Sheldon Richardson is on the move, finally. Miscast for multiple seasons in Todd Bowles’s defense after the arrival of 2015 first-rounder Leonard Williams, Richardson had been the subject of trade rumors dating back at least to last off-season.
The Jets pulled the trigger on a long-awaited trade Friday, sending Richardson and a seventh-round draft pick to the Seahawks for WR Jermaine Kearse and second- and seventh-round picks, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported.
Rarely do all sides wind up satisfied after high-profile NFL trades but there is room for across-the-board optimism here …
The Seahawks will be thrilled to add a player of Richardson’s caliber to what may be the league’s premier front seven. He comes at a cost, of course—both in terms of the Kearse/early pick package headed to New York and his $8.1 million contract—but his is the type of addition that can help put a contender over the top. While Richardson excelled early in his career as a 3–4 DE, he can play both end and tackle in the Seahawks’ base 4–3 under, offering similar versatility to the dynamic Michael Bennett. Seattle now has Richardson, Bennett, Cliff Avril, Frank Clark, Jarran Reed and others to mix and match up front.
Obviously, Seattle now also gets first crack at re-signing Richardson, a 2013 first-rounder who is still just 26.
The Jets, meanwhile, continue to forecast a horribly bleak outlook for the ‘17 season, but landing a second- and seventh-rounder is a decent haul given the corner they’d backed themselves into with Richardson. It was rather clear by this point that Richardson was not going to be signing a contract extension in New York, so this would have been his final year there. Richardson also was at the heart of a feud with former Jets WR Brandon Marshall, which drew Bowles’s ire last month.
Kearse is a bonus for New York, in year two of a three-year contract. He had fallen out of favor in Seattle, yet lands in a situation where the Jets are starving for receiver talent. Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall just left via free agency, and Quincy Enunwa is done for the year with a neck injury.
The biggest winner of all may be Richardson himself. Frustrated and poorly utilized in New York, he has an opportunity now to blow up in Seattle’s defense, ahead of potentially hitting free agency. Should Seattle extend him early, it would have to pay market value to do so. This move is a major boon for Richardson’s future, financially and as a player.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Bowles, whose team has been stripped to the bones in recent weeks. Bowles still has this year and 2018 left on his current contract—and the front office has to know what a bind it’s put him in—but even the few (if any) wins he can cobble together in ‘17 would run counter-productive to the Jets’ apparent dream of tanking. (Jets’ fans also take another in a string of roster-related ‘Ls’ this off-season; they don’t have much to look forward to over the next four months.)
This is a significant trade overall, especially given the timing. The fallout from it could linger for years, depending on where Richardson signs beyond this season and on what the Jets do with their extra pick.