Joe Douglas spoke to reporters for 22 minutes on Tuesday, going over the 2019 season and looking ahead to 2020.
There were a lot of words spoken, but one simple sentence summed up what lies ahead for Douglas.
“There’s a lot of work to do,” Douglas said.
You can say that again.
The Jets’ 7-9 season showed off plenty of roster holes. Years of poor drafting and poor free-agency decisions have left the Jets with one of the worst rosters in football. Now, Douglas, who was hired in June, gets to start fixing it.
He laid out what he wants in players to build the culture he seeks.
“It’s going to take people with the right level of commitment, character and competence,” Douglas said. “Every person, every player that we bring into this building, they’re going to be assessed on their fit within our culture and their ability to help us achieve our ultimate goal, which is win a Super Bowl, year in and year out.”
Culture is only half of the equation. He also needs to bring in some talent.
Douglas probably does not need our help, but we’ll offer it anyway. Here is how we would handle the big decisions of the Jets offseason.
Taking care of their own
The Jets have just under $60 million in cap space, according to overthecap.com. That number can jump to closer to $80 million with a few cuts – Trumaine Johnson, Brian Winters and Avery Williamson all range from definitely gone (Johnson, Winters) to possibly (Williamson).
That may sound like a lot of cap room, but the Jets have 22 unrestricted free agents and their best player is going to be looking for a raise, so much of that space could be gobbled up before free agency arrives.
I would start with star safety Jamal Adams, who has two years remaining on his rookie deal but is underpaid and deserves a big deal. Adams is due to make $3.5 million in 2020, a far cry from the $14 million per year the top safeties get. Landon Collins got a six-year, $84 million deal with $44.5 million in possible guarantees from the Redskins. That is the starting point in my mind for Adams. I would make him the highest-paid safety with a six-year, $90 million contract with $50 million guaranteed, making the team’s commitment to its best player clear. Douglas would send a clear message to the locker room — if you perform, you will be rewarded.
After Adams, I would try to re-sign Jordan Jenkins, who led the team with eight sacks, and won’t break the bank.
The Jets need to fix the offensive line in free agency and the draft, but I would re-sign guard Alex Lewis, who played well when he became a starter. I would also bring back tackle Kelvin Beachum with the hope that the Jets land a tackle in the draft who could either play left tackle with Beachum moving to right or play on the right side for one year before replacing Beachum at left tackle in 2021.
The trickiest decision may be wide receiver Robby Anderson. It is hard to replace speed like Anderson has. However, the prices being thrown around for Anderson would scare me. If I’m Douglas, I am not going higher than $12 million per year. If Anderson gets more than that from another team, wish him well and count on your scouts to find you a speed receiver.
As for running back Le’Veon Bell, I don’t think the Jets really have a choice. He is due $13 million guaranteed in 2020. No one is trading for that contract and I don’t think it makes sense for Douglas to eat money to make a trade.
The Jets made a huge splash in free agency last year. They committed $122 million in guarantees quickly as former GM Mike Maccagnan went for it. This year, Douglas needs to be smarter and I think he will be. I already have the Jets making a big investment in Adams.
If I’m Douglas, I am pretty much sitting out the first two days of free agency when the funny money gets spent. Then, I’m pouncing on value.
The Jets’ player acquisition priority should be simple: Protect the quarterback and affect their quarterback. That is what the Jets failed to do enough of in 2019.
Redskins guard Brandon Scherff is the top offensive lineman expected to hit free agency. I think he might be too expensive for my plan, though. The Patriots’ Joe Thuney is scheduled to be free. If he hits the market, that might be a more affordable option at guard.
The Jets are going to need at least three new starters on the offensive line between free agency and the draft. Getting a guard and a tackle during the second wave of free agency would remove some pressure during the draft.
Edge rushers are hard to find in free agency. If a team has a good one, it usually does not let him go. Jadeveon Clowney is the big name expected to be free. I would not go near him.
Bud Dupree of the Steelers is interesting, but Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said re-signing him is a priority. He also may cost too much.
Dante Fowler of the Rams may hit the market and may carry a more palatable price tag.
The Jets also need a cornerback. James Bradberry of the Panthers could be an attractive option.
One other priority I would have in free agency is backup quarterback. Sam Darnold has missed six games in his first two years. The Jets are 0-6 in those games. Jets coach Adam Gase has not had much success with backups in Miami or this season.
Teddy Bridgewater may have options as a free agent to compete for a starting job, but if he would entertain coming back to the Jets, he is worth a one-year, $10 million deal like they gave Josh McCown two years ago. The position is too crucial to pinch pennies.
It is impossible to forecast the draft in January. The Jets’ needs are going to change after free agency and players are going to rise and fall on draft boards.
The Jets have eight picks, four in the top 80. Those four players need to be starters or major contributors.
With the 11th pick, the Jets should take the best offensive lineman/edge rusher/cornerback available. This should not be “best player available” and draft another defensive tackle. Douglas should zero in on those three positions and figure out who the best player from that group is.
The best player at those positions figures to be off the board, but if someone like Georgia tackle Andrew Thomas or Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah falls to the Jets, they should pounce. More likely Iowa edge rusher A.J. Epenesa or his teammate Tristan Wirfs, a tackle, will be the pick.
Wide receiver is also a huge need for the Jets. The good news is this is a deep draft for receivers, according to the draft gurus. Douglas should be able to find a starter in the second or third round to either pair with Anderson or replace him.
Like Douglas said, there’s a lot of work to do.
For more on the Jets, listen to the latest episode of the “Gang’s All Here” podcast: