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Pieces of the Puzzle

Well, hello there. Is it time for my pills already? I thought bedtime was five days ago. Are you sure it's time for me to go back to sleep? Before I do that, let me let myself back into your mind with a thrilling tale of heroes going on an adventure and saving the world. It all started when that fiery red dragon descended from Mount Undulius and attacked the villagers for the crime of making too much noise in the town square. You might have thought that-

Hey, don't you fall asleep on me. You don't want to hear this story? Fine, we'll pick another one.

Anyway, I'm back, as are many of the Jets who have enjoyed a long offseason, either as new additions or as returning faces. That's nice, though those of us in New Jersey and New York are experiencing quite the heat wave, one that I can't definitively prove has to do with the offseason the team has had but can't quite rule out either. The full contingent of the 90-man roster should be present tomorrow, so expect things to heat up even more when the workouts begin.

They're going to come riding back in on a different, more metaphorical kind of wave built on goodwill and hope. I should hope that this kind of wave can propel them all the way through training camp and into the regular season with some strength, but it's incumbent on the team to do the kind of running fitting of its mantra. Wanna go all gas in this economy? Don't you dare touch those brakes.

It's been a while since I've been here, so I thought I'd come back with something right before football comes back to our screens in force. I considered something for the release of the schedule, but I figured now that I'll save it for the preseason finale, and we've still got a ways to go before then. Due to that, I guess, I don't really have a singular topic of discussion. Instead, I'll contribute a bunch of reactions. It's much more efficient this way; you sitting still and getting to read a whole bunch of opinions from me without me having to put these opinions into different posts should save your eyes and my fingers a lot of strain.

Are you having fun yet?

There were a bunch of reactions I wanted to share from what happened this offseason now that it is over. In this post, I'll try to condense them. I've had a lot of thoughts to let stew during my time away, so they will hopefully be both clear and direct now that I'm writing them.

Feel free to leave your feedback or suggestions below this post.

I'll start with something that could get a little long.

Depraved Minds Think Alike

Once again, what an offseason we just had! I don't think it was the absolute best offseason in the NFL, nor would I want to put that kind of label on it necessarily if I did. If you have the best offseason in the NFL, your burden of expectations increases significantly (plus, I don't think anyone can top the kind of offseason the Denver Broncos had). I'll say it was one of the best offseasons in the NFL, most definitely in the top 5, but I wouldn't burden them with the expectations of the four teams in front of them.

That's down to the fact that, even with as great of an offseason as I think they had, this season doesn't project well for the Jets. After six wins in the last two seasons, I think the aim should be to accrue more wins this season than those two combined. A playoff run would be wonderful, sure, but it's hard for me to say that I expect it. I'll be satisfied- if not happy- with the team if they manage to achieve seven wins this year, the bare minimum they'd need to have more than the last two seasons combined. The 2023 season is another story; failing to make the playoffs by the third year of a quarterback's rookie contract is enough of a failure that the important people need to get replaced, which is why the Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers went extremely aggressive this offseason to make sure that that doesn't happen to them.

The 2022 season should lay the groundwork for the team to launch into the playoffs in 2023. What they did this season was set up a young core that will serve as the foundation for this team when they make their run to the postseason in the years to come. They're not a complete team, obviously, hence the expectation that they're probably not getting to the playoffs. The core this year will be augmented with the finishing touches next year, and it helps that the core is so large from a group of high draft picks and quality free agents.

A lot of people love what the Jets did this offseason and took notice, and it helps for me that a lot of players that they acquired were those included in my offseason outlook series. Essentially all of their draft picks (everyone except Clemons) I discussed there (or in Wilson's case, the post about player comparisons), along with both signed TEs and multiple re-signed players. They're also still a possibility for Kwon Alexander after nabbing Marcell Harris to backup at LB, and I'd like them to try signing another offensive tackle whether or not it's someone I've mentioned. I didn't get everything I wanted or in the exact way I phrased it in my mock offseason, but it still feels gratifying that my vision for this team is very similar to the one that the Jets exercised the real offseason.

A Little More Depraved

It is no sure thing that the players I wanted will work out; if there were sure things in this league, surely the Jets wouldn't have been as bad as they've been for so long. I like the Jets' offseason because I think a lot of the players that they got are good and will help this team, but it could turn out that these guys will not help the team in any significant way.

