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Jets Free Agency Rebuilds

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NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Free agents in the NFL are often very hard to predict. I don’t typically watch every game of every season in All-22 and therefore it’s pretty difficult to tell you exactly what I think about each signing. There are team-building strategies to consider, however, and with that in mind, there’s a lot to like about how the Jets have worked the free agency thus far. For contrast, I’d like to look all the way back to 2015. Way back in this forgotten time when things were simple, the Jets were in an extremely similar position. The team was being led by a third year QB and were among the top 3 in cap space after their 4-12 season. The team was seriously lacking in talent, but had a mountain of cap space and plenty of high draft picks due to their 4-12 record. The free agency period went in a very different direction, however.

In 2015, Maccagnan signed, re-signed, or traded for a list of players that included (among others) Brandon Marshall, Buster Skrine, David Harris, Darrelle Revis, James Carpenter, Antonio Cromartie, Marcus Gilchrist, Stephen Bowen, Kellen Davis, and Stephen Ridley. Four seasons later and not one of those players figures to play for the Jets. Of those signings, the biggest deals went to guys on the back nine of their career or worse. David Harris, Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, and Brandon Marshall got a combined $149.5M, and none of them were Jets two years later. In fact, only Buster Skrine and James Carpenter made it through 2018, and neither was a really positive contributor by that point.

Thus far in 2019, the Jets have targeted Le’Veon Bell, C.J. Mosley, Anthony Barr (despite his departure, he was a player the Jets clearly coveted), Kelechi Osemele, and Jamison Crowder. Right now, those players are 27, 26, 26, 29, and 25 years old, respectively. The oldest player on that list, Kelechi Osemele, plays a position with a long shelf life, unlike the cornerbacks and wide receiver the Jets added in 2015. While I’m not completely sure how I feel about a lot of these additions, I do approve of the strategy of adding young players that should be around for several years. Despite all of this spending, the Jets have boasted only 1 Pro Bowl starter and 1 All Pro player over the last three years in Jamal Adams this season (not counting special teams or alternates.) The combination of Bell, Mosley, and Osemele alone counts for 2 first team All Pros, 3 second team All Pros, and 7 Pro Bowl appearances (even without Bell playing last year and Barr sticking with the Vikes) over that same span. Whether or not I like all the choices, I have to admit that the Jets have added a lot of young talent.

In 2015, the Jets bounced back from a 4-12 team to narrowly missing the playoffs at 10-6. It was an exciting season to watch, but the team was sorely lacking in young talent and crashed back to earth with 3 straight seasons without a 6th win, finishing dead last in the AFC East each time. The spending spree mirrored the Giants in 2016, jumping from 6 wins to 11 due to the additions of many free agent acquisitions. In the last two years, they’ve compiled 8 total wins and have one of the weakest rosters coming into 2019 despite a tricky cap situation in which they will pay a single player $16M to play for another team this year alone.

There are myriad similar free agency examples of this type of team building that I won’t get into, but to make a long story short, you can’t build consistency through free agency. It’s a good tool for augmenting a good team with aging veterans or adding the occasional overpriced young stud, but long-term success is built through the draft. If you fail there, you have to do what you can with the piles of cap space you will inevitably have to use. If you’re a 0-5 win team, you’re probably not going to be a Super Bowl contender next year and your best chance is to buy high on guys who will be around by the time the team could make a push. The Jets paid big money to guys near retirement in 2015 and I was disappointed that they couldn’t accept that the Jets needed a full reboot. While I’m still far from sold on risky signings like Bell, I’m glad the Jets haven’t fallen into the same hole this year as in 2015.

Poll

Do you approve of the Jets free agency period thus far?

This poll is closed

  • 75%
    Yes
    (1316 votes)
  • 2%
    No
    (48 votes)
  • 16%
    Meh
    (294 votes)
  • 5%
    Woe to Maccagnan
    (88 votes)
1746 votes total Vote Now