Determined to secure his old college number, the rookie cornerback paid that handsome sum to teammate D.J. Reed for the number. Reed signed with the Jets in March after playing with the Seattle Seahawks for two seasons. He wore No. 2 last year and wore No. 1 for the early portion of this offseason.
Gardner confirmed the transaction Tuesday, saying he wired money to Reed after a brief negotiation. Essentially, they swapped numbers, with Gardner landing No. 1 and giving No. 4 to Reed.
With a little sweetener, of course. Asked how much he paid for the number, Gardner said simply, "Fifty."
Gardner can afford it, thanks to his rookie contract. As the fourth overall pick, he signed a four-year, $33.5 million contract, including a $21.5 million signing bonus.
The Jets rookie wore No. 1 during his final two seasons at the University of Cincinnati. Gardner said that was "a big reason" why he was willing to pay that much, but it went deeper than that. "When I got the nickname 'Sauce,' I had number 1," he said, recalling his childhood in Detroit, Michigan. "It's the little things. I feel like it best fits me."
Gardner was only seven years old when his youth coach, impressed with his fancy moves, called him "A1 Sauce Sweet Feet Gardner." Eventually, it was shortened to just "Sauce."
The Jets don't give out No. 1 that often. The last player to wear it for a full season was backup quarterback Michael Vick in 2014, according to Pro Football Reference. Backup safety Kai Nacua wore it briefly last season.
Reed, in a recent interview, declined to reveal the amount of money he received for the number, saying, "I'm not going to talk business."