Perhaps the biggest criticism I have over this offseason was the way that contracts were structured for those signed to multi-year deals. It's not applicable to those drafted, of whom more multi-year contracts were handed out than to free agents; the seven veterans given multi-year contracts all had theirs set up in a way that has their cap numbers rise pretty significantly in their second and third seasons (Berrios and Whitehead were given two-year contracts). I understand the value in letting cap flows rise over time, as yearly salary cap growth tends to minimize the effects of stacking cap charges.

What I don't like is the size of the gap in year one to year two charges. Laken Tomlinson, for instance, has a cap charge of under $5.4 million in 2022, one that will rise to a gigantic total close to $17.4 million in 2023, half of which could be cleared in the extremely unlikely scenario that he would need to be released after just one season (he would have to be borderline unplayable, as his 2023 salary is injury-guaranteed). That's currently set to be the fifth-highest cap hit in the NFL among interior linemen for 2023, prior to any extensions, restructures or releases that may alter that ranking. That begs the question, is he going to be worth that cap hit? I hope so, but the risk is part of the reason you shouldn't stack cap charges in such a manner.

It would be more forgivable if they hadn't done this with all of their contracts. DJ Reed's cap charge rises from $4.6 million to nearly $14.2 million in 2023, with next to nothing gained from a release. CJ Uzomah and Tyler Conklin are each set to see their cap charges rise by around $5 million from this season to next, with neither one offering much of a reprieve if one needs to be released. Jordan Whitehead signed what is probably my least favorite contract the Jets gave out this offseason; even though his cap gets a relatively moderate $6 million upgrade, it puts the Jets in a position where he might be one of the first guys to get released for cap reasons (would save $7.3 million), even if he's good this coming season.

Contracts like these limit flexibility, and considering that I'm expecting the Jets to finish the 2022 season with a losing record, I'm concerned that it could be prohibit the Jets' 2023 offseason too much. I don't think they're that far from making the playoffs, but true contention is much more difficult to achieve. Having the flexibility is important for adding the players that will be able to get them to that level.

At present, the Jets rank 16th in 2023 with a little over $10.2 million in cap space, prior to any draft picks from that year signing or any extensions this year (most likely candidates for a pre- or mid-season extension are George Fant and Connor McGovern, though I personally wouldn't expect either to get done before 2023 begins). Other teams can do the same, but let's try to work through some likely releases to get more cap space. CJ Mosley is almost certainly getting released next year (he'd have to agree to a significant pay cut to stay with the Jets) if not waived toward the end of the regular season, I think a release of Carl Lawson is more likely than not at this point (he and Mosley are the Jets' two top cap hits for 2023), and some guys making more modest amounts of money could get axed (in this exercise, I will assume Justin Hardee Sr., Denzel Mims, La'Mical Perine and Ashtyn Davis will be released between now and March 2023).

Following those hypothetical releases, the Jets would have roughly $47 million in cap space, probably a little more if all four are cut before the end of the preseason this year (I think Davis and Hardee will both be retained). That sounds much better, right? It does, yes, but if you make those cuts, you have to replace those players. The Jets don't have the same kind of draft capital in the 2023 draft that they've been blessed with in their prior two, and if the 2022 season turns out to be a successful one, their own draft picks will be out of the top quarter of each round and hopefully out of the top twelve of at least the first round. That means they'd likely need to dip into free agency to get replacements.

I'll try to keep it realistic when I say that they find those replacements by only spending half their available cap space, lowering their total down to $23.5 million. It's a solid amount, but are you now in a position where you have adequately replaced all of those players with a team that can push into the playoffs? What about the positions where you either need to extend players or start fresh, like on the offensive line or in the middle of the defense? Do we have enough to get into contention with the resources we have?

The answer to those questions is yes, if we have the right front office that can find the proper pieces of the puzzle. That is still to be determined; as I said before, I like the moves that they made this offseason, but I can't know if they were the correct ones to make. Even if they were correct, it still doesn't guarantee that they take the step forward this year that makes it a successful season. It could be that either these players don't provide the immediate help needed, or that their impact isn't enough to cancel out the failures of the 2020 and 2021 offseasons.

If it's the latter, I don't think it would be forgivable because of their relative lack of resources compared to last year or thus year. If this is a bad team again, they won't have the ability to overhaul their roster in the same way they did then. Even if the most recent offseason turns out to have been better than the rest, it might not replicable; if this is a bad team, it could take two more years before they are able to fix it. I don't know about you, but giving this regime another two years to first make the playoffs with nothing to prove they can get there sounds like a bad idea to me.

