We have the initial Jets 53 man roster. Here are some thoughts I have. Before I get into them, please do keep in mind that when I disagree with what the Jets did, it is a fairly mild disagreement. I'm just saying, "I think I would have done this a little differently," not, "Mike Maccagnan is a fool!" Ultimately we are talking about a few moves about fringe type players. In the long run, we can get on the Jets if some of these moves backfire in a big way. When it comes to these back of the roster moves, more often than not it doesn't make a big difference.
No problem with keeping four quarterbacks: I know a lot of people aren't happy with the Jets keeping four quarterbacks. I have said through the offseason that I didn't have a big issue with it, though. I view the 50th-ish through 53rd spots on the roster as room not as much for depth as for developmental players. If you ever have to depend on one of those guys, you are in trouble. They are on the roster to be developed for the future. These are players with fairly low odds of ever making it, but it does happen occasionally. Since quarterback is the most important position on the field, why not load up at a position where a success story means you hit the jackpot? You just have to trust the Jets to be smart enough to cut the next Trevor Reilly 2014 to make room for the fourth quarterback rather than the next Damon Harrison 2012.
Thompkins pays for the practice squad: It seems like the last wide receiver spot came down to Kenbrell Thompkins against Charone Peake. The Jets opted for Peake. The theory people tend to take in situations like this is the team opts for youth and upside when two players are roughly equal. Here is another possible reason. Keeping Peake and cutting Thompkins costs the team $1.27 million less than the flip side. The Jets are tight up against the cap. That $1.27 million roughly pays for an entire practice squad. The Jets might have had to clear cap space if they had not.
Risky rookie returns: By choosing Jalin Marshall over Jeremy Ross to be the returner, I think it is clear the Jets opted for potential over production. Ross had a better preseason. I'm not that upset about losing Ross. He has a journeyman profile. There are always guys like him available. What worries me a bit is how loose Marshall was with the ball late in preseason. He had a fumble against the Giants and muffed a punt against the Eagles. The first rule of being a return man is do no harm. I will admit that I am nervous because of how often the Jets have paid the price for using a rookie return man over the last fifteen or so years from Jalen Saunders to Jeremy Kerley to Kyle Wilson to Justin Miller.
The Jets gave up on Jace Amaro too soon: I can understand why the Jets cut Jace Amaro. He certainly didn't earn a roster spot based on merit. With that said, it would be easier to understand the decision to cut him had this regime made any effort over the last year to upgrade the tight end position. Anything you can say about Amaro being a bad blocker, having bad hands, or fumbling in the preseason could also be said about Kellen Davis. Amaro is cut for a bad preseason, while Davis has no consequences for being a poor performer for an entire regular season. Say what you will about Amaro. He has played in one NFL season and caught 38 balls. That is very solid for a rookie. This move would make more sense if the Jets actually had a viable tight end on the roster. What they have is a situation where the only player who has shown any degree of potential was sent packing. I'm not saying Amaro would have been good. I'm saying I would have preferred seeing what he could do rather than the players who stayed.
The Jets didn't give up on Dee Milliner too soon: You might remember the stories a year ago about the Jets getting trade offers for Dee Milliner. This was in the aftermath of the team signing three cornerbacks. Milliner seemed expendable. The Jets held onto him. I agreed with the decision at the time, and I still do. Yes, the Jets lost a possible late round pick. I'll sacrifice that to give a guy with potential every last chance. The Jets gave Milliner that chance, but he did not take it. I think last year was the year that really sunk Milliner. The Jets were going to give him an easy job. He would just have to be the fourth cornerback and play limited snaps against the other team's fourth option. From there he could have success and grow. Instead, he got hurt, and Marcus Williams seized that role. Still the Jets gave Milliner one last chance, but he could not have success in preseason.
Any talk of Mike Maccagnan sending a big message is overstated: I keep seeing people say that by cutting past high Draft picks Milliner and Amaro that Mike Maccagnan sent a message to the locker room that he is worried about production rather than Draft status. That might be true to a small extent, but let's not go overboard. It doesn't take a ton of courage for Maccagnan to cut players John Idzik drafted. When he does that, the story is not a negative about Maccagnan. It is about how bad of a drafter Idzik was (not totally unfairly I would say). Even with the cap hit Milliner carried, realize that most of the actual money has already been paid to the cornerback. The Jets don't have to cut him a $4 million check. Most of that cap hit is reflected in money the Jets have already given him for which the cap bill is only coming now. If you are looking for where a message could have been sent, it would have been in cutting Brandon Shell and sending him to the practice squad. The Jets just gave up a fourth round pick to get him, but Shell looked like he was in over his head against backups. I understand the mechanics at play here. They still probably do like Shell's potential and would worry about losing him on waivers. This is also probably at least to some extent about the Jets not wanting to look bad. They would get criticized cutting a player for whom they just traded a fourth rounder. Now every general manager does this to some degree so this is not exclusive to Maccagnan. Just don't go overboard saying the Jets have shown the world that only talent matters to them, and there is no special treatment. If it was only about that, I don't think you could tell me Brandon Shell belonged on the 53 man roster.