New York Jets – Operation “End The Rebuild”

Joe Caporoso on how the New York Jets can end the “rebuild” this offseason…

Last year at this time I wrote the Jets needed to “end the apathy,” …in some ways they succeeded and in other ways, they failed. 

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)

The Jets did a good job of executing their “Plan B” at quarterback after Kirk Cousins did not accept their massive offer in free agency. They were aggressive and were awarded by the board breaking in their favor, giving them a path to Darnold. The signing of Teddy Bridgewater to a low cost, prove it deal that was eventually flipped for a third round pick was among the best work we have seen from Mike Maccagnan over the past four years on any transaction. 

Yet, elsewhere…

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

The Jets did a horrific job of executing their build around their young quarterback with their excessive money in free agency and remaining draft capital. Their money went to Trumaine Johnson, who flopped and has one of the worst looking contracts in the league, Spencer Long who has already been released, Terrelle Pryor who has already been released, Isaiah Crowell who is likely to be released and Avery Williamson, a good starter at a low impact defensive position. In the NFL Draft, they found a mid round steal in tight end Chris Herndon but allocated two other picks to interior defensive linemen (Nathan Shepherd and Foley Fatukasi) who will likely never make an impact and ignored offensive line completely. 

The Jets now head into another NFL offseason with 100 million in cap space. It is the third time in Mike Maccagnan’s five years they are top five in available cap space in the NFL. Their roster is literally barren:

There are only two spots you can say with 100% certainty the Jets don’t need help: quarterback and strong safety…and as much as we all love Sam Darnold, he is not a proven above average starer in the NFL yet. This team needs everything and has the unique benefit of being able to build against a rookie quarterback contract over the next four years.

The “rebuild” is over. If your justification for 14-34 over the past three years and 24-40 over the past four years is this has been a two pronged process, starting with a “competitive rebuild” in 2015-2016 (it is Woody’s fault it didn’t work!), followed by a “true rebuild” in 2017-2018 (it is Bowles’ fault it didn’t work!), the windows are closed. The job of a GM and front office in the NFL is to win football games and build a competitive roster. The job is not to add underperforming players with easy outs in their contract so they can be cut after 1-2 years in the pursuit of perpetually leading the league in cap space.

The Jets are currently on their way to becoming the Bruce Allen Redskins, a franchise that wallows in a decade of mediocrity, apathy and incompetence. Landing Sam Darnold is great but landing Sam Darnold is not the extent of Mike Maccagnan’s job, unless he wants to be the next Ryan Grigson. It is beyond time for this franchise, the media infrastructure around it and this fanbase to stop wallowing in apologist rationalizations for a team has the third longest playoff drought in the NFL and the 10th longest playoff drought of any professional big four sports team.

This recent “era” of Jets football is built around rooting for the team to lose November and December games because the season is over by Halloween. It is built around having a top six pick four times in the past five drafts. It is built around fantasizing about free agents in November who will inevitably be franchise tagged or brought back to their original teams. The stadium is either empty or packed with fans from away teams and they are routinely blown out by 20-30 points. The product has devolved into a non-competitive Ponzi Scheme that promises “next year” is actually the year when they will be good.

It is time to win some goddamn football games.

The Jets cannot tip toe into free agency and think “being close” on major, game changing players is sufficient. The list of “Almost Jets” from the past few years is staggering from their alleged “big game hunting” rumors. Nobody cares if they are “close” on Khalil Mack or had discussions about Le’Veon Bell or Antonio Brown or if they were in the mix for Weston Richburg before they had to settle for Spencer Long or if they actually wanted to pay Oliver Vernon instead of Muhammad Wilkerson or had real discussions about Tyrian Mathieu and Tony Jefferson, it only matters who they can close.

Money is not an object to what the Jets need to accomplish this offseason. Don’t peddle BS about Bell being cost prohibitive or Tevin ‘Freakin Coleman being a better fit for the team than him. Coleman has never cracked 801 rushing yards in a single season, has three career 100 yard rushing games and has never been over 425 receiving yards in a single season. He is a nice change of pace receiving back but he’s never sniffed being a top ten or fifteen player in the league at his position. Bell is better than him at every facet of being a running back and a three time All-Pro. Sign the better player. Pay the extra money and support your young quarterback. It is anomaly that Bell is a free agent and one of the few benefits of always having 100 million in cap space means you can take advantage of that anomaly.

