The New York Jets are in the midst of their second longest playoff drought in franchise history. Fans have been wandering through a seven year desert of mediocrity with a promise of water in the form of 90+ million dollars in cap space and a top ten draft pick. It is a make or break offseason for General Manager Mike Maccagnan who needs to find a way to make this football team relevant and save his job. How the Jets resources are allocated in the coming two months will shape the direction of the franchise for the next few years, at least. Can they end the apathy?
Regardless of how you feel about Kirk Cousins, he is this regime’s Plan A this offseason. As a fan, you want to see your team’s regime be able to execute their preferred strategy. Plan A is your internal best plan of attack, meaning the big picture vision gets foggier and foggier as you drop down to Plan B, Plan C or Plan D. Smart, competent organizations can quickly and easily adapt their plans on the fly. It remains to be seen if this current iteration of the Jets organization deserves those adjectives (as it stands today, probably not).
At a minimum, Cousins makes the Jets a relevant and competitive team over the next three years. Signing him would demonstrate they were able to sell their vision to a premier free agent at the sport’s most important position and put their hoarded assets to use on fixing their biggest roster problem. It would be an important business, optics and relevancy victory for the organization. From a football standpoint, there are valid questions about the ceiling of a team led by Cousins but there are not enough questions to call it an illogical or grossly misinformed football decision. The signing would also quickly make the Jets a more appealing destination to other free agents, particularly at the skill positions on offense. It has the potential to have a positive domino effect.
If the Jets miss on Cousins, it is critical they pick themselves up off the mat and quickly build what infrastructure they can in free agency that will allow a young quarterback to succeed. Yes, if the Jets miss Cousins, they better be doing everything in their power to land one of the top three quarterbacks: Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen or Baker Mayfield, even if that means trading up a few spots. You cannot stand put at #6 and hope everything breaks right or wait to see if somebody leapfrogs you (hello, Dolphins and Bills!). You cannot take a risk on a quarterback who was wildly inaccurate and struggled when playing top level competition in college (sorry, Josh Allen). Mike Maccagnan has tried to direct that movie before and it was Razzie worthy. You cannot think it is okay to grab a day two quarterback and pair him with Josh McCown. The $5 dollar poker at the position must end this offseason.
When it comes to building the previously mentioned infrastructure for a young quarterback, that means quickly pivoting after a miss on Cousins to spending on the offensive line, cornerback and offensive skill positions. Offensive line is for obvious reasons, namely improving the center position and adding more depth overall. Wide receiver and tight end need more explosiveness and depth. Cornerback because the market is loaded and Todd Bowles needs them desperately to have a chance at executing the best version of his defense. You want a young quarterback walking into a situation where he isn’t regularly thrown into shootouts, has consistent protection in front of him and has a wide range of options to throw the football to. The Jets have the money to make this happen, especially if they can’t land Cousins.
This needs to be a banner, aggressive offseason for the organization. A 2008 level type makeover. If you don’t remember, the Jets acquired Brett Favre, Tony Richardson, Damien Woody, Alan Faneca, Calvin Pace, Kris Jenkins, Dustin Keller, Dwight Lowery and Ty Law in a single offseason. This wasn’t perfect by any means, they also drafted Vernon Gholston in the first round and Favre, Law and Jenkins’ impact was limited to 2008, when the Jets looked like the AFC’s best team but fell apart when Favre started playing hurt down the stretch run of the season. Yet, Woody, Faneca, Richardson, Pace, Keller and Lowery were all key components of back to back AFC Championship Game runs in 2009 and 2010. The Jets record in the four seasons following that 2008 offseason was 37-27 with 3 winning records and 4 playoff wins. This 2008 offseason built on young foundational pieces drafted the two years prior (Nick Mangold, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Darrelle Revis, David Harris, Brad Smith and Leon Washington) and helped propel the Jets to sustained relevancy from 2008-2011.
The Jets don’t have the same amount of young talent in house now but there are signs of it with Leonard Williams, Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa and Jordan Jenkins. A big offseason is a must. If the Jets can’t add Kirk Cousins, Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold or Baker Mayfield…if they can’t dramatically improve the center, cornerback and offensive skill positions…this regime shouldn’t even bother showing up in Florham Park for OTAs.
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