aggressive decisions.

In 2017, Sean McVay led the Rams to the playoffs in his first season at the helm, doing it with a roster that was mostly built around players who were drafted by the team. The Rams then had a winning record in each of the next three seasons, including a 2018 season in which they made the Super Bowl. It was after that 2018 Super Bowl loss when the Rams started getting aggressive with trades, namely with the Jalen Ramsey and Matthew Stafford deals.

The Jets are coming off a 7-10 season and have not made the playoffs since 2010. Are they really in a position to mimic the Rams’ strategy?

It’s a lot to think about. I do not envy Joe Douglas right now.

On one hand, Douglas has the opportunity to land a four-time MVP quarterback and potentially double down on that acquisition by selling the farm to surround him with an extremely talented roster.

On the other hand, Douglas can play it safe and stay the course and keep building patiently. But it cannot be easy to pass up on the star-studded roster the Jets could have a chance of building, especially when you consider that Douglas may be auditioning to keep his job this year. He is not guaranteed to stick around and reap the benefits of a long-term building approach, anyway.

Go all-in, raise, or call? Joe Douglas is playing high-stakes poker in Florham Park.

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