It's safe to say the Jets and Saints are in different positions entering this offseason.
While New York is sitting pretty with a slew of top draft picks and loads of cap space, New Orleans is in a devastating financial spot, needing to find a new head coach and franchise quarterback.
That in mind, could these two foes agree on a trade this offseason that would benefit both sides?
The Saints are currently $74 million over the salary cap for the 2022 season (per Over The Cap), the worst financial situation for any NFL franchise. The Jets have nearly $50 million in cap space.
Plus, with Sean Payton stepping down, this might be the best possible time for a rebuild of some sort in New Orleans. They could hit the refresh button as a new staff settles in, moving players to recoup draft picks and reposition for contention in a few years.
In an article on NFL.com on Wednesday, Nick Shook listed some of the Saints players that could hypothetically be moved over the next few months. With the unprecedented hole New Orleans needs to dig out of this offseason, every player is on the table as the brightest stars will free up the most money.
Meanwhile, the Jets profile as a club that could use draft capital to make a blockbuster move, acquiring proven talent to take a step forward in their rebuild and provide their young quarterback with more weapons. New York has picks to spare this spring, set to be on the clock nine times in the first five rounds (four selections in top-38 picks).
Shook listed a few teams as "potential buyers" for 10 different players on the Saints. He linked five of those studs to the Jets.
Here they are with Shook's analysis. Then, we'll break this down just a bit further...
Five Saints the Jets Could Target Via Trade This Offseason (NFL.com)
WR Michael Thomas
Thomas currently stands as the fifth-highest paid receiver in terms of average annual salary at $19.25 million, but he's spent much of the last two seasons sitting out. Of a possible 33 games, Thomas has played in just seven, catching 40 passes for 438 yards in 2020. He simply hasn't been available enough to come close to justifying his significant salary, and the Saints are in no position to carry such a cap number for a player who can't stay on the field -- no matter how excellent Thomas was in 2018 and '19. If the Saints choose to start anew, Thomas could be one of the first players Loomis looks to move.
Potential buyers: New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars.
DE Cameron Jordan
Jordan has been a pillar in New Orleans since the franchise selected him 24th overall in 2011, and he's assembled a career worthy of induction into the team's ring of honor (107 career sacks, seven Pro Bowls, one first-team All-Pro). Parting with him might be agonizing for both sides, but not as painful as keeping his 2022 cap number on the books. New Orleans would clear $15 million by trading him with a post-June 1 designation, and could get a decent haul in return, considering he's still an effective player (12.5 sacks in 2021).
Potential buyers: Seattle Seahawks, New York Jets, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars.
RB Alvin Kamara
New Orleans backed up the Brink's truck to Kamara's doorstep in 2020, signing him to a five-year extension that pays him the team's fifth-highest average annual salary at $15 million. He's another integral part of the Saints' core, and unlike Thomas, he's proven to be worth the new money. But that doesn't mean he's untouchable, especially if the franchise commits to a total rebuild. Losing Kamara would be equal to taking the wheels off a vehicle, but the Saints are in dire straits here. Kamara is another candidate for a restructure, which Over The Cap estimates could save New Orleans up to $7.8 million in 2022 -- not too far off the total the Saints would save via a post-June 1 trade. And if they do trade him, they can bank on getting a nice haul in return.
Potential buyers: New York Jets, Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins, Seattle Seahawks.
OG Andrus Peat
I'm never a fan of shipping away decent offensive linemen, especially for a franchise that doesn't have its quarterback situation figured out, but Peat hasn't been all that great the last few years. New Orleans is also staring at the real possibility of Terron Armstead walking in free agency; losing Peat would only double the damage done up front. The Saints could clear much of his 2022 cap total via a post-June 1 trade. Then again, Peat might not be worth the money for a potential trade partner, especially if his Pro Football Focus grade (52.1 in 2021) and lack of availability (missed 11 games this past season; has never logged a full campaign) are taken into account. I could certainly see both sides open to restructuring his deal to provide some cap relief.
Potential buyers: Cincinnati Bengals, Chicago Bears, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Jets.
S Malcolm Jenkins
Jenkins returned to New Orleans with the hopes of pursuing another title, but a revolving door at quarterback prevented those goals from coming to fruition. The Saints can comfortably move on from Jenkins, who's signed through 2023, knowing two of their other safeties graded out better than the grizzled veteran -- even if his replacement, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, was slightly worse, per PFF. New Orleans' existing creativity would be limited with Gardner-Johnson, but that's not enough of a reason to carry Jenkins' $11.7 million cap figure. A team in need of veteran leadership might be interested in acquiring the 34-year-old, but with no guaranteed salary remaining, an outright release could be in the cards.
Potential buyers: Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins.
The Jets could be in the market for players at each of those five positions, but a top wide receiver, a veteran guard and a veteran defensive back would certainly peak Joe Douglas' interest.
Michael Thomas would be an immediate upgrade in New York's receiver room. Imagine a group with Thomas, Corey Davis and Elijah Moore. Mix in some depth and Zach Wilson will have plenty of playmakers at his disposal.
Then again, as Shook alluded to, Thomas has been hit hard by injuries recently. It's tough to view his dynamic performances in 2018 and 2019 the same way considering he's only played in seven games since then. If he's healthy, though...
Cameron Jordan would be a huge boost to New York's pass rush as well, a unit that Robert Saleh will be itching to improve this offseason. Jordan has six seasons in his productive career with 10-plus sacks. Would he be worth the investment when the Jets already have Carl Lawson, Quinnen Williams, John Franklin-Myers and more up front? They could also target a top edge rusher in the draft instead.
There are other positions that need to be addressed for this team before running back, but an opportunity to add a player of Alvin Kamara's caliber shouldn't be ignored. New York shouldn't mess with Michael Carter's growth after his promising rookie year out of the backfield, but Kamara is among the best at his position in the game. He's expensive and would cost quite a few picks in a trade, but would theoretically take this offense to new heights as well.
Andrus Peat could slot in as the Jets' new right guard, providing more protection for Wilson. There's a chance New York addresses their O-line in the draft, but Peat's veteran presence could help guard Alijah Vera-Tucker and tackle Mekhi Becton continue to develop. He's also a former first-round pick and has blossomed into a three-time Pro Bowler with New Orleans.
Finally, Malcolm Jenkins. New York has plenty of question marks in their secondary. If Marcus Maye leaves in free agency, the Jets could reel in a new veteran to help lead this young secondary. Again, there's a chance Gang Green takes a player from this position in the draft (perhaps safety Kyle Hamilton fourth overall), but New York will need to supplement this young group with proven vets.
At the end of the day, this is all speculation. Who knows how many of these players will actually be available. New Orleans has to figure out how to shed all this money, though.
New York should certainly keep an eye on the Saints and how they take care of things going forward. They only have so much cap space to work with, but if the price is right, one of these players could be an addition that helps take this unit to the playoffs in 2022.
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