The New York Jets are done with Sheldon Richardson and sent him to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for wide receiver Jermaine Kearse and a second-round pick in 2018, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Richardson, 26, is one of the best young defensive linemen in the NFL and earned a spot in the Pro Bowl in 2014, but he struggled to stay out of trouble in the early years of his career.
According to NFL Insider Ian Rapoport, the Jets were making calls to potentially trade Richardson. A few days before the 2017 NFL draft, Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan told NJ.com’s Connor Hughes that he wasn't going to “speculate or comment on anything we're doing.”
However, Maccagnan later said, “As a general manager, you're looking at all the different ways you can change the team, improve the team, or help the team. You weigh everything as you come across it.”
The one-time Pro Bowler signed a four-year, $10 million rookie contract. But the Jets picked up the fifth-year option in his rookie deal, and Richardson was scheduled to make a little over $8 million in 2017. After that, Richardson was set to become a free agent in the 2018 offseason, so the Jets getting a second-round pick could end up being a good haul for a player who looked to be on the verge of leaving anyway.
Richardson was the No. 13 pick in the 2013 NFL draft and made an immediate impact with the Jets. He was named the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year after making 42 tackles alongside 3.5 sacks that fall.
One year later, he earned his only Pro Bowl invitation to date after recording eight sacks and setting the pace for a New York defensive line that was especially stingy to opposing ball carriers.
This season, the young defensive end racked up only 62 tackles to go along with one forced fumble and 1.5 sacks. He has a good reputation on the field but not off the field.
Richardson was suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season after violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
The burly lineman earned another suspension — this time for just one game — after being arrested and charged with traffic violations and resisting arrest. Court documents reported Richardson had driven in speeds exceeding 140 miles per hour with a 12-year-old in the car while trying to evade officers.
Now he’ll go to Seattle, a place where many defensive linemen like Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, and plenty of others have thrived after starting their careers elsewhere.
Jets get Jermaine Kearse to add to hurting WR corps
For Jermaine Kearse, the trade will mean a big change in scenery. Before the move, he spent his entire organized football life in Washington, whether it was in high school at Lakewood Lakes, playing college ball for the Huskies, or winning a Super Bowl with the Seahawks. Now he’ll head across the country to play for the Jets.
The veteran wide receiver was traded by Seattle, ending a five-year run in which every season ended with at least one postseason victory on the books. The move clears a spot on the depth chart for players like Paul Richardson and Amara Darboh to step up and gives the Jets some receiver help after a rough offseason at the position.
The Jets cut ties with Marshall and Eric Decker shortly after the 2016 season. Then the team lost Quincy Enunwa to a season-ending injury and have seen others like Jalin Marshall and Robby Anderson get in trouble.
Kearse landed in Seattle as an undrafted free agent after a solid but ultimately unspectacular four-year career at the University of Washington. His ability to make plays after the catch and make a positive impact on special teams earned him a spot on the roster, though it took him some time to break through to the starting lineup.
He had just 25 receptions in his first two seasons with the team but was a reliable target in the team’s run to a Super Bowl 48 victory. He had 109 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Seahawks’ wins in the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl that winter.
While that performance set the stage for a breakout that never came, he emerged as a consistent and reliable starter in his third year, giving the club a valuable safety valve behind Doug Baldwin in a run-first offense. He also produced what was nearly one of the most incredible plays in Super Bowl history that season — until a Russell Wilson goal-line interception effectively erased it from the spotlight.
Kearse’s circus catch put the Seahawks on the 5-yard line and in place to score a title-clinching touchdown. Instead, Malcolm Butler’s game-saving interception made it a footnote in a tremendous Super Bowl.
He set career highs the following season after hauling in 49 catches for 685 yards and five touchdowns, but he fell off that pace in 2016. Though the Seahawks are still relatively thin at wideout — Baldwin and Tyler Lockett are the only players on the roster to have gained more than 271 receiving yards in a season as pros — they decided to jettison a fan favorite.
The real win for the Jets is getting a second-round pick to continue to rebuild the team from scratch while Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson pick up the slack on the defensive line.
But Kearse can immediately contribute to the Jets and step up in a way that the Seahawks depth chart often didn’t allow him to.