Robert Saleh vehemently defended the Jets’ trade for Joe Flacco despite the quarterback’s unvaccinated status and likely unavailability for Week 12.
Flacco and fellow quarterback Mike White were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday after White tested positive for the virus. Flacco was added as a close contact of White’s but will undergo a mandatory five-day isolation period, which likely rules him out Sunday as well.
Had Flacco been vaccinated, he would have been allowed to stay with the team and practice.
While there was added risk trading for an unvaccinated quarterback, Saleh said the cost to acquire Flacco – a conditional sixth-round pick – was well worth it for a veteran backup.
“I’ll stand by this forever. When someone offers a sixth-round pick for a player of Joe’s caliber, there is no risk,” Saleh said Wednesday. “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 was an easy one, an easy decision.”
Saleh added that Flacco’s experience, composure and ability to settle down an offense were among the many reasons the trade made sense for the Jets. He pointed out Flacco’s Week 11 performance against the Dolphins as a perfect example following the Jets’ 45-17 blowout loss to the Bills the week before with White under center. Flacco completed 61.54 percent of his passes for 291 yards, two touchdowns and one fumble.
“That in itself was worth its weight in gold,” Saleh said. “As far as the draft capital, that was a no-brainer.”
But Flacco’s ability, while debatable throughout his career, isn’t the concern here. It’s his availability as an unvaccinated player at a premium position. While he didn’t test positive for the virus, Flacco will be isolated from the team for five days as an unvaccinated close contact, in accordance with the NFL’s COVID-19 policy. If he had been vaccinated, Flacco wouldn’t have needed to quarantine as a close contact of White’s and would have been more likely to be active in Week 12.
Flacco also needed five days of clearance after the trade. With Zach Wilson injured, Flacco didn’t have enough time to prep for New York’s games on Oct. 31 and Nov. 4, the latter of which was played on Thursday Night Football after a short week of practice. Flacco was inactive for both games. Should he miss this weekend’s contest, Flacco will have spent more of his second Jets tenure inactive than active through Week 12. Even before he landed on the COVID-19 list, Flacco’s lack of use made the trade a head-scratcher.
There is a slight chance Flacco is active for the Texans game, though. If Day 1 of Flacco’s quarantine was Tuesday, the fifth day would be Saturday and he could be allowed to return to the team Sunday if he tested negative and remained asymptomatic.
Saleh hasn’t ruled that possibility out, but he did say Wilson will start and the team will promote Josh Johnson from the practice squad to be the backup. The Jets are allowed unlimited practice squad call-ups if it’s for a COVID-related reason. Saleh refused to reveal who the Jets’ emergency quarterback would be if Wilson, Johnson and Flacco were all unable to play.