It has been roughly one year since Joe Douglas was hired as the New York Jets General Manager. Considering he has only had one full offseason in the role, it is nearly impossible to give a complete evaluation of his work to date but let’s parse through the biggest decisions and transactions he has made thus far and see which direction they are trending in…(in no particular order)
1 – The Jamal Adams Situation: How this ultimately plays out will be the first major domino to fall in Douglas’ tenure. It is not his fault that Adams has decided to go scorched Earth on social media about wanting a new contract while he still has two years remaining on his original deal and Douglas did nothing wrong in picking up the phone when teams called at the trade deadline about him. The relationship seems beyond repair at this point but Douglas would be wise to hold firm on both not giving Adams away for pennies on the dollar and not paying him 20 million plus per year while he has an offense he desperately needs to build. If he does trade Adams, it must be for a collection of assets that makes Sam Darnold’s life easier but for now Douglas doesn’t need to do anything.
2 – The NFL Draft: Impossible to evaluate until his first class hits the field but the mechanics and logic behind his first wave of picks was mostly positive. The Jets finally went offense with their premium picks, more specifically taking their first offensive lineman in round one since 2006. Mekhi Becton should be a cornerstone player at a premium position while he craftily maneuvered to acquire more picks and got terrific value on the Denzel Mims round two selection. There were a few head scratchers in the later rounds (James Morgan, not going for speed at running back or doubling down at receiver) while the value of players like Ashtyn Davis and Bryce Hall was commended. Time will tell if this is a 2006 like transformational class for the Jets, if it is most of these other things won’t end up being that important…
3 – Offensive Line: Douglas generally went with the quantity over quality approach in free agency, not landing players like Jack Conklin or Bryan Bulaga but rather spending on George Fant, Greg Van Roten, the return of Alex Lewis and most notably Connor McGovern. There is no question he improved center with McGovern, the rest of the unit is still filled with question marks. They should be better than last year but that is a low bar to clear. This will be a multi year process but at least Douglas has shown a vested interest in the position, although guard and right tackle may remain notable sore spots in 2020.4 – Veteran Wide Receiver Swap: Douglas ultimately paid a bit less for the unknown and potential of Breshad Perriman over the continuity and consistency of Robby Anderson. It is debatable whether Anderson was even considering coming back here as he may have had his heart set on playing for his former college coach but as it stands now, the Jets are dangerously thin at receiver. Perriman is a reasonable one year flier at what the Jets paid for him but this unit lacks a proven game breaker and it is hard not to be frustrated when looking at the receiver groups around Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen…
5 – Offensive Trades: Douglas made two late round dart throws last season for Demaryius Thomas and Alex Lewis, both have proved to be savvy. Thomas, for all our complaints about his usage, was a solid band-aid last season and Lewis was an improvement over what the Jets were getting from Brian Winters and Kelechi Osemele. Lewis is likely to be a starter this year while hopefully the Jets can get more creative at receiver than just bringing Thomas back.
6 – Defensive Trades: Douglas made a similar dart throw trade for cornerback Nate Hairston, which after showing some initial promise looks like it will probably fizzle out. He replicated the move by going after Quincy Wilson with a late round pick this year, who has a chance to compete for starting time on the outside.
7 – The Kalil Retirement Cancellation: A move that was a little too immediately lauded by fans last year turned out to be a miss. It was an understandable swing but the Jets would have been better off just rolling with Jonotthan Harrison at center as Kalil was clearly washed and negatively impacted the Jets offensive line in the early part of the season.8 – The Front Office Build: Outside of getting himself a nice pay day, Douglas convinced the Jets to invest in the team around him as he hired Chad Alexander, Phil Savage and Rex Hogan. The resumes on this trio is encouraging but we’ll see in the coming years how it all fits together in practice. At a minimum, it was good there was an overdue front office shake up.
9 – Moves Not Made: The Jets have not made the “splash” trade that we saw the Cardinals make for DeAndre Hopkins or the Bills make for Stefon Diggs, or even on the defensive side going after a player like AJ Bouye. There is nothing wrong with being deliberate and cautious in the trade market but there is generally value found in pick for player swaps. At some point, the Jets need to be a little more aggressive, particularly to help out their offense.
10 – The Cap Situation: The Jets are tight this year, thanks mostly to Mike Maccagnan but whether fans want to admit it or not, Douglas has set up this season to be an evaluative one. He is loading up on one year contracts without overextending the team’s cap situation. The Jets are going to see if any of their short term investments (Perriman, Fant, Van Roten, Lewis, Jenkins, Poole, Onwuasor, Wilson, Desir) will be longer term building blocks and decide whether they have the right coaching staff in place long term (spoiler, they probably don’t!).
11 – The Leo Dump: A terrific decision by Douglas, as he flipped the perennially overrated Leonard Williams to the New York Giants for multiple draft picks. The Jets defense didn’t miss a beat without him and the Giants are now stuck trying to internally justify a large price tag for the king of invisible production and almost sacks.
12 – What Else? Douglas got good value by being patient by returning veterans on defense like Brian Poole and Jordan Jenkins. It also remains to be seen how he handles veterans who are likely on their way out either before this season or after 2020, like Avery Williamson, Brian Winters and Henry Anderson. Generally, Douglas has built this roster to be prepared for a larger 2021 free agency splash rather than overreacting to a deceptive 7-9 record in 2019. This team is not built to be a serious contender this season but hopefully will be next year with an improved coaching staff.