Stephen Russo shares his thoughts on the Jets before free agency begins.
We are on the brink of the most exciting time in a Jets fans’ world… NFL Free Agency. With the always confusing oxymoron of “legal tampering” beginning Monday at noon, the entire fanbase is set to refresh twitter 5,000 times a day waiting for Adam Schefter to break the news that the Jets are signing every free agent they’ve been linked to for the past 4 months… or maybe that’s just me. While the games that they have actually played over the last decade have left much to be desired, the month of March typically brings the excitement that has filled that void for us fans, and it is set to live up to expectation yet again in 2021. However this time, it’s just a little different. The Jets and Joe Douglas find themselves in a very rare and fortunate position.
As Free Agency begins and kickstarts the offseason, the Jets have money to spend in a buyer’s market. The team has holes to fill in a lot of places – basically everywhere except for left tackle and interior defensive line. The free agent pond is stocked with potential targets that would immediately improve the Jets barren roster. Targets at interior offensive line like Joe Thuney and Corey Linsley. Top wide receivers will be on the market like JuJu Smith-Schuster, Kenny Golladay and Curtis Samuel. Their long-awaited solution at edge rusher could be solved with Carl Lawson, Bud Dupree or Trey Hendrickson – or a combination of them. Teams aren’t built through free agency, but it sure is a good way to add necessary pieces. Joe Douglas finds himself in a favorable position where his team has the 3rd most cap space in the NFL ($22M more than the 4th ranked team and with more potential depending on roster moves) in a year where the salary cap was reduced and many teams are doing everything they can to get themselves out of the red. Douglas can take advantage of this market and the Jets rare position to get aggressive and pay the “Jets Tax” to get quality starters into Florham Park to build this roster his way.
The draft is only 6 weeks away and yet again, Douglas is in another advantageous scenario – to his credit. The Jets will have a total of 9 picks (potentially more with a Darnold trade) and 5 picks in the first three rounds. The Jets have many needs, but the positions where they should put value – OL, WR, CB, EDGE – the draft is rich in.
The most important question of the offseason is what will the Jets do at quarterback? Well, whatever the answer ends up being, the Jets are in a good spot. They hold the #2 overall pick in this year’s draft where they will have their pick of 3 legitimate top QB prospects that every Jets fan should be excited about in Fields, Wilson and Lance. That same pick could be the key to land Deshaun Watson, who is a top 5 quarterback in this league already at the age of 25 and is somehow miraculously available for a trade (despite what the Texans say). If they choose to move Darnold, they will almost certainly get a 2nd round pick and another later round pick, and be able to continue to stockpile talent at important positions… a foreign concept to previous regimes. And, albeit the worst of all scenarios, if they choose to keep Darnold, they will undoubtedly get a haul back for the 2nd overall pick and be able to continue to round out this roster with premium capital.
We can only speculate what Joe Douglas’ plan for the 2020 season was. From the outside, it looks like he set it up as an evaluative year where he could take a holistic look at the entire roster and coaching staff, and objectively see what he had and what he needed. Anyone would agree that it turned out better than he could have hoped. Now, he finds himself with a new coach that everyone is fawning over, a boatload of cap space in a talent rich free agent pool where he can outspend almost any other team, and a litany of draft picks at his disposal to rebuild this roster.
Joe Douglas, with a little luck, put himself in a nice situation. It is his job to capitalize. This IS the offseason to do it. The days of 5 year rebuilds are long gone. He has a chance to turn this team into a competitor immediately. No more half-measures, no more saving for a rainy day. The time is NOW.
Buckle up, Jets fans. It’s going to be a wild ride.