The New York Jets have been in a pickle for much of the past year, as they have been trying to unload defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. The Jets defense includes Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson, and Leonard Williams, and Richardson is looking like the odd man out. The Jets signed Wilkerson to a big extension last year, and Williams has emerged as a great option after being drafted sixth overall in 2015.
The Jets tried to move Richardson prior to the trade deadline last year, but nothing came of it. He is now playing on his fifth-year option, which pays him $8,069,000. The number is fully guaranteed, which leaves the Jets with little leverage in a potential trade. They reportedly wanted a first round pick last year, but according to Jets beat writer Brian Costello, the thought now is that they likely could not get more than a fourth.
I’ve seen some comments on Twitter today suggesting the 49ers should trade for Richardson, and a deal could involve swapping the No. 2 overall pick with the Jets’ No. 6 overall pick. Richardson appears best suited as a 3-4 defensive end, but he has shown versatility, and could potentially play defensive tackle in the 49ers 4-3, or the heavy defensive end role. His numbers have taken a dip, but in a more consistent role, he could bring tremendous value to the 49ers defense.
There are a couple problems with that, however. The first is his off-field issues. He was suspended four four games in 2015 under the substance abuse policy, and then suspended for one game in 2016 under the personal conduct policy. For a team that has talked extensively about the importance of character, those are fairly significant red flags.
The other issue is the fact that Richardson is looking for a sizable contract extension. His next team could use the franchise tag next year, but that does not seem like an ideal step forward following a potential trade. If the Jets are serious about moving Richardson, they’ve likely let his agent speak with teams to discuss a potential contract extension ahead of a deal. We have not heard any rumors to date, so that would seem to suggest not much is happening for the time being. But it could end up being a draft day deal if they can figure out extension details ahead of time.
Jets writer Connor Hughes put together a list of possible landing spots for Richardson. He does not include the 49ers, even in his list of wild cards. He lists the Denver Broncos, Dallas Cowboys, and Kansas City Chiefs as the best fits. I would be surprised if the 49ers got into the mix on this one, in part because of the off-field issues, and in part because of the need for a long-term deal that might be needed to get a deal done.