FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:
1. Interest in Hop? The Jets revealed their hand with the ill-fated pursuit of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., indicating a desire to add another playmaker despite the free agent additions of receivers Allen Lazard and Mecole Hardman. It has folks asking two questions:
Could they draft a receiver or pass-catching tight end with the 13th pick? Could they trade for Arizona Cardinals receiver DeAndre Hopkins?
Unlikely and very unlikely.
Let's take a closer look.
Hopkins is intriguing because ... well, he's DeAndre Hopkins. The former All-Pro played only nine games last season, but he was second in the NFL in receptions (63) and fourth in receiving yards (713) from Weeks 7 to 15, and most of that came with Colt McCoy at quarterback. There's rampant speculation about the Jets showing interest because they want to surround presumptive starter Aaron Rodgers with as many weapons as possible, but those rumors are just rumors.
First of all, there are significant obstacles. Hopkins is due to make $19.5 million and $14.9 million in the final two years of his contract, and we know the Jets were unwilling to go as high as $15 million for Beckham. Hopkins, 30, three years removed from his last 1,000-yard season, would have to restructure and take a cut.
Then there's trade compensation. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported last month the Cardinals were seeking a premium Day 2 pick for Hopkins -- but that's not in line with the market. The Houston Texans recently received a 2023 fifth-rounder and 2024 sixth-rounder for Brandin Cooks.
Drafting a pass-catcher is a definite possibility. At No. 13, they could have their choice of any receiver or tight end, but the smart money has them waiting until after the first round. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. agrees with that approach, mocking Oregon State tight end Luke Musgrave to them in the second round (No. 42 overall) after giving them Georgia tackle Broderick Jones at 13.
"What they've done with Lazard and Hardman, have they done enough around [Garrett] Wilson to wait a little bit?" Kiper said. "I think Musgrave could be kind of a combo. He's more of a receiver than a tight end. ... If they can get somebody like Musgrave -- that versatile, pass-catching H-back move guy -- that would give them that extra option they're looking for."
On paper, the Jets seemingly have enough at receiver with Wilson, Lazard, Hardman and Corey Davis, but Wilson is the only one with a 1,000-yard season on his NFL résumé. There's room for one more; it just might not be a high-profile addition.
2. Left, right, left: All signs point to tackle Mekhi Becton being ready for training camp. The former first-round pick, who missed last season after having a second surgery on his right knee, recently received a positive update during a visit to noted orthopedist Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.
Becton's weight loss -- he's down to 350, having dropped 40-plus pounds -- is a good thing for his knee. A return to left tackle also might help. It's possible the move to right tackle last summer put additional stress on his surgically repaired knee, contributing to his non-contact injury. For a tackle, there's more strain on the outside knee.
Left tackle is thought to be his preference. After all, it's his natural position. They already have Duane Brown at left tackle, and there's a chance they may draft one with the 13th overall pick. Overkill? Not really. Brown and Becton are entering the final year of their contracts, and it pays to look ahead -- especially at such an important position.
The ideal draft pick would be a player with left tackle/right tackle flexibility. Of the top prospects, the only one who played both in college is Darnell Wright (Tennessee). Some scouts believe Paris Johnson Jr. (Ohio State) could play right tackle; he started at right guard in 2021 before switching to left tackle in 2022.
3. A 'different' deal: It raised eyebrows around the league when the Jets received permission from the Green Bay Packers to speak with Rodgers last month before trade compensation was agreed upon. Typically, that's not how it works. Example: The Jets and Kansas City Chiefs reached a trade agreement last year before wide receiver Tyreek Hill was permitted to talk to the Jets.
Why not with the Packers?
"I think each deal is a little bit different in its own right," Jets GM Joe Douglas said at the recent league meetings. "In certain trade talks there have been times when we had compensation agreed to. This one just played out different. I feel like every deal has its own life. This one was just different."
Here we are, six weeks later, and still no trade. This became an issue again this week with a Yahoo! Sports report that said the Jets had agreed to include a 2024 first-round pick in the package, but that owner Woody Johnson changed his mind when Rodgers revealed March 15 that he was "90% retired" before his darkness retreat in mid-February.
Maybe Rodgers, in his March 7 meeting with the Jets, left the impression that his plan was to play two more years. If that happened, you can't blame the Jets for reconsidering an offer.
4. Trade prediction: The Jets-Packers stare down will go all the way to draft night, perhaps the second night. With the 42nd and 43rd picks in Round 2, the Jets will control the draft for 14 minutes. Prepare for high drama.
5. Remember when? Since we're on the subject of blockbuster trades, Thursday marks the 10-year anniversary of Darrelle Revis to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. On April 21, 2013 -- the Sunday before the draft -- the Jets dealt their star cornerback for the 13th overall pick (used on defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson) and a 2024 conditional fourth-rounder (used on wide receiver Jalen Saunders).
It was a highly controversial trade. Revis was a three-time All-Pro, only 28, but he was coming off a major knee injury and angling for a contract extension. Reflecting on the trade in a 2021 interview with ESPN, former GM John Idzik referred to Revis as "a Ring of Honor Jet, one of the best to play the position in his era," but he made the deal because he wanted to restock the roster with younger players to "dig us out of a cap hole."
So who won the trade? No one, actually.
The Jets tried to replace Revis by using the ninth pick on cornerback Dee Milliner, who busted. Richardson looked like an emerging star for two years but wasn't able to sustain his trajectory. Saunders played three games for the Jets and was out of the league in a year. The Bucs didn't do well, either; they released Revis a year later.
The acrimony between Revis and the Jets ended in 2015, when he returned after winning a Super Bowl with the New England Patriots. In August, only a decade after sending him away, the Jets will embrace him as he enters the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
6. Draft clues: The reported names of the Jets' top-30 visits show a lot of offensive and defensive linemen -- hardly a surprise. They're always looking for reinforcements in the trenches. One non-lineman on the list is Washington State linebacker Daiyan Henley, a player to watch. He didn't start playing linebacker until 2020 and is regarded as an ascending talent. The Jets need a linebacker with Kwon Alexander still testing free agency.
7. Another one bites the dust: The long-anticipated release of punter Braden Mann leaves only four players from the nine-man 2020 draft class -- Becton, wide receiver Denzel Mims, safety Ashtyn Davis and cornerback Bryce Hall. It's possible that none of them will be starting in 2023; the lone exception could be Becton.
8. Q x 2: Newly signed defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson (one year, $3.6 million) recorded a career-high 5.5 sacks last season in the Seattle Seahawks' 3-4 front. The Jets believe he can be even more productive in their attacking, 4-3 front. He could start alongside Quinnen Williams, creating a 'Quin-Quin' situation.
9. Did you know? When former Detroit Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah was traded earlier this week to the Atlanta Falcons, he became only the second player in the last decade to be drafted in the top three and traded less than three calendar years after being drafted. The other? Former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold.
10. The last word: "It's not a really strong draft. ... Three years from now, if you have an A or A+ or B+ grade, you should give your scouts a raise ... because this is a tough draft to evaluate." -- Kiper