Edwards is an undeniable talent at receiver, but Cleveland's 2005 first-round pick has had just one season so far (2007) that was worthy of his No. 3 overall draft slot. Whether or not New York can find a way to mine Edwards' potential is a calculated risk that at first glance doesn't appear to have a huge downside for the Jets.
In addition to shipping to Cleveland a pair of veteran players in slot receiver Chansi Stuckey and special teams player Jason Trusnik -- two players now headed from first to worst in the standings -- the first-place Jets (3-1) are sending the Browns a pair of draft picks believed to be in the range of the third or fourth round. That's not a huge price to pay for Edwards if New York can get him performing anywhere near the level of his 2007 breakthrough season, when he scored 16 touchdowns and hauled in 80 passes for 1,289 yards.
Edwards has been plagued by both dropped passes and off-field maturity issues since his Pro Bowl season of 2007, but the Jets believe they know his warts and can foster an atmosphere that brings out the best in the enigmatic former University of Michigan star. New York is counting on Edwards being happier away from the losing climate that prevailed in Cleveland, and the hope is that offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer can quickly mold a significant role for him, with rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez feeding him the ball and keeping him interested.
The knock on Edwards in Cleveland has been that he's not a player who lives and breaths the game as much as he enjoys the fame and lifestyle of an NFL star. Playing in the New York might only end up accentuating that pattern, but the Jets are counting on Edwards to work harder at his craft than he did in Cleveland, and to get on board with a winning program that could potentially showcase his receiving talents.
Edwards is only signed through 2009, but if there is no new collective bargaining agreement struck by next March, the Jets will retain his rights as a restricted free agent when the salary cap disappears in 2010 and the free agency rules change to preclude unrestricted movement until a player has six years in the league. Edwards is currently in his fifth year.
As for the 0-4 Browns, new head coach Eric Mangini continues to collect his ex-Jets players, getting two reliable performers in Stuckey and Trusnik. Stuckey is a resourceful and, at times, very productive slot receiver, and Trusnik is a quality special teams player and reserve linebacker who earlier this season contributed to New York's win over Tennessee with a key forced fumble and recovery on kick coverage.
For Cleveland, the rational to move Edwards was obvious: He had become a steady source of off-field controversy, and he certainly wasn't helping them win on the field, being held without a catch for the first time in his career in Sunday's overtime loss at home against Cincinnati. Mangini, no doubt, reasoned that his team would be better off with two quality role players and some future draft picks than an underachieving irritant who had clearly worn out his welcome in Cleveland.
The Jets have now potentially landed the No. 1 receiver their offense lacked, giving them another chip in their attempt to unseat AFC East power New England, where Randy Moss remains the division's most dominant receiver. New York has done so without granting Edwards a lucrative new contract or surrendering valuable first- or second-round picks in any future drafts. All things considered, the Jets see Edwards' upside -- he's 26 and has scored 25 touchdowns in his last three full seasons -- as a risk worth investing in that doesn't come at a premium price.