Entering the final week of the preseason, the strengths of the New York Jets’ depth chart, and the glaring weaknesses, have for the most part been uncovered. As for the weaknesses, the most obvious is the struggling secondary and the dearth of quality cornerbacks. The injury bug has decimated what was already a weak group of corners heading into the season, and the Jets should be contacting every front office about cornerbacks on the trade block.
Fortunately, the Jets have substantial depth at two premier offensive positions, quarterback and running back. As the preseason winds down and teams begin to realize that they must improve at these positions, or need arises due to injury, the Jets’ “extra” players become immensely more valuable. Such players seem to be QB Michael Vick and RB Bilal Powell, the way the roster is shaping up. Geno Smith has taken hold of the starting quarterback spot with impressive play, and Matt Simms doesn’t present an awful plan B. Of course Simms is no Vick, but the possibility of receiving a starting cornerback in return outweighs the desire for one of the best backup QB’s in the league.
As for running back, Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson make up a stable duo of power and speed, making Powell expendable as the third back. As a player who could become a regular #2 back on other teams weak at the position, Powell may be able to grant the Jets a defensive back of more value than Kyle Wilson currently presents. If Powell were to be traded, the talent of the replacement for third string running back would likely not affect the team too much, unless Johnson or Ivory were to go down with a major injury, but finding value at positions of weakness now is more important that stocking talent for worst case scenarios.
The first team that comes to mind when thinking of quarterback or running back need is the St. Louis Rams. The Rams’ starting QB Sam Bradford recently suffered an injury that will cost him the entire 2014 season, and thus St. Louis is in major need of replacement. More importantly, the Rams have finally put together a solid team surrounding their QB, and it would be devastating to the franchise to give up on the season so early by not finding a replacement. Vick fits in perfectly for the Rams, as he would complement budding playmakers Zac Stacy and Tavon Austin, and create a dangerous offense for the St. Louis.
As for the return on trading Vick, rookie cornerbacks E.J. Gaines and Marcus Roberson would be very intriguing pieces to add to the Jets secondary. As weak as gang green’s cornerback situation is, either player could find themselves starting at cornerback in the first few weeks of the season if they were in New York, and if not, either would provide woefully needed depth at the position. Going forward, both players would also provide an opportunity for Rex Ryan to groom a talented corner who fits perfectly into his system, as they are both young rookies. Thus, due to need and what they have to offer, the Rams should be first on the list of teams the Jets target to acquire secondary relief.
A second possibility for trading Vick would be the Minnesota Vikings. A team loaded with explosive playmakers and a chance to have a dominant offense, Vick would relieve the one glaring weakness for the Vikings, their starting QB Matt Cassell. Adding Vick would not only pair up the still talented quarterback with Adrian Peterson and Cordarrelle Patterson, it would also give Teddy Bridgewater a mentor as he patrols the sidelines his rookie season waiting for an opportunity to take over.
This scenario also provides a perfect return piece for the Jets, cornerback Josh Robinson. While Robinson has been listed at the Vikings’s #1 corner during the pre-season, he has been sidelined by a hamstring injury. Reports have stated that immense tension is budding between Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer and Robinson, meaning the Vikings front office could be looking for away to get rid of him. Therefore, the Jets could have the opportunity to offer the missing piece of the Vikings offense, while taking a nuisance off their hands, yet one who could be key in keeping the Jets secondary from completely falling apart.
As for Powell, there should not be any hurry or impatience to shop him, but if the right player if offered, the team should not be hesitant to pull the trigger. An interesting option, that might be out of the blue, is the Denver Broncos. After losing Knowshon Moreno to free agency, Montee Ball has stepped up to become the Broncos starting running back. Powell should not be offered as a replacement for Ball, but rather an adept backup and reliable insurance.
Ball had issues with fumbling the football last season, and if he cannot recover from this flaw, the Broncos will be in need of a running back who can be relied upon to run off important late game minutes with barely any possibility of turning the ball over. Denver already has Ronnie Hillman as a backup, but Bilal Powell may present a more talented option, and the Broncos also did not shy away from a three-back rotation last season. It seems to be “the more, the merrier” for a Peyton Manning run offense, in terms of talent around him, so with the addition of Powell, it would just be another weapon at Manning’s disposal.
Being that the Broncos are not in major need, there would only be a few players who could be involved in such a trade where the Jets would still end up benefitting. The player who stands out to me is 24 year old defensive end Malik Jackson. With Derek Wolfe fully healthy, Jackson is a once again backup on the Broncos depth chart, but could be a player that helps solidify the Jets’ defensive line as the best in the league. If both teams are satisfied with swapping these backups to fortify their rosters, it seems that the Jets would benefit from letting Powell go.
Ultimately, if Rex Ryan feels that he can adjust his defense to cover up the secondary, no drastic measures should be taken, but otherwise, its time for the Jets to panic. With two very talented offensive players currently playing back-up roles, John Idzik should be feverishly attempting to find the team willing to trade defensive assets in return for offense.