ESPN’s Bill Barnwell has been ranking the offseason of every NFL team. He puts the Jets in the top half of the league at number 13.
What went right: After a disastrous pair of offseasons saw the Jets buy big and get little out of stars such as cornerback Trumaine Johnson, running back Le’Veon Bell and linebacker C.J. Mosley, new general manager Joe Douglas went all the way in the opposite direction. The former Eagles executive didn’t make many headlines, but the moves he made were generally smart, one-year deals for moderate money, as Douglas brought back corner Brian Poole and linebacker Jordan Jenkins and signed defensive back Pierre Desir, receiver Breshad Perriman and linebacker Patrick Onwuasor. Johnson, meanwhile, was cut.
In an echo of what Brandon Beane did in Buffalo a year ago for Josh Allen, Douglas rebuilt quarterback Sam Darnold’s line by signing four offensive linemen and retaining Alex Lewis. Douglas completed the process by using the Jets’ first-round pick on massive offensive tackle Mekhi Becton. With his second-rounder, Douglas drafted wideout Denzel Mims. The most important thing for the Jets to do in 2020 is figure out whether they want to keep treating Darnold as their quarterback of the future.
I can’t disagree with any of this. Whether the moves actually work out is unclear, but for the first time in a while there seemed to be a clear plan to build something around the quarterback. You typicially won’t be able to acquire franchise-changer in free agency. The types of players you acquire tend to be of the role player variety.
A year ago I was a bit jealous of the Buffalo offseason Barnwell mentioned. They didn’t bring in players who would move the needle a ton, but they targeted players to perform key roles to support their quarterback. By comparison, the Jets under Mike Maccagnan threw money at big names while leaving core needs unaddressed. Joe Douglas’ first offseason provided a change in approach.
What went wrong: I’m not sure some of the offensive linemen Douglas added are going to be able to protect Darnold. The deals given to Lewis (three years, $18.6 million) and George Fant (three years, $27.3 million) might go down as paying replacement-level linemen like viable starters out of hope and desperation. You could make a case that Douglas might have been better off paying for Jack Conklin at the top of the market while waiting for bargains to shake out as free agency wore on. As an example, the money they gave Lewis could have viably gone toward Larry Warford.
I wish the Jets had added more at receiver, although they were likely hamstrung by the contract handed to injured wideout Quincy Enunwa. Did they have the opportunity to top the Cardinals’ offer for DeAndre Hopkins? The move to sign Frank Gore seemed bizarre; as cool as it is to see Gore playing into his late 30s, they need to find a running back to replace Bell after he’s presumably cut next offseason. I’m also not sure it was a great idea to hand coach Adam Gase a second season after a bizarre 2019 campaign; while New York finished 6-2, just two of those wins came against teams who had their Week 1 starting quarterback in the lineup for the majority of the game. One of the losses came to the Bengals, too.
What they could have done differently: If I had to pick one Jets move to take back, Fant sticks out. It’s tough to find starting tackles, but Fant was a below-average starter in 2016. After tearing his ACL the following offseason, he has really played only six games as an every-down player, with the Seahawks instead using him as a sixth offensive lineman and swing tackle. Drafting Becton means the Jets can start Fant on the right side, and they can get out of this deal next offseason after paying him $8.9 million in 2020 if Fant can pass a physical, but he’s still just a project.
Again, I can’t argue with this analysis. The team seems to value Lewis way more than it should. This was a player who ranged between passable and bad in 2019, and the Ravens were willing to give him up for practically nothing. This seems like the type of guy who should have gotten something close to the minimum to compete for a roster spot.
On Fant I find myself somewhere between Barnwell and the people who love this signing. There is potential with this player. I view it as more of a calculated risk.
I also agree that the Jets were a bit limited in their options at wide receiver, although a case could have been made for retaining Robby Anderson. And the Gase situation has been discussed at great length so I won’t go into that.
What’s left to do: Sign Jamal Adams to an extension. The trade rumors that surrounded Adams last offseason are only going to linger until the Jets get a deal done with their star safety. Adams is still two years away from free agency, but it’ll still probably take a four-year, $60 million extension to get the former No. 6 overall pick to commit long term.
Again I agree. This is the most pressing matter ahead of the Jets. It seemed like the team was waiting until after the Draft to get into detailed contract talks with Adams, but the current situation does complicate things a bit. The finances of the NFL in the near run are up in the air. The salary cap is tied to league revenue, and it isn’t clear whether the league will be able to play a full schedule this year or have to play games without fans. These things would impact revenue, which in turn would impact the salary cap and market value for players. This all could make it difficult to figure out Adams’ market value and delay an extension.