The Jets may have a glimmer of hope now that Sam Darnold is back in the lineup, but they are still facing a stark and unfortunate reality. Since 1990, when the NFL playoffs expanded, only one team has started 0-4 and gone on to make the playoffs. And it hasn't happened since the San Diego Chargers did it in 1992.
That's why between now and the trading deadline on Oct. 29, many around the league believe the Jets' motto should be, and will be: "Sell!"
A lot can happen in the three games between now and that deadline, of course, but multiple league sources told SNY that they expect new Jets GM Joe Douglas to be extremely active in the next few weeks. One source used the word "firesale" to describe what he expects would happen thanks to the combination of a new GM, a team with an 0-4 record, and several expensive but talented players who may not fit in to his long-term plan.
"Most of that team was built by Mike (Maccagnan, the former Jets GM)," said one NFL source. "This isn't Joe's team yet. He's going to have to unload some of those guys and start loading up on (draft) picks."
The Jets do seem to have some marketable, and possibly expendable, players - none bigger, of course, than defensive lineman Leonard Williams. There are other high-priced players who many speculate could be available too, such as guard Kelechi Osemele (if he's healthy) and cornerback Trumaine Johnson (if someone is willing to take on the $38 million left on his current deal).
Of course, making a trade still won't be easy. "These aren't all-pros we're talking about," one scout said. "They'd be looking to dump salaries or problem players. They're not going to get a ton in return."
Maybe not. But some thought the same about the Giants last year too when they had their pre-deadline firesale. They were able to trade their disgruntled cornerback, Eli Apple, for fourth- and seventh-round picks, they traded grumpy defensive tackle Damon Harrison for a fifth. The Giants could have traded safety Landon Collins for a mid-round pick (before letting him walk away in free agency for nothing). And depending on who you believe, they might have gotten a late-round pick for disappointing tackle Ereck Flowers if they hadn't decided to cut him instead.
The point is that you never know until you ask, and Douglas is expected to do a lot of asking in the coming weeks. That could change if the Jets win a couple (or all) of their next three games, against the Cowboys and Patriots at home and then on the road at Jacksonville two days before the deadline. Unless that happens, though, Douglas owes it to himself and to his team's future to at least explore the potential value in some of the few tradeable players he has.
Here's a look at the few big pieces he has to sell …
DL Leonard Williams
The Jets keep praising the 25-year-old despite his lack of production. "He really has played well," defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said on Friday. "He's graded out high each and every week."
OK, but he still doesn't have a sack and has never become the pass rusher everyone expected, so it's really hard to imagine the Jets giving him the lucrative, long-term contract he's going to seek - especially considering they're already paying him $14.2 million this year. If they're not going to pay him, they should trade him to a team that needs line help and thinks they can help him reach his potential. What's he worth?
"Maybe a third-round pick," one league source said, though others have speculated the price could be higher. "His age makes him worth it," the source said. "His production makes him a hard sell."
G Kelechi Osemele
This seemed like a great move when Maccagnan traded for him in March, but the Jets' line has been terrible and according to one source the coaching staff was considering playing ex-Raven Alex Lewis at left guard even before Osemele (shoulder/knee) missed the game in Philly.
Since Osemele is 30 and due $11.7 million next season his value may be low, and the injuries might make any trade discussion moot. But, as one NFL executive said, "Everyone is looking for experienced offensive line help."
If the Jets are lucky they might be able to recoup the conditional seventh-rounder they sent to Baltimore for Smith, but that's probably it. And only if he gets back on the field, which he won't be able to do on Sunday.
CB Trumaine Johnson
Douglas should be the NFL executive of the year if he can unload Johnson and the rest of his five-year, $72.5 million contract. In his year-and-a-quarter with the Jets he's been fined, suspended, benched, injured, and his play has been terrible at times. At this point, they'd probably be willing to endure the massive salary cap hit they'd take for trading him if they could just rid themselves of the headache.
It's not impossible, even with $50.5 million left on his contract after this season, because none of it's guaranteed (though his 2020 salary of $11 million does become guaranteed if he's on a roster on March 21. But none of the sources contacted by SNY thought anyone would trade for Johnson right now.
RB Le'Veon Bell
It would be crazy, right, trading your best player - and one of the best running backs in the league - just a couple of months into a four-year, $52.5 million contract?
Yes. And it would leave the Jets so barren on offense that they'd be a lock for another Top 5 pick in the NFL draft. This is only something to consider if Douglas shares the view coach Adam Gase expressed back in March, that he didn't want the Jets to spend this much money on the running back position. It's not about the player. It's about asset allocation.
And if Douglas agrees, then Bell might be the most marketable player the Jets have. They'd have to get at least a first-round pick in return, maybe more, considering he's only 27 and his guaranteed money only runs through next season. Bell is probably a player the Jets should be building around at this point. But they at least have to listen if someone calls. So, would anyone call?
"I'd think they'd have a line at their door if they made him available," one scout said.