Photo Credit: Atlanta Falcons, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Thursday night’s contest between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New York Jets featured two second-year quarterbacks. Player One was selected first overall by the Jags, and Player Two was selected second overall by the Jets. They both struggled mightily as rookies and came into year two with huge expectations. As of this morning, it feels irresponsible to even be speaking about these players in the same paragraph.
That’s because Player One is Trevor Lawrence, the Jags precocious young QB who’s finally blossoming into the top-tier talent most expected him to become at the NFL level. He has, as they say, “arrived”. Player Two is Zach Wilson, and the time has finally come for the Jets to part ways with their former top pick.
When the Jets selected Wilson 2nd overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, it turned more than a few heads. They had been an obvious candidate to select a QB, but Wilson? The slender, slight kid out of Brigham Young University with the face of a fifteen-year-old and an impressive - albeit exceptionally raw - arm? The NFL’s equivalent of a trust-fund baby didn’t exactly draw a massive fan club to start his career. He looked more like a star of High School Musical than a guy who could effectively lead a two-minute drive.
Sadly, whatever fans he had (outside of his closest relatives, maybe), have almost assuredly abandoned the sinking-Wilson-ship after last night’s disastrous performance. This was his stat line: completed 9/18 passes for 92 measly yards, an interception, three sacks taken, no touchdowns, a ghastly 41.9 passer rating and approximately a quarter-billion boos collected over a three-hour-span.
As the dust settled on the carnage, Jets fans and NFL fans around the globe settled on one, overriding conclusion: Wilson can’t play. He’s not that guy. He ain’t it.
It’s time to scuttle said sinking-Wilson-ship.
Even with the loss to the Jags last night, the Jets are still in position to compete for a playoff spot in the AFC. They’re 7 - 8 now after last night’s debacle and the schedule doesn’t do them any favors with road trips to Seattle and Miami to finish up, but they’re still alive. Whether it's Mike White, Chris Streveler or Joe Flacco, any QB gives them a better chance to reach that destination than Wilson. That’s why next year, no matter what else happens, the Jets have to move off their “franchise QB”.
But who would want Wilson at this point? He’s the absolute definition of “damaged goods”. Here’s a quick rundown of everything Wilson sucks at:
Throwing the ball accurately
Recognizing anything (Blitzes, coverages, open receivers, you name it)
Being a leader
Having bad hair
Unfortunately for Wilson, having consistently fabulous hair isn’t going to help him complete more passes on third down. It’s not going to help him thread the needle on a bomb down the sideline. It’s not going to make him friends in the locker room or impress his coaches. In short, Wilson doesn't have a lot going for him.
Is there any place in the NFL that could make sense? Wilson played at BYU and is from Draper, Utah. Go West, young man? Could that be the solution?
Of all the teams in the NFL, there’s one that could make sense as a soft-ish landing spot for Wilson. He wouldn’t/couldn’t/shouldn’t be viewed as a franchise savior (not unless you’re a general manager begging to get fired) but he could be part of a rebuild while the team invests elsewhere. That team is the Las Vegas Raiders.
While the Jets have been one of the surprises of the NFL season, rising from consistent doormat to playoff contender, the Raiders have been one of the season’s biggest disappointments after regressing from a magical 2021 season that saw them reach the playoffs as a wild card - despite firing their head coach Jon Gruden midseason - and giving the eventual AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals everything they could handle in their opening round matchup. It’s been a season to forget for first-year head coach Josh McDaniels and long-time QB Derek Carr. Could a divorce between Carr and the Raiders be the best thing for everybody?
Carr has been a model citizen for the Raiders, especially during the difficult post-Gruden months where it looked like the team might disintegrate. But Carr rallied the troops and filled that leadership void. In essence, he’s everything Zach Wilson is not: tough, accurate, smart, accountable, and respected.
Carr would be a perfect fit for a Jets team that’s desperate for stability at the QB position - and with all their talent on the roster (exemplified by having likely two Rookie of the Year winners in receiver Garrett Wilson and cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner), they really don’t have any more time to waste.
So, Carr for Wilson forms the basis of this trade, but there’s another important element to consider: Davante Adams. The two-time first team All Pro wide receiver was traded to the Raiders this year after eight seasons with the Green Bay Packers, and one of Vegas’s biggest selling points was that they could reunite Adams with Carr, his former teammate in college at Fresno State. I’m purely speculating here, but it’s hard to imagine that Adams would be too happy about swapping the guy he wanted to play with for a 23-year-old Jets castoff like Wilson.
