If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve seen me constantly tweet the hashtag #DontPanic as the offseason is now two days old. The New York Jets were in on Nick Perry and Mike Glennon until presumably the price tags for both players became too high. They appeared to not be in on any of the top flight cornerbacks, like AJ Bouye and Stephon Gilmore, and they did not appear to be linked to any of the tight ends like Martellus Bennett either. As exorbitant contracts were doled out ($47.5 million for Pierre Garcon?), Mike Maccagnan smartly sat out the first wave of free agency and it appeared he would not give in to impulse and was very content with resigning core players that performed well and letting the market come to him.
Then, 7:02 PM struck and the Jets signed Kevin Beachum and Chandler Catanzaro. Beachum will now slot into the starting left tackle position on an offensive line that will have five starters all under the age of 28 years old. Beachum was linked to the Jets last year before ultimately signing with the Jaguars. He is a good pass protector and a good run blocker and, just as important, a very good locker room presence. He was banged up a bit, but was arguably a top two left tackle in free agency (behind the Bengals’ Andrew Whitworth) and now joins the Jets to try and do what Ryan Clady could not by sliding the left tackle position after the retirement of D’Brickashaw Ferguson.
Clady was another veteran band-aid last year, as was Breno Giacomini. Giacomini was a salary cap casualty as Brandon Shell ascended to the starting right tackle. Clady was injury prone and older than Beachum, and when the Jets decided on bringing him back it seemed there wasn’t a plan in place. Now, the plan begins to come into focus.
The Jets, and you can see it with the acquisition of Austin Seferian- Jenkins last year and the long term deal for Brian Winters, used veterans to supplement their roster through the first two years of the Bowles/Maccagnan era while concurrently trying to replenish the lower and middle class with young pieces that can all grow together and develop into competent starters. It is why they were able to move on from Brandon Marshall and Nick Mangold respectively as well as the aforementioned Clady; where in Marshall’s case its made easier by the fact that the most productive wide receiver on the team last year is only 24 years old, and in Mangold’s case the Jets had Wesley Johnson in the fold ready to replace the former Buckeye they didn’t have anyone in place for Ferguson and then Clady.
Beachum has the chance to be that guy. If nothing else, this definitely removes the Jets from the Ryan Ramczyk/Cam Robinson sweepstakes in the draft. The Jets offensive core, as of now, entering the season will be the five starting offensive linemen, a 24 year old and 23 year old wide receiver, a 25 year old tight end, and a 28 year old running back with less mileage on him than most 28 year olds. Every current offensive starter under 28 years old is not something you normally see around here. There’s still the unanswered question about the quarterback position, but like it or not this is a group that can grow with presumptive franchise QB Christian Hackenberg.
Then there’s Chandler Bing Catanzaro, who is a clear upgrade over the released Nick Folk. Depending on the figures, the Jets have now found ways to invest their available cap space in players that can not only help next year but in subsequent years going forward. It’s similar to what John Idzik tried to do when he poached Chris Ivory from the Saints and signed Eric Decker as a free agent. It is what Bill Belichick is doing now with the acquisition of Brandon Cooks and the signing of Stephon Gilmore.
The draft is the lifeline of the team, but if you’re going to spend spend on young guys that can help your team in the immediate and in the long term. That’s why a signing like Catanzaro makes sense, and the odds are very slim that Ross Martin actually beats him out because Catanzaro is flat out better. Catanzaro has made 71 of 79 field goals from 49 yards and under and, despite a rough last year, is still an 84.8% field goal kicker. He is also entering his 4th year in the league and has a stronger leg than Folk ever did. The Jets have talked about improving their special teams, and Catanzaro goes a long way towards doing that. Folk gave this fan-base numerous memories, but the Jets have wisely steered away from making decisions based on sentiment this offseason. It’s a sign that they are learning from their mistakes and attempting to improve their team for the long term. It’s also a sign that Maccagnan and Bowles appear to be on the same page, as you imagine Bowles is on board with these moves and the tandem seems to have more security than some fans thought.
What comes next? Well, if the Jets are smart they sign Marcus Cooper to start at one of the cornerback positions opposite Justin Burris, try to sign Zach Brown to replace a released David Harris, and draft Jamal Adams with their first round pick. With those moves, every projected starter on this team will be under 28 years old and that is a legitimate way to continue this rebuild.
PC: USA Today