With their cap flexibility, the Jets can acquire Bell and then move on to shop at the top of a thin offensive line market. There is only 6-8 starting caliber linemen who will hit free agency and the Jets cannot be outbid or out recruited in their quest to find a center and guard. If they miss in free agency, they need to vigorously attack the trade market. The Giants just found a way to add Kevin Zeitler via trade, if the Jets aren’t going to land Matt Paradis or Roger Saffold in free agency, they need to be ready to consider moving picks or certain players (yes, that includes Leonard Williams) to build a wall in front of Darnold.

James Carpenter starting games for this team next year is inexcusable. Dakota Dozier, Brent Qvale or Jonotthan Harrison starting games for this team next year is inexcusable. Add linemen in free agency. Add linemen via trade. Add linemen in the NFL Draft, a position the Jets have completely ignored the past four years, especially in early rounds (outside of Brandon Shell, who is coming off a major injury and is already 27 despite only heading into his fourth year).

This is an offense dominated league and the Jets need to react accordingly this offseason and course correct for their decade plus of ignorance on that side of the football. This means outside of Bell and the offensive line, finding a capable third starting receiver alongside Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa and putting a capable backup behind Chris Herndon at tight end. If they are going the free agency route, invest in players on an upward trajectory like Adam Humphries or with athletic upside like Demetrius Harris over spending on washed up retreads like Danny Amendola. They also should not be timid in the trade market if the cost for a player like Antonio Brown continues to plummet.

Are you not going to spend a third round pick for a swing on arguably the best receiver in the NFL? This team drafts AARP members like Nathan Shepherd and ArDarius Stewart in the third round. They can push the boundaries and take a chance for an elite talent if the opportunity comes up. For those who say, BUT REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED WITH SANTONIO HOLMES? I do remember, the Jets went to the AFC Championship Game…I’ll take that over losing 13-6 to Brock Osweiler while Jermaine Kearse stands out of bounds catching passes cause it is good for the “culture.”

The only thing good for the Jets culture is embracing that this is an offense dominated league, scoring points and winning football games. Their culture has allegedly been great the past few years and they have been terrible on the field. Sign me up for the winning without the culture, please.

Defensively, the Jets still need to address getting after the quarterback and how they are going to handle cornerback long term. The market is not flush with options for solving these problems but they should in the bidding for options like Bryce Callahan, Ronald Darby and Steven Nelson at corner and doing what they can to land Trey Flowers or Preston Smith at pass rusher. Dante Fowler is a fine second tier option, if you pay him like one and don’t get locked into too long of a commitment. In the NFL Draft, the Jets would be wise to take their swings at these positions (along with offensive line) over interior defensive linemen and special team caliber running backs.

It is hard to dive too deep in the NFL Draft before free agency hits but everybody is talking about trading back because it makes the most sense, unless Nick Bosa happens to drop. Quinnen Williams is the most popular mock draft pick at third overall because time is the flattest of circles. Your opinion on Williams as a pick at #3 obviously depends on how you evaluate the player. If you believe he is a generational talent and the next Aaron Donald, there is no hesitancy. If you think he’s 5% of a better prospect than Sheldon Richardson, you are rightly hesitant because we’ve been sold this story 26 times before about interior pressure being paired with another existing underachieving interior defensive lineman. At a certain point, you need to stop screaming “BPA” and try something different.

If you aren’t out of patience with this front office, you should be. When you have 100 million in cap space two years in a row and a top six pick every single year, you need to stack difference makers, above average starters and All Pro players on your roster on both offense and defense. Five years is an eternity in the NFL. The Jets “rebuild” narrative is garbage and needs to be dumped in a landfill.

Author: Joe Caporoso

Joe Caporoso is the Owner and EIC of Turn On The Jets. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, MMQB and AdWeek. Caporoso played football his entire life, including four years at Muhlenberg as a wide receiver, where he was arguably the slowest receiver to ever start in school history. He is the VP of Social Media at Whistle Sports