The Indianapolis Colts sent shock waves throughout the National Football League last week, sending a first round pick to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for running back Trent Richardson.
A first round pick is a steep price to pay for a running back; even if Richardson was selected third overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. For Indianapolis, fresh off a playoff appearance, the appeal of winning now was too much to resist.
The Jets and general manager John Idzik are in a different frame of mind than both Indianapolis and Cleveland. Not quite reloading like the Colts, and not quite starting from scratch like the Browns, New York can afford to be a bit more selective in their approach.
Idzik, hired in January, came to the team from the Seattle Seahawks, where he helped build one of the league’s best rosters. While in Seattle, Idzik gained a solid reputation serving as the team’s salary cap expert.
"He's an incredibly smart, very patient football man,'' Seahawks GM John Schneider told Newsday. "He's one of those guys that, when you talk about general managing, people don't necessarily understand what that term is. It's not just evaluating talent, it's working with every department, budgets in every department, managing people, evaluating people, doctors, trainers, scouts.”
Smart and patient are two important qualities to have when restructuring a roster. Upon taking the job, Idzik was given the unenviable task of dealing with a messy contract situation involving star cornerback Darrelle Revis. Doing the right thing, though not necessarily the popular thing, Revis was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a first round draft choice.
“When we made this decision, we felt like this was the best for both the short and long‑term success of the New York Jets,” Idzik said following the trade.
With the pick, the Jets selected Sheldon Richardson. Early on, the rookie defensive lineman has shown signs of being a key piece of the puzzle at a fraction of the price as Revis. Acquiring cheap, young talent like Richardson allows for invaluable salary cap flexibility that will help the team going forward.
As advertised, Idzik has made cap-savvy moves such as adding running back Chris Ivory and tight end Kellen Winslow in the offseason at an affordable rate. His patience also resulted in landing quarterback Geno Smith in the second round of the draft.
Constructing a roster of effective, low-cost veterans and blossoming youngsters is a winning formula for a team looking to turn around their fortunes. A front office sticking to the plan and avoiding temptation, like a quick-fix trade, is no different than the challenges of adhering to a strict diet.
With Idzik at the helm, the Jets appear to be in good shape.