The New York Jets pulled out a victory over the Buffalo Bills after Aaron Rodgers suffered a season-ending Achilles tear on Monday night, but it took a Josh Allen meltdown and an overtime punt return touchdown for Gang Green to walk away with the victory.
Head coach Robert Saleh suggested last night that Zach Wilson would remain the club’s starter for the remainder of the season. However, The Athletic’s Dianna Russini reported today that the Jets have begun reaching out to veteran free agent QBs.
Those aren’t necessarily contradictory ideas, as New York could bring in an experienced signal-caller behind Wilson rather than promoting practice-squad member Tim Boyle. But given Wilson’s struggles over two NFL seasons, should the Jets consider trading for a proven option?
QB Trade Options for the New York Jets
Week 2 of an NFL season isn’t the greatest time to find an available quarterback on the trade market, but there are options that could make sense as Jets acquisitons.
Let’s run through the quarterbacks New York could look at in the coming days, with the options loosely ranked by how plausible a trade could be.
Jameis Winston, New Orleans Saints
Jameis Winston was excellent for the New Orleans Saints in 2021, tossing 14 touchdowns against three interceptions while ranking eighth in EPA per dropback before going down with a torn ACL in Week 7. Last season, Winston started three games for New Orleans before back fractures forced him out of the lineup. He was replaced by Andy Dalton upon his return.
— NFL (@NFL) August 13, 2023
Winston would represent an upgrade over Wilson and might be a better fit for New York over any of the available free agent quarterbacks, including Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan. He’s earning the league minimum in 2023, and the Saints would probably be amenable to trading him after signing Derek Carr over the offseason.
Case Keenum, Houston Texans
While the Houston Texans inked Case Keenum to a two-year, $6.25 million deal this spring, Houston could afford to move the veteran. C.J. Stroud is the club’s starter, and they still have Davis Mills under contract for two more seasons.
The Texans probably won’t compete for the playoffs in 2023, so they could do well to recoup a draft asset — even a late-round pick — for a 35-year-old quarterback who might not have much of a role. Keenum spent the offseason working under Texans OC Bobby Slowik, who runs a Kyle Shanahan-inspired offense just like Jets play-caller Nathaniel Hackett.
Jacoby Brissett, Washington Commanders
Jacoby Brissett posted the best season of his career with the Cleveland Browns in 2022, but he still wasn’t able to land a guaranteed starting role over the offseason. He signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the Washington Commanders but was beaten out by second-year passer Sam Howell for Washington’s QB1 job.
The Commanders might want to keep Brissett around as insurance, especially in what looks like a make-or-break season for head coach Ron Rivera. But if Washington is open to trading him, Brissett could at least keep the Jets afloat. He’s not a talent elevator, but Brissett could work within New York’s scheme and potentially guide them to the playoffs.
Andy Dalton, Carolina Panthers
Although the concept of acquiring Dalton probably wouldn’t excite the Jets’ fanbase, the 35-year-old was relatively effective across 14 starts for the Saints in 2022. The longtime Cincinnati Bengal threw 18 touchdowns and nine interceptions while finishing a respectable 20th in EPA per dropback (one spot ahead of Rodgers).
I know I already mentioned Brissett and Stafford, but the number one option for NY is probably Dalton
2022: 1st in accuracy on slants, outs, and throws to the flat (Rodgers most thrown routes last year)
15th in comp% on passes under 2.5 seconds
NO: 19th pass EPA w/ AD
— Theo Ash (@TheoAshNFL) September 12, 2023
But the Carolina Panthers might prefer to hang onto Dalton, who is under contract through next season and holds a valuable mentorship role for rookie quarterback Bryce Young. He’s an excellent culture fit for the Panthers, and his departure might not be worth the late-round pick the Jets would send to Carolina.
Gardner Minshew II, Indianapolis Colts
The same goes for Gardner Minshew II in Indianapolis. First-round pick Anthony Richardson is the club’s starter, but they probably want to retain Minshew as a sounding board for the rookie signal-caller.
If Richardson were to go down, Minshew could competently run the Colts’ offense and allow first-year head coach Shane Steichen to evaluate the rest of his roster. The same couldn’t be said if Minshew were traded and Indy had to turn to Sam Ehlinger.
Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans
We’ve reached the starting quarterbacks who could eventually be on the Jets’ radar. The Tennessee Titans are unlikely to trade Ryan Tannehill any time soon — if they wanted to move him, they probably would’ve done so over the offseason.
But if Tennessee is out of the playoff race by the time the NFL’s Oct. 31 trade deadline rolls around, Tannehill would make sense in New York. Trading Tannehill would allow the Titans to give either Will Levis or Malik Willis an extended audition in the second half of the season.
Tannehill’s $28 million salary — fully guaranteed because he was on Tennessee’s Week 1 roster — presents a potential problem. The Jets only have $9.8 million in cap space. Tannehill would have to agree to restructure his deal (or accept a pay cut) to fit under New York’s cap unless the Titans were willing to pay down some of his salary.
Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
Here’s another potential option that probably wouldn’t be available until the trade deadline. Kirk Cousins seems unlikely to return to the Minnesota Vikings in 2023, so if Minnesota isn’t contending by late October, they could try to get a draft pick package for Cousins instead of letting him walk as a free agent.
Cousins, who worked with Shanahan in Washington, could instantly pick up Hackett’s offensive scheme and terminology. If Rodgers returns in 2024, the Jets could grab a 2025 compensatory pick when Cousins signs elsewhere. If Rodgers decides to retire, New York could explore an extension with Cousins and keep their contention window open.
Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams
The Jets reportedly inquired on Matthew Stafford before landing Rodgers over the offseason, so we know the Los Angeles Rams starter has been on Gang Green’s radar. Los Angeles was “adamant” that it wouldn’t trade Stafford, per NFL Network.
Stafford is only earning a $1.5 million salary in 2023, but he has massive bonus proration spread over the next four years. The Rams would create minimal cap savings by trading Stafford this season, but they’d take on $55.5 million in dead money in 2024.
NFL teams are now much more willing to absorb significant dead money totals than in the past, and the league’s rising cap makes such decisions more acceptable. But Los Angeles would likely want an early draft pick in exchange for Stafford, and New York already sacrificed a hefty package to acquire Rodgers.