Now that Sheldon Richardson will be suspended, yet again, the idea that the New York Jets put forth a tremendous gamble is becoming clear.
The positives are obvious.
He’s more explosive. He’s more versatile. He took home the 2013 AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. He’s also a tad younger at 25 years of age.
These are the undeniable features that thrust New York Jets general manager to the conclusion of possibly keeping Sheldon Richardson long-term – instead of arguably the best defensive lineman in the game, Muhammad Wilkerson.
Oh yeah, did I mention he’s less expensive, too?
Richardson is slated to make $3.199 million in 2016. In 2017, he’s slated to make a cool $8.069 million. The reason he’s now a richer man after 2016 is because Mikey Mac exercised the 2017 team option they had on S-Rich.
This, my friends, was the action that firmly stuck the last fork in Wilkerson’s long-term future with Gang Green. Big Mo’s franchise tender of $15.701 million that’s laying on the table coupled with his asking price of a long-term deal nearing the $100 million range (thanks Fletcher Cox), only adds more fuel onto the “let Mo go” fire.
Much like the S-Rich positives, the issue with this decision is also obvious: Richardson is a complete wild card off the field.
News came down today that Richardson would be suspended for Week 1’s contest against the Cincinnati Bengals. Violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy was the reason for the one game suspension without pay.
As fans know, the man put himself in an undesirable situation last offseason when he was arrested in his hometown in Missouri after leading police on a high-speed chase. For four traffic violations, Richardson was sentenced to two years probation, 100 hours of community service, and hefty fines totaling $1,050.
This news of this action came shortly after it was announced S-Rich would miss the first four games of the 2015 season thanks to a violation of the league’s drug program.
With all of this as evidence, the Jets chose to continue the hardball game with Mo before and after picking up the 2017 option on Sheldon.
It’s a calculated, high-risk gamble by the organization. A situation the Jets created themselves.
The very moment the first year regime selected the gift that was Leonard Williams in the 2015 NFL Draft No. 6 overall, was when the Jets possessed one too many studs on the inside of the defense. One of the three (Williams, Richardson, Wilkerson) had to go. Hell, two of these guys might eventually have to go (if Maccagnan believes the top dollar needs to be spread out in a different variety across all positions).
But once the news of Richardson’s off field transgressions came down last summer, Maccagnan could have ripped up Wilkerson’s contract and signed him long-term.
This action would put a strong emphasis on Richardson to keep his nose clean off the field. If he did so, his bargain salary value used as trade bait this past draft could have been something worth while. Or, at the very least, they could have allowed him to play his final season out as a Jet in 2016.
It would have also immediately provided the Jets with some short-term salary cap relief (signing Mo to a massive long-term deal).
Maccagnan took option B, the one that allows complete flexibility. He decided to gamble on Richardson instead of Wilkerson.
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The sole reason for this gamble comes down to dollars and cents. The $8.069 million for Sheldon in 2017 isn’t hefty for the value he could potentially return on the field.
The problem is, “Will Richardson stay on the field?”
Despite S-Rich’s contract not extending beyond 2017, the next 31 games Richardson will be paid for will be critical in determining the correctness of this situation. (It’s not 32 thanks to the one game suspension.)
It’s a shame for Wilkerson. He’s, by far, the more deserving player to remain a long-term Jet. It’s not even close.
When it comes to the grueling nature of the NFL salary cap, however, Maccagnan took the flexibility route. He took the potential “return on investment” route.
Perhaps Maccagnan should have passed up on that team option and put a little pressure on Richardson to keep clean. Ah, but that’s not Maccagnan. Maccagnan felt the need to pounce and see the potential on the other side of that manageable salary.
The route Maccagnan went can firmly backfire in his face if S-Rich doesn’t keep his act straight off the field. Will it? Only time will tell.