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Inside the Jets' Trade to Pick Jermaine Johnson, Adding 'Perfect Fit' For Defense

New York got their guy at No. 26 on Thursday night, trading up to pick Florida State EDGE Jermaine Johnson.
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Before Jermaine Johnson departed from his pre-draft visit with the Jets, New York's head coach Robert Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas made the prospect a promise.

"They said they'd come get me," Johnson recalled to reporters on Thursday night.

It took a little longer than both parties anticipated, during a hectic first round of the 2022 NFL draft, but that's exactly what the Jets did.

Nearly 20 picks after their second selection in the first round, New York traded up for a third first-rounder, grabbing the Florida State EDGE 26th overall.

In the trade, with the Titans, Gang Green sent three picks—including the No. 35 selection in the second round—to Tennessee, acquiring picks No. 26 and No. 101 in return. 

"We were very surprised he was there in the late 20’s," Douglas told reporters following Day 1 of the draft. "Coach and I got together and said, let’s start getting him, probably around 15, let’s start trying to make a move to get him."

All three of New York's additions in the first round—Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad Gardner, Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson and Johnson—were among the top-eight prospects on the Jets' draft board, per Douglas. That in mind, it's no surprise that they kept a close eye on Johnson as he continued to fall in the first round. 

New York didn't take any chances either. Asked how many teams Douglas talked to after the 15th pick when they made a plan to trade up for Johnson, the general manager smiled. 

"All of them," he said.

No wonder Johnson was so happy to be picked by the Jets, even after slipping to the final few picks in the first round. New York made it clear that the organization truly wanted to add him to their family from the start.

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"It was awesome," Johnson said, thinking back to his phone call with Saleh when he first heard the news. "He said, 'what did I tell you? What did I tell you when you left my office?' I said, 'that you guys would come and get me.' And he was like, 'and I didn't lie, we came and got you. We've been trying to get you all night.'"

Johnson had a career year at Florida State in 2021, making 70 tackles (17.5 for loss) to go along with 11.5 sacks. Before his time with the Seminoles, the Minnesota native played at the University of Georgia, beginning his career in Junior College (at Independence Community College in Kansas).

There were rumblings leading up to the draft that Johnson could be picked as early as the fourth overall selection, higher than fellow EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux (who ended up going to the Giants at No. 5). As Johnson waited to hear his name called, he never lost the faith, knowing he'd end up where he was supposed to be.

"I wasn't really sure, but they said they'd come get me and that's what they ended up doing," he said. "I never got beside myself or anything. I was just excited, reminding myself I'm in the green room at the NFL draft. It was an amazing time and I'm so glad the Jets picked me up."

Johnson added that he believes he's a "perfect" fit in Saleh's defense. His new head coach agreed.

"Big, long, explosive. He’s got great athleticism, violence to his game," Saleh explained. "Very smart, he’s probably the most pro ready of all the pass rushers this year in terms of having a repertoire to his game and something we can add to. Really a perfect fit for what we do defensively with our wide-nine system, putting him on an edge, getting him firing off the ball and attacking. Really going to be a great complement to the group that we already have."

Evidently other teams didn't view him as a top EDGE in this class, otherwise he wouldn't have fallen that far in the first round. To New York, however, he's a white whale in what, on paper, was a practically perfect first round on Thursday night.

"I felt like going into this draft that you could ask 31 other teams how they ranked the wideouts, tackles, corners, every position and there’d be a different ranking," Douglas said. "We hoped that there would be something screwy like that that happened that maybe we could have an opportunity to attack, and we did. A really good player fell for a short amount of time."

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