The Jets encountered an unexpected turn in their difficult 2021 season when Zach Wilson suffered a knee injury, and made their journey even more unusual by trading for a veteran.
That veteran was Joe Flacco, who wasn't able to step in for the Jets in his first two weeks with the team because of his COVID-19 vaccination status (he is not vaccinated) and time needed to digest enough of the offense to perform. Flacco replaced Mike White in Week 10 and started in Week 11, two games the Jets lost while also scoring just 17 points in each contest.
New York sent a sixth-round pick to Philadelphia for Flacco, who is now once again likely unavailable after landing on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Unvaccinated close contacts must miss a minimum of five days, while unvaccinated players who test positive must quarantine for 10. Wilson has since recovered and will start Sunday. Barring a Flacco activation, Josh Johnson -- a veteran who has bounced back and forth between the practice squad and active roster -- will be the Jets' backup as White is out.
All of this is to say, was the Flacco trade really worth it? Jets coach Robert Saleh is convinced it was and defended it accordingly Wednesday.
"I'll stand by this forever, when someone offers a sixth-round pick for a player of Joe's caliber, to me there is no risk," Saleh said. "You're playing with house money. I've said it before, you can trade back one spot and get that sixth-round pick back in a hurry. I know we look at draft capital, but that's an easy one.
"That was an easy decision in terms of here's a proven quarterback, a Super Bowl quarterback, a record holder, a guy who can settle an offense if he needs to step in there. Which he proved on Sunday, he did a phenomenal job against Miami's pressure system. So that in itself is worth its weight in gold. So, as far as the draft capital, the thinking, it was a no-brainer. A sixth-round pick is not hard to recoup."
It's true that a sixth-round pick can be had fairly easily, but with White and Johnson also seeing significant snaps, it remains fair to wonder if the Jets truly needed Flacco. Once seen as a near-elite quarterback and a centerpiece of the Baltimore Ravens, Flacco has since become a bit of a wandering veteran, spending the last few seasons in Denver, New York, Philadelphia and New York again. In his only full game of action this year, he played well, completing 24 of 39 passes for 291 yards and two touchdowns.
Still, the Jets lost both games he appeared in. It's not often a sixth-rounder becomes a key player for a squad, but it's also not impossible. With the Jets still attempting to shape their roster into a contending group and little else to play for in Saleh's first season (other than just attempting to win the next game on the schedule), the sixth-rounder might still be worth more in the long term than Flacco.
But as coaches know, in this league, it's often about the most recent performances. The Jets were 1-5 and had just lost their No. 2 overall pick when they traded for Flacco, acting out of mild desperation when hindsight tells us it might not have been necessary.
Regardless, the trade happened, and Flacco made the move to New York. With Wilson now available, he might not see the field again this season. We'll stay tuned into 2022 to see if the sixth-rounder fares any better.