The New York Jets' Theft of Lito Sheppard: Trade Details Are a Work of Art

Angel Navedo@NamedAngelSenior Writer IMarch 3, 2009

Remember when the New York Jets traded Jonathan Vilma to the New Orleans Saints, and the expected compensation was a conditional 2009 draft pick for his services?

And then remember when it was discovered that the conditional pick was contingent upon Vilma working out a new contract with New Orleans before free agency?

That really sucked.

Now it looks like Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum pulled a similar move on the Philadelphia Eagles when he acquired the rights to cornerback Lito Sheppard.

Rich Cimini's report on the trade from the New York Daily News shined some light on the value of Sheppard's new contract with New York.

"The Jets sweetened Sheppard's contract, giving him a four-year, $27.2 million extension through 2013. It kicks in next year, when he receives a $10 million signing bonus in March."

Not a very impressive tidbit alone, I know. But the details from expose a silver lining that could help the Jets hold their 2010 draft pick.

"...the deal will only kick in if the Jets decide to pay a $10 million option bonus in March 2010... If Sheppard misses considerable time during the season, they would only have to trade a fifth-round draft choice to the Philadelphia Eagles. The conditional 2010 draft choice will be a second-round draft choice if Sheppard plays 85 percent of the season and receives the four-year extension.."

Assuming the reports are accurate, this means Tannenbaum effectively pulled a New Orleans on the Eagles. Philadelphia only gets the conditional pick if the Jets pay the $10 million bonus next March.

Brandon Moore, the Jets right guard, is laughing somewhere. There's no way Tannenbaum pays that money to the team's second cornerback, even if Sheppard eclipses his six interception career-high.

If I'm interpreting this properly, Sheppard's time in New York is basically a one-year tryout.

If his career is rejuvenated with the Jets and he returns to All-Pro form, that still wouldn't satisfy the terms Tannenbaum worked out with Philly to bring him here. Playing 85 percent of the snaps is only half the battle.

Despite all the talk about Sheppard losing his job and falling to fourth on the Eagles' depth chart, the trade still favors the Jets.

Looking to free agency was only returning overpriced names with marginal talent. Corners like DeAngelo Hall and Domonique Foxworth received exorbitant contracts, while even less talented players like Leigh Bodden were overvaluing their worth.

Finding a cornerback to play opposite Pro Bowler Darrelle Revis was a priority, but overpaying was out of the question.

If it turns out that Philly was right, and Sheppard became an injury-prone liability who belongs in defensive dime packages only, then he won't receive 85-percent of the snaps anyway.

Regardless, the risk for making the trade was really no risk at all.

Sheppard's not being asked to become the Jets' top cornerback. He won't be lined up against primary receivers. He only needs to hold down his side of the field while smart quarterbacks avoid Revis.

What's not to like?