New York Jets – Assessing Mike Maccagnan’s First Four Years As GM

Stephen Russo with a recap of Mike Maccagnan’s first four years as GM of the New York Jets

As we quickly approach arguably the most important offseason in the organization’s history, I’d like to take a closer look at the man who will be assembling the talent around Sam Darnold and getting Jamal Adams more “dawgs”: Mike Maccagnan (will refer to him as “MM” for remainder of the article).

2015 Free Agency
Notable Additions: Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Buster Skrine, Marcus Gilchrist, James Carpenter, Ryan Fitzpatrick (trade), Brandon Marshall (trade)

This offseason overhaul worked (to an extent) as they went 10-6 with a win-and-in scenario against the Bills in week seventeen (which we all remember how that ended). MM won GM of the year in 2015 and took the team from 4-12 to 10-6, albeit missing the playoffs. While he seemingly rebuilt the secondary in one offseason and struck lightning in a bottle with a Fitzpatrick to Marshall connection, most of these additions failed after 2015.

Revis had a strong start to 2015 but faltered at the end of the season (particularly against Sammy Watkins) and was a shell of himself in 2016. Marshall caused problems in the locker room and couldn’t catch a pass in 2016. MM doubled down on Fitz after a long holdout and gave him twelve million dollars as camp started. Fitz justified his worth by throwing six picks (!) in a week three game at Kansas City. Truly telling of how the 2016 season went. Simply put, MM secured two average starters that were on this team for more than two years: Carpenter and Skrine. And both are likely gone in 2019.

Grade: C-

2015 Draft
Picks: Leonard Williams, Devin Smith, Lorenzo Mauldin, Bryce Petty, Jarvis Harrison, Deon Simon

MM took the best player available at pick number six by taking Leonard Williams and strengthened a strength. The Jets already had a solid defensive line with Damon Harrison, Mo Wilkerson, and Sheldon Richardson, and they made the move to take another DL with a similar skillset to Wilkerson. Questionable, yes. But this move was somewhat lauded at the time as the Jets DL had a solid 2015, figuring that they would have a formidable line for years to come. Williams happens to be the only member of that DL still on the team. In my opinion, he has underachieved thus far in his career, especially considering his draft status. Williams also happens to be the only player in this draft class still on the team, as two others are not even on an NFL Roster, and the other three are struggling to stay on them.

Grade: D

2016 Free Agency
Notable Additions: Matt Forte, Khiry Robinson, Ryan Clady, Jarvis Jenkins, Steve McLendon, Bruce Carter, Fitzpatrick (re-signed)

MM’s big addition in this offseason was 30-year-old RB Matt Forte. Forte had two forgettable seasons with the Jets, and mostly just stole touches from Bilal Powell. MM also added Robinson (played 1 game), Clady (played 8 games), and Jarvis Jenkins (recorded 7 tackles in 9 games). The highlight of this FA class for MM has been Steve McLendon, who at 33 years old is still playing decent football and is a vocal leader on the Jets’ defense.

Grade: F (one 33-year-old average DT is not enough to pass this test)

2016 Draft
Picks: Darron Lee, Christian Hackenberg, Jordan Jenkins, Juston Burris, Brandon Shell, Lachlan Edwards, Charone Peake

Darron Lee and Jordan Jenkins have been three-year starters since they were drafted. Lee started to finally show some progress in 2018 before being suspended by the NFL for the last 4 games. Jenkins is a quality, hold-the-fort type that won’t kill you but won’t wreck a game for an opposing offense, either. Burris is no longer on the team and Hackenberg may be the worst draft pick in Jets’ history (say hello to Blair Thomas). Shell and Edwards were both solid picks and look to be good mid-round finds as Shell has started 26 games in his first 2 years and Edwards has been a average to good punter. Peake is a career special-teamer and struggles to contribute on offense.

Grade: D+ (two serviceable starters on defense is not enough to overcome the Hack pick)

2017 Free Agency
Notable Additions: Josh McCown, Kelvin Beachum, Mike Pennel, Demario Davis (trade), Morris Claiborne, Chandler Catanzaro

Taking this at face value, this offseason was MM’s best through his first three years (such an accomplishment!). Josh McCown turned out to be a reasonable signing and had a solid year in 2017 before getting hurt (keep in mind this is only a decent signing because Hackenberg was inept and couldn’t play QB in the NFL). Beachum has been an average to good starter at LT for two years and has started all 32 games played. Pennel is an adequate rotational DL and Demario Davis had a very good year in 2017. It was also a good trade by MM to send Calvin Pryor (no longer in NFL) to Cleveland for him. Claiborne has been a serviceable CB on a team friendly deal. Catanzaro played one year with the Jets.