I don't think that they're going to be a bad team, nor do I think that we're going to be in a position where we need to overhaul this roster again next year. The Jets, however, have had very ugly, very recent collapses that we're hoping they've finally put behind them. If another one gets in their path, such an overhaul will be needed, and it won't be one that can happen quickly.

Ouch, That Hurts

Moving on to something that doesn't require doom and gloom, I wanted to hit on a part of the summer that doesn't involve any doom, but might involve some gloom depending on who you are. The part I'm talking about, of course (since this is a New York Jets forum and this is very clearly at the forefront of everyone's minds), is the news that the Denver Broncos- amid what I believe to be the NFL's best offseason- are being sold to a group fronted by the Walmart heads for a whopping 4.6 billion American dollars. That is an amount I would expect to be enough to buy your own planetoid you can name after a combination of your favorite child and favorite Roman god if you were willing to spend it.

It's unfathomable that- just four years ago- the Carolina Panthers were purchased at a price less than half that total! Has inflation really hit the billionaires that hard, or have we gone universally crazy about the value of 22 people fighting over a pound of pigskin?

Back to the Jets. The Johnsons purchased this team for a total over $600 million in 2000, about one-seventh the cost the Walmart coffers just dumped on the Broncos' laps. As much as the Jets have sucked the last decade with the longest active playoff drought (and sucked for the majority of the franchise's history), they're still considered to be more valuable as an enterprise than the team with the second-longest active playoff drought. For that reason, I have to ask: who the heck is going to pay upwards of $5 billion for the Jets?

I came to a rather gloomy conclusion; I don't think anyone is going to do it.

So, I came to a second, brighter conclusion; I'll do it. Here's my informal offer for the New York Jets. I'll pay $5 billion to buy the team.

Now, the problem is, I don't have $5 billion to spend, but in lieu of having that money right now, I came up with a plan. Based on my current income, if I don't eat, drink or spend it in any way, I should have that money at some point in the next 80,000 years. If you want to chip in, feel free; I could use the help. I'd like to retire at some point before 50,000 A.D., but it's not that big of a deal if I have to keep working.

Preparing For Takeoff

Training camp is going to be done in a lot of heat this year. A quick glance at the weather forecasts for the next 14 days tells me that the temperatures are going to be above 90 degrees at least half the time. I'm going to need these guys to stay hydrated in an effort to avoid crippling preseason injuries this year.

I've said it before, but in case you don't remember me saying it, I will say it again; I wasn't a big fan of the Carl Lawson signing when it happened, but the day he went down with a torn Achilles was a day of misery for me. Things are different this time around in that I don't believe that there is a single player whose absence would be so crippling that the Jets would be lost without, although if the Jets don't sign a backup swing tackle, that hypothesis will definitely get tested. That does not mean I'm comfortable with losing someone for a season before it even begins, so please stay healthy, everyone.

Additionally, in training camp, we have a few key positions to consider. I'll start with Lawson himself, who has been placed on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list. This was expected; my hope for Lawson was that he wouldn't begin the season on the PUP list, as that would mean a loss of at least six games. From everything I've seen, I expect he will be activated off the PUP list at some point before September, though if he's still on it to the point where he misses the preseason games in August, we're probably talking about him not being a starting player Week 1 and still working his way back if he remains active.

In the ideal world, he's back for Week 1 with no restrictions (so, hopefully he's off the PUP list well before September begins) and is the starting edge. If not, we're probably going to have first round rookie Jermaine Johnson fill in for Lawson on one side in the base defense rather than just in the sub-packages until such a time that Lawson can return, then determine if anything should change based on his early season performance.

Elsewhere, we have a riddle to sort out on the offensive line: how do you have a training camp battle between two guys on the same team? Okay, I might have fibbed a little; that's not the question that needs resolving. The question is which alignment the Jets should use between the tackle combination of Mekhi Becton and George Fant. Each of the last two seasons, the Week 1 alignment saw Becton take the left side of the line while Fant held down the right, but heading into the third and potentially final year of this tackle combination, the order is now up for debate.

Things are not so simple for this situation, with both men placed on the PUP list from their separate knee injuries from 2021 and no known date of return for either one (though I doubt either will be out for more than two weeks). Fant being placed on the PUP list is not particularly surprising considering that he was unable to participate in team activities or workouts at mandatory minicamp and chose to forgo attendance at the voluntary portion of the offseason program in favor of working out on his own amid contract extension talks. I wouldn't expect him to miss training camp as part of a hold-in; it's just a matter of him demonstrating the health of his knee and his overall condition to the training staff so he can get back on the field with the rest of the starting offense.

