How Zасһ Wіlson's сontrасt сould sраrk аn NBA-style trаde

How Zасһ Wіlson’s сontrасt сould sраrk аn NBA-style trаde

Zach Wilson’s relationship with the New York Jets is pretty much over. From bad play to controversies during last season regarding his desire to play after being benched in favor of Tim Boyle, the situation led to the team allowing Wilson and his representatives to seek a trade.

The circumstances make it murkier, though. The quarterback is slated to make $5.543 million in 2024, and all of it is fully guaranteed since he was the second overall pick in 2021. So not only is Wilson uncuttable, it’s also extremely hard to find a trade partner. Players who have had more individual success in the NFL, like Justin Fields, Kenny Pickett, and Sam Howell, have been traded for late-round picks — and their contracts are much better, too.

“There’s been a lot of good discussions with his agent [Brian Ayrault], and there have been some discussions with teams regarding a trade, but I’ve got no news to report,” Jets general manager Joe Douglas said last week during the owners’ meeting in Orlando. “There is nothing close to being done on that front.”

Asked if Wilson could potentially stay with the Jets for 2024 behind Aaron Rodgers and Tyrod Taylor, Douglas said there’s time to make that determination.

“We’re so early in this offseason process, there’s still a lot of meat on the bone, getting to camp and OTAs,” Douglas added. “I haven’t given much thought to it other than to say we’ve had some good conversations with his agent.”

How can the Jets make it happen?
At this point, it’s extremely unlikely that a team would trade anything to absorb Zach Wilson’s contract, considering it’s not a small value and how bad he’s played in the NFL. Therefore, the Jets have two realistic options to move the quarterback.

The first one is more common. The Jets would restructure Wilson’s deal, transforming his $4.398 million roster bonus into a signing bonus — they could even have the option to add void years to the deal, and if the trade is executed after June 1st, that would open an extra $3.519 million in 2024 cap space, leaving that as dead money for 2025. The new team would absorb only $1.055 million of Wilson’s base salary, which is much more realistic.

The Jets wouldn’t get a big compensation package back, but maybe they would get a late-round pick and some cap relief.

For this scenario, the potential teams to make the deal are ones that would want a young quarterback to develop, like the Las Vegas Raiders, Denver Broncos, or New York Giants.

NBA-esque trade
The second scenario is an exclusively financially-motivated trade. In this case, the Jets would actually pay someone to absorb Zach Wilson’s guarantees, just like it’s frequent to see in the NBA.

Those kinds of deals are rare in the NFL, but there are some recent examples. The Houston Texans traded Brock Osweiler, second- and sixth-round picks for a fourth-rounder from the Cleveland Browns to get rid of his $16 million salary (9.58% of the salary cap that year).

During the 2019 season, after Aqib Talib got hurt, the Los Angeles Rams sent cornerback Aqib Talib and a fifth-rounder to the Miami Dolphins for a seventh-rounder, clearing up $4.2 million in cap space (2.23% of the cap).

Zach Wilson’s salary is 2.17% of the current salary cap, so Talib’s deal is a solid parameter. The Jets don’t have a fifth-rounder, which they sent to the Denver Broncos during the Jacob Martin’s trade, but they have two fourths and a sixth, so it would be realistic to work around that.

The New England Patriots lead the NFL in cap space, but likely wouldn’t want to make this kind of deal with a divisional rival. In this case, teams like the Washington Commanders, Tennessee Titans, and Houston Texans would make sense — they have cap room and would benefit from the extra draft capital, even if they end up releasing Zach Wilson later on.

Right now, the Jets are last in the NFL in cap space, with $1.433 million available. Trading Zach Wilson would be helpful for the team, and exploring unusual avenues might be the most feasible way to make it happen.

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