You can't call the 2015 New York Jets season anything but a success. However, that's in the bag and the focus needs to turn to how we improve in 2016. During the 2015 off-season, we had plenty of cap space to spend and improve the team. This year we have far less maneuverability in terms of being able to spend big, so the true test for GM MIke Maccagnan will come over the next few months.
The quarterback position was the most talked about during the conference, mainly because it's the most important. He spoke about the team's desire to re-sign Ryan Fitzpatrick:
"We'd like very much to get him back, based on how he played this year. But I don't really want to get into the speculation aspect of it. I would simply leave it at we'll see how this thing works out."
And the progress that has been made by Bryce Petty:
"Bryce has made a lot of progress and we're kind of excited to have another offseason with him. ... I would say with Geno, he's under contract, we like the progress he's made and how he even handled the situation in the summer. Right now, I would say going forward we're going to see how Geno and Bryce progress with the offseason and go from there, and that's assuming we're able to re-sign Ryan."
Personally, that doesn't sound all that encouraging for Geno. Rich Cimini made the observation that the feeling he got was that the Jets were going to see if Petty had progressed enough to be the #2 before making a call on the future of Geno Smith, which sounds logical and reasonable.
I completely agree that re-signing Ryan should be a priority. You want a QB like Ryan while you try and find the franchise guy. Signing Fitzpatrick does not mean we will stop looking for the answer at QB. It just means we have a QB who can help us win while we search.
Obviously, the attention then turned to Muhammad Wilkerson and the Jets' desire to re-sign him. The thing is, of course Mike is going to say he wants to re-sign him, but he won't go as far as to promise it, because you just don't know what's going to happen. Wilkerson is expected to make a full recovery, but it's a case of trying to spread the salary cap to ensure you're competitive in every aspect.
"Needless to say, Muhammad played very well this year. I think with him, and all of our players that we had on the team last year, we're going to try to figure out ways to keep as many of them as we can. But I don't want to go too far down that road because, like I said, it's early. In a perfect world, we'd keep everybody on the roster, but we have to see how this thing unfolds. ... At the end of the day, yes, we would very much like to have Muhammad back in the organization. Now how we manage to do that, time will tell."
He later went on to confirm that the Jets would consider using the franchise tag on Wilkerson. He also specified that it's not impossible to think that the Jets could keep their hugely impressive defensive line together.
The focus naturally turned to the draft, and in particular how Mike feels about the 2015 draft class, one year on:
"The guys we took we're excited about. Leonard [Williams], obviously, I thought played very well and has a very bright future. Devin [Smith] got hurt, which is unfortunate and he was doing better before he got hurt. ... [Lorenzo] Mauldin showed some things as a pass rusher and we think he has a bright upside. ... Bryce unfortunately didn't play, but we liked working with him as a potential prospect. Both [Jarvis] Harrison and [Deon] Simon, those guys will have the biggest jump after their first offseason where we'll really know what they can do. ... I think at the end of the day I'm a bit of a perfectionist, like a lot of people in my business ... but for the most part we liked the guys we took."
Nothing overly surprising here.
Will the Jets look for a quarterback in the 2016 draft? Like Ron Wolf would say, you always look for a quarterback in the draft:
"It's such an important position that I think every NFL team probably goes into the draft, with maybe a few exceptions of people who have really well established quarterbacks, of always looking at that position as a position of interest. We'll be no different than them. I don't want to sit there and say, 'With the 20th pick we're going to be targeting a quarterback.' Two things. One is you don't want to tell the 31 other teams what you're going to do. But I also think that's kind of a flawed approach to a certain degree."
It's not just a flawed approach to a certain degree, it's a flawed approach full stop. I don't think you can go into something so unpredictable as the NFL Draft with a position in mind. It's all about how the board falls and who is still available when you're selecting.
Gang Green really came together towards the end of the season, and I think that was evident to all fans and viewers:
"We came up short in six games, but the one nice thing about our season was watching the team kind of come together in the locker room, and that's some of the stuff, those intangible things, that are hard to judge and so I felt we made progress. I thought at the end of the season we came together as a team, we were doing some nice things, and statistically we did some good things and stuff like that. But I felt good that we maybe started to come closer to being a team that could go in there and compete for a playoff spot every year."