That’s why Adams would have to be included in this trade. At face value, this trade heavily favors the Jets, as they’d be adding a dependable QB and an elite WR to a core that’s already pretty formidable, while the Raiders are essentially throwing in the towel. But consider the Raiders situation:
Their big money additions in Adams and free-agent signee Chandler Jones failed to elevate the team
New head coach Josh McDaniels is already feeling the heat thanks to an inconsistent offense (his specialty) and blowing numerous double-digit leads this season
There's very little in the way of promising young talent
What would be a better way to buy more time than committing to a full rebuild?
Of course, Adams and Carr would not come cheaply for the Jets. It took the Raiders a first and second-round pick to pry him from Green Bay, and the price tag for the combo would have to start there. The Jets, I’m sure, would happily pay even more - especially if it means getting Wilson out of town. Could a 2023 first, a 2023 second, a 2024 first and Wilson be enough to get the Adams-Carr package? I think yes.
For McDaniels and the Raiders, this is a perfect opportunity to see if they can salvage Wilson’s career. Even if he’s broken beyond repair, the Raiders are set up with significant draft capital, as they own ten picks in the upcoming draft, not including the two they would receive from the Jets as a part of this deal. With all this ammo, they could be perfectly situated to either: (1) add significant talent to a roster in dire need of young stars; (2) package up those picks to move into position to select one of the top QBs in the draft like Bryce Young of Alabama, Will Levis of Kentucky, or C.J. Stroud of Ohio State.
As the Raiders are keenly aware, life in the AFC West is tough. Kansas City looks like a juggernaut as long as Patrick Mahomes is at the helm, the Los Angeles Chargers have cyborg-adjacent Justin Herbert as their QB, and the Broncos…well, the Broncos look like a trash heap.
Newsflash, Raiders, you aren’t winning this division in your current state. There needs to be a big shakeup. This trade could be that opportunity. Moving Carr and Adams would free up gobs of cap space, give the team financial flexibility and freedom, and allow for an influx of cheap, cost-controlled young players to build out the foundation of the roster.
As for the Jets, this trade is a no-brainer. Adding Carr alone raises the floor of this team significantly, but Adams too? That’s a game-changer.
With Carr at QB, Adams would pair with the leftover (Garrett) Wilson to immediately form one of the best one-two receiver tandems in the league. Throw in shifty gadget receiver Elijah Moore, a developing and much-invested-in offensive line, and - provided he fully recovers from ACL surgery - promising rookie running back Breece Hall, and the Jets have all the makings of an explosive and legitimately potent offense.
Amazingly, that side of the ball might still be the Jets weakest unit. That’s because their defense could be the best in the league next year. Defensive tackle Quinnen Williams has blossomed into a Defensive Player of the Year candidate in year four, and the rookie Gardner could be competing for awards of his own as he continues to demonstrate the same sticky, lockdown skills he displayed in college. The Jets defense is loaded, and all they need is an offense that can stay out of the way.
A Carr-and-Adams-led offense would do more than stay out of the way. They could be one of the better attacks in the league. And with that defense…the Jets might be an early Super Bowl favorite.
It would be a bittersweet moment for the Raiders, as Carr has been a staple of that community since he was drafted by the then-Oakland Raiders back in 2014. Adams, too, was hoping to find a forever home in Las Vegas with his buddy. It’s not working, though, and the Raiders would be smart to be proactive and look to the future instead of running the same middling group out there once again in 2023.
(Zach) Wilson would not be a long-term solution for the Raiders. He’s merely a stopgap. Maybe the Raiders select a QB in 2023, or maybe they wait till next year. As it happens, Wilson gives them some time to mull over their options.
This is the rare trade that could really work out well for everybody. The Jets in 2023 will be in win-now mode. There’s no more time to waste. Williams is already awaiting a massive contract extension, and while they won’t come up for a few years, the Jets would be nuts to let (Garrett) Wilson, Gardner, or Hall walk.
For McDaniels and the Raiders, this is an opportunity to take one step back to take two steps forward. The core of the current Raiders isn’t going anywhere. They peaked last year and adding Adams and Jones to the mix didn’t cut it. The defense is leaky, the offensive line is a mess, and star running back Josh Jacobs is a free agent after the season. Big changes were coming regardless. Moving Carr and Adams would be a sign of defeat, but in order to finally contend in the AFC West, the Raiders must be willing to lose this battle to win the war.