Becton, however, is another story. You don't need me to tell you about the controversy surrounding him, unless you really like the way I describe things, in which case... you might need therapy. In the event that you have somehow stumbled onto this post without having caught up on the Becton saga, let me briefly go over it.

Following a Week 1 knee injury, Becton was expected to return after somewhere around 8 weeks. He ended up not even practicing in limited capacity for 14 weeks, ultimately not returning to play last season. His nutritionist would later indicate that his weight had exceeded 400 pounds at some point since she began working with him, though she did not say whether it was during his injury layoff or after the Jets shut him down.

After the season, Saleh indicated at the Senior Bowl that the team was very pleased with George Fant's performance filling in at LT and said that Becton would have to earn his spot back. He also left open the possibility of drafting a new tackle to start, but that was not what the Jets would end up doing in April. During the league meetings, they said that they were expecting him to be ready for camp, and they also lobbied for him to come join the team during voluntary workouts. Becton would end up forgoing the voluntary workouts to be with his family in anticipation of the birth of his first child. I personally have no issue with his decision, but others argue that he should have gone.

When he finally returned to Florham Park for mandatory minicamp, he only worked out in the area for injured players and spent a lot of time with the trainers indoors away from the media. His weight was not disclosed, though Saleh still said that they were fine with his health. Becton himself would speak to the media the following day, continuing what was a lengthy war of words with his detractors by wearing a shirt with many of the labels they had given to him printed on it. If he bounces back and proves them wrong, that shirt could be his go-to for the rest of his time with the Jets; otherwise, it will be the defining image of his Jets career.

Should you be concerned with Becton's placement on the PUP list? That's up to you. I won't lie; I am definitely concerned myself. The Jets came to a determination that he was not able to perform in team workouts, a decision that doesn't definitively mean that Becton will be out long, since he can be removed from the list at any time. The problem is that they said repeatedly that they expected him to be ready for training camp, only for them to decide that he was not ready when he reported last week with the other players coming off injuries.

Should you panic? No, not yet. We don't yet know how long Becton will need to get ready. He still has time to get back to full health before it really starts to hurt. When should you panic? I'm setting a deadline for panicking: August 8th. That's the day of the first practice after the Green & White scrimmage, an event where the most loyal and passionate fans will attend to get a sense of how the full team will look this season. I can understand if the Jets want to keep him out of that game for fear of a poor reaction from those fans (who I should warn against booing your own team should you be going), but he can't be hidden any longer than that. He would still have the opportunity to work his way back to playing at least two preseason games at MetLife Stadium (I'm assuming the Jets want him out there to get live reps at right tackle).

Smoothing over the panic isn't just going out to sign a new tackle; regardless of whether or not we hit the point where it's time to panic, I think the Jets should sign a veteran swing tackle, whether that's Riley Reiff, Nate Solder, Mike Remmers or dare I say Eric Fisher. What I mean by panicking is trying for a new starting tackle, a scenario that would be very difficult to resolve and one I truly hope we do not have to consider any deeper than the surface.

Finally, rounding out the injuries are two of the tight ends signed this offseason in CJ Uzomah and Jeremy Ruckert, the latter of whom was placed on the NFI list rather than the PUP list because teams are allowed to place rookies on the NFI list for football injuries suffered before they signed their contracts). It's unknown whether either one is expected to miss camp. Without further details, it's difficult to say what the feeling around those two should be. In the short term, this gives Tyler Conklin his opportunity to become the starting tight end. In the long term, some other tight end on the roster (Wesco, Yeboah and Cager, along with anyone else they might sign) now has the opportunity to make the cut when the season begins, as those guys will get more reps with the first team offense while the others are injured. Perhaps more than one could make the roster if Uzomah begins the season on the PUP list, though I certainly hope that to not be the case.

Pack It Up

I suppose that's the gist of it. I hope for a clean camp that doesn't make me put my head in my hands this year. I may end up going to the Green & White scrimmage when it opens in my own attempt to gauge what this team will look like when they are at their best (or close to it). It won't mean much, but now that the football calendar flips into August, we're going to get to see something from this puzzle when its pieces form one team. I'm very much ready for it.

Thanks for reading.

This is a FanPost written by a registered member of this site. The views expressed here are those of the author alone and not those of anybody affiliated with Gang Green Nation or SB Nation.