Thursday, October 8, 2009

Jets trade for Edwards to jumpstart downfield passing game

The news broke early Wednesday morning that the Jets had made yet another trade with Eric Mangini's Cleveland Browns, shipping Chansi Stuckey, Jason Trusnik, a conditional third-round pick and a fifth-round pick to the Browns for Braylon Edwards, a talented yet enigmatic receiver.

Since catching 80 balls for 1,289 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2007, Edwards has struggled mightily, recording barely over 1,000 yards in his next 20 games and dropping as many passes as any receiver in the league. The hope is that a fresh start and stability at the quarterback position will help Edwards regain his 2007 form.

On paper, this looks like another steal for the Jets as they upgraded their second receiver position without giving up another starting-level player or a first-day draft pick. The Jets also made a trade with the Browns on draft day to land the fifth overall pick and quarterback Mark Sanchez without trading a starting-level player and losing just their first and second-round picks.

It seems like Mangini still likes some of the players he coached with the Jets, and Stuckey is a young, talented receiver who was a serviceable second receiver and still has room to grow. But by no means is he the threat that the 6-3 Edwards is, especially in the red zone.

But Edwards doesn't come without baggage. His 2007 season is the only one in his career where he has topped 1,000 yards or six touchdowns and the NFL is looking into an alleged assault by Edwards outside a Cleveland nightclub Monday morning, as Edwards is accused of punching a promoter who happens to be friends with LeBron James. James called Edwards "childish" after hearing of the incident, but had no comment on the trade to New York.

If Edwards can move past these allegations and learn the Jets playbook in a short period of time, he will give the Jets the down-field receiving threat they sorely lack and allow Sanchez to hurt teams deep when they stack the box, like the Saints did on Sunday. Rex Ryan said Edwards will start Monday night against the Dolphins, but expect to see plenty of Brad Smith as well while Edwards gets used to the Jets' offensive system.

If recent history is any indication, it will be difficult for Edwards to make a huge impact in his first season with the Jets. The Cowboys gave up a king's ransom for Roy Williams at the trade deadline last season, only to watch him catch just 19 balls for 198 yards and one touchdown in his nine games in Big D. Williams also had to battle Terrell Owens and Jason Witten for touches, while Edwards will be competing for the ball with Jerricho Cotchery and Dustin Keller, a lesser version of the Cowboys combination.

Like Edwards, Williams had one breakout season in 2006, catching 82 balls for 1,310 yards and seven touchdowns. Williams has never been able to match that season, and the Jets are hoping Edwards doesn't follow the same path.

If Edwards can keep his head on straight and establish a rapport with the developing Sanchez, he should be able to make plays and help the Jets open up their offense. If it works out, this acquisition will make the Jets a more complete team, and one that can challenge the Ravens and Colts for supremacy in the AFC.

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