Grade: C

2017 Draft
Picks: Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, ArDarius Stewart, Chad Hansen, Jordan Leggett, Dylan Donahue, Eli McGuire, Jeremy Clark, Derrick Jones

Jamal Adams is a stud, plain and simple. He is the Jets’ best player, clearly the leader of the defense, and looks to be a perennial All-Pro caliber player in this league. BUT, that doesn’t necessarily mean he was the right pick. MM had a chance at Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson with the sixth pick, and chose to stand pat with McCown, Hackenberg, and Bryce Petty. Even though he made the move for Darnold the following year, it doesn’t mean the Adams pick was the right one. Marcus Maye seems like a solid pick and had a good rookie season but has had trouble staying healthy and will also be 26 (!) entering his third season. Stewart, Hansen, and Donahue can’t make it on an NFL roster and were cut by the Jets after one year. Leggett has had trouble staying healthy and shouldn’t be on the team next year. McGuire has shown flashes as a complimentary back, but it is difficult to see him in a feature role. Clark and Jones have suited up for six games combined in two years.

Grade: C- (one All-Pro caliber player and three players out of the league after year 1… enough said)

2018 Free Agency
Notable Additions: Andre Roberts, Terrelle Pryor Sr., Spencer Long, Trumaine Johnson, Isaiah Crowell, Avery Williamson, Teddy Bridgewater, Josh McCown (re-signed), Mo Claiborne (re-signed)

This is the offseason that every fan should look to in order to temper their expectations for having $100M in cap space…because TEAMS RE-SIGN THEIR BEST PLAYERS. Options are limited in free agency, hence why the Jets’ big splash netted them Long, Johnson, and Crowell. However, in 2018, MM should get credit for Roberts (great year), Williamson (good year, and even better on MM for not over-paying to bring back Demario Davis), and Teddy Bridgewater (signing him for pennies and flipping him for a third-round pick was a very good move). MM should get blasted for Johnson (terrible 2018 and discipline issues as season ended), Long (couldn’t snap the ball and cut after one year), and Pryor Sr. (oddly cut after week six). McCown (good mentor for Darnold but terrible on the field), Claiborne (showed flashes but couldn’t stop holding) and Crowell (two outlier good performances overshadowed a very subpar 2018) signings were merely OK.

Grade: C+ (inflated by the Bridgewater trade)

2018 NFL Draft
Picks: Sam Darnold, Nathan Shepherd, Chris Herndon, Parry Nickerson, Folorunsi Fatukasi, Trenton Cannon

MM gets a lot of credit for the move from the sixth pick to third to draft Darnold. Some think that it might have saved his job. I happen to feel differently. While there is no question it was a great move, it also needed to happen. The Jets were drafting at six, and there were four top QB’s coming out. He HAD to make a move up. I would argue that the majority of GM’s in that position would have done the same thing. However, whether the move up to draft Darnold deserves credit or not, the pick of Darnold looks to be a hit. He looks every bit the part of the Franchise QB this team has been waiting for.

Herndon was a very good mid-round find (that’s two in four years!), a big contributor in year one, and looks to have a great rapport with Darnold. Cannon seems like a serviceable part-time weapon but showed no ability to utilize his speed as a returner and left a lot to be desired as a receiver. Shepherd turned 25 in September and while playing in all 16 games only registered 15 tackles and no sacks. When given the opportunity to play, Nickerson didn’t show much. Certainly not enough to be a lock as Skrine’s replacement. Fatukasi suited up for 1 game in 2018.

Grade: B- (the Darnold to Herndon connection makes this grade what it is. Other than those two, this appears to be another lackluster draft)

Overall, in Maccagnan’s four years as General Manager, he has had three picks in the top six and a plethora of salary cap space in each offseason. Outside of finding his franchise QB (which is huge), he has failed to improve the roster. Through free agency, trades, and the draft, MM has gotten two truly impact players (Adams, Darnold), two mid-round hits (Shell, Herndon), and (maybe) a handful of serviceable starters. Most of his draft picks and signings have been misses. BIG misses. It is concerning that he struggles to sign free agents that can make contributions to the team beyond a year. It is alarming that, despite a scouting background, he continues to draft players that either can’t find ways to dress on Sunday or can’t make an NFL roster.