Jets have one eye on trade for Khalil Mack, other on future

Khalil Mack has 40.5 sacks in 64 career games. Icon Sportswire

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Saturday is the one-year anniversary of the Sheldon Richardson trade, the blockbuster move that provided the ammunition that led the New York Jets to Sam Darnold.

Is general manager Mike Maccagnan mulling another big trade?

The name on everybody's lips is Khalil Mack, the pass-rushing star whose future with the Oakland Raiders appears cloudy. Mack is holding out, looking for a new contract that will pay him quarterback-type money. The trade rumors are rampant and the Jets, desperate for an edge rusher, are being mentioned as a potential suitor.

Yes, the Jets have a level of interest in Mack, although it's hard to say how much because there's so much posturing. It's fair to say it's more than a passing interest and they're monitoring the situation, which is what you'd expect from a team that has a giant hole in its defense. Mack would fill the void nicely, but it will take heavy lifting by Maccagnan to make it happen.

Is it worth the effort? Absolutely. Players of Mack's ilk don't become available that often. If there's an opportunity to add an impact player in the front seven, any forward-thinking GM would investigate.

After solving the franchise's age-old quarterback problem -- assuming Darnold lives up to expectations -- Maccagnan's No. 1 objective is to find a dynamic pass-rusher for his defensive-minded coach, Todd Bowles. He can attack it one of two ways:

1. Go all-in on Mack. Any team that trades for Mack would have to deal its 2019 first-round pick and then some. One personnel executive said he wouldn't be surprised if the Raiders demand two first-round picks for the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

If the Jets agree to mortgage their future for one player, it will change the narrative surrounding the franchise. They'd be a win-now team as opposed to a building-for-tomorrow team. Basically, they'd be hitting the fast-forward button, confident Darnold can develop quickly into a championship-caliber quarterback during the Mack window. Mack is 27, so you're talking at least three prime years.

Remember, the Jets don't have a 2019 second-round pick. If they give up their first-rounder, too, it'll hamper their ability to improve Darnold's supporting cast on offense. Maccagnan must weigh that versus having a difference-maker such as Mack on defense. No doubt, he'd make them a playoff-ready defense.

If the Jets can get Mack for a first-round pick and Teddy Bridgewater, they should do it in a heartbeat. In recent days, Raiders coach Jon Gruden has lamented his backup-quarterback situation with Connor Cook and EJ Manuel, saying he's not sure if the No. 2 quarterback is on the roster. Maybe he'd be interested in Bridgewater, whom the Jets are open to dealing. Chances are the Jets would have to add a sweetener, perhaps a player from their crowded receiving corps.

Don't forget about the money. Presumably, Mack is seeking at least $20 million a year, which would make him the highest-paid player in Jets history. But they have the ability to absorb that kind of deal, especially with a league-high $81 million in cap space for 2019. It will also be a few years before they have to shell out a mega quarterback contract, so the time is right to add a major piece such as Mack.

2. Follow last year's script: In other words, be patient, accumulate draft capital and use it to land one of the top pass-rushers in the 2019 draft, which will be loaded.

This was their mindset last year when the goal was to find a quarterback. They traded Richardson to the Seattle Seahawks for wide receiver Jermaine Kearse and a second-round pick, which they packaged with their second-rounders in 2018 and 2019 to move up three spots in a quarterback-heavy draft. It worked brilliantly.

This year they don't have a trade chip as valuable as Richardson, but Bridgewater's value will soar if another team loses its starting quarterback in the coming weeks. Maccagnan would look like a genius if he can replace his second-round pick by dealing Bridgewater; he'd have a full complement of draft picks to chase a pass-rusher.

The downside to this approach is they'd have to live through another season without a top-tier pass-rusher, which could drag down the rest of the defense. I've said it before and I'll say it again: If Mack is available, they have no excuse not to be interested.