The Jets should treat the March free agency signing period as if it were competitive platform diving. The bigger the splash, the worse the results.
This organization often doesn’t abide by that axiom, as certain acquisitions in past offseasons seemed to have been driven more by an attempt to create buzz than from substantive thought about what it takes to win consistently in the NFL.
Blame Jets ownership for failing to understand the limitations of the Big Bang Theory when it comes to NFL free agency.
Before he took the gig as Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Woody Johnson instructed/permitted Maccagnan to make a similar splurge in 2015. The Jets were competitive for one season. They then needed to blow it all up after going 5-11 the following year. Brother Chris has been in charge since August 2017 and has been even more clueless. He was also responsible for acceding to the ridiculous, five-year, $72.5 million contract given to cornerback Trumaine Johnson two years ago.
General manager Joe Douglas, who succeeded Maccagnan after all the damage from last offseason was already done, must enter his first ever foray into the free agent market without star-gazing. Douglas went over the team’s list of needs in organizational meetings at the end of last week.
It's rather lengthy, the club’s 6-2 run to finish the season be damned. While it was commendable that the Jets didn’t fold the tent for coach Adam Gase, let’s not gloss over all the areas (i.e. offensive line, cornerbacks, wide receivers, edge pass rusher) where they are deficient when compared to even average teams.
Beware quick fixes. You’re not going to find, for instance, a premium left tackle on the open market. Instead, as many have said, you’ll be paying filet mignon prices for hamburger quality. That’s why the best franchises use free agency to complement their core instead of attempting to create one.
Now, the issue here for many years has been that the in-house talent level, due to poor drafting and developing, hasn’t been anywhere near close to snuff. The last Jets first-rounder to have his rookie contract extended was defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson in 2016, and that turned out to be a huge mistake. They’ve had a “one” in every draft year during the past decade, but only safety Jamal Adams, quarterback Sam Darnold and defensive lineman Quinnen Williams remain on the roster. It’s a pathetic record.
While Douglas should be engaged the moment teams are allowed to negotiate with free agents on March 16, he’d be prudent to wait out all the outrageous bidding for no better than decent players at the market open. Pounce on the second and third waves for marginal upgrades at positions of need at more reasonable prices.
The draft is where Douglas needs to make his mark, especially with his four picks in the first 80. He was given a six-year contract for a reason. And it wasn’t for the expectation that he would transform this franchise in one 24-hour news cycle in mid-March.
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