Rebuild. For years… actually, the past decade, the word rebuild has been closely associated with the New York Jets. Many have tried, and many have failed to reconstruct the Jets into a winning team, all to ultimately resort to rebuilding once again. Former general manager Mike Tannenbaum managed to piece together a back-to-back AFC Championship appearing teams, ultimately succumbing to aging players and poor development. John Idzik, well, there is no need to remind anyone of his horrible attempt at turn things around.
Then came 2015, when the Jets hired Mike Maccagnan as their general manager. Obviously, it is now known he too could not repair things. However, he did orchestrate a 10-6 team in 2015 that was one of the most exciting Jets seasons over the past decade. He had all the cap space in the world, in addition to significant draft capital. Sound familiar?
Current general manager Joe Douglas will have the same advantages Maccagnan had back in 2015. He has a new head coach, exceptional cap space at his disposal, on top of exceptional draft capital. But Douglas must avoid what led to Maccagnan’s downfall – horrid free-agent spending.
This New York Jets Rebuild Must Be Different
Do Not Overpay Aging Stars
Back in 2015, Maccagnan was viewed as a hero. After Idzik dealt franchise great Darrelle Revis to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Maccagnan lured Revis back home. Then, Antonio Cromartie rejoined his old running mate in the Jets secondary once again. The pair were vital parts of the Jets 2009 and 2010 AFC Championship teams, and fans were ecstatic to have them back.
The first year it was phenomenal. A 30-year-old Revis made his seventh Pro Bowl, with five interceptions and four fumble recoveries. The 31-year-old Cromartie also started 15 games, though ultimately was released following the season. In 2016, Revis would go onto have a drastic decline in his play, one that was simply heartbreaking to watch.
Even so, it can be argued paying Revis, who during his prime is one of the top shutdown cornerbacks of all time, was the right choice. What was not the right choice was Maccagnan turning around and giving a 28-year-old Trumaine Johnson, a man who never made a Pro Bowl, a massive deal. Johnson lasted two seasons in New York and is now out of the league.
The moral of the story is Douglas must avoid overpaying aging players. Every year, the free-agent market sees players get more money than their recent play has justified. Names such as Matthew Judon, Richard Sherman, amongst others are going to come up as options for the Jets. Nonetheless, their age and likely price tag on the market could make for a future disaster.
Continue to Search the Bargain Bin
One of the biggest problems with the Maccagnan Jets teams was their lack of depth. When injuries occurred, there was a baren cupboard of talent to replace them. One reason was his questionable drafting. The other – spending too much on high-priced free agents, leaving little for quality depth signings.
Outside of Revis and Cromartie, the Jets premiere signings in 2015 were slot corner Buster Skrine, free safety Marcus Gilchrist, and guard James Carpenter. Skrine and Carpenter lasted four seasons with Gang Green, while Gilchrist spent two. From there, the Jets signed James Brewer, Kevin Vickerson, Corey Hilliard, Kellen Davis, Stephen Bowen, Curtis Brown, and Ronald Talley. In the NFL, it is those minor signings that can make the difference for a team to make the playoffs. Apart from Kellen Davis, none of them made a regular season appearance with the team.
Again, it is those under the radar signings that can make a difference over the course of the season. Last offseason, Douglas showed he is a very willing player in the secondary market, bringing in Greg Van Roten, Pierre Desir, Breshad Perriman, amongst others. Of course, this offseason, expect Douglas to be a bigger player in the free agent market, as those were some of New York’s top signings from a year ago.
Must Draft Well
This one goes without saying. In order to be successful in the NFL, a team must draft well. Fans have already seen one very promising Douglas draft, that has produced multiple starters and contributors for next season. As opposed to Maccagnan, who was unable to do so.
In 2015, the Jets drafted Leonard Williams with the sixth overall pick. Outside of him, nobody went on to play more than three years for the Jets. Second-round pick Devin Smith has bounced around the league, while Lorenzo Mauldin, Bryce Petty, and Deon Simon quickly faded. Not to mention fifth-round pick Jarvis Harrison, who did not even make the team.
Drafting well can make a drastic impact on a team, as it brings youthful, promising talent on cheap deals. Capitalizing on picks year-to-year is vital to success, and following 2016, Maccagnan had another disappointing class. Their first two picks, Darron Lee and Christian Hackenberg did not pan out. In fact, Hackenberg never even played a snap. Meanwhile, their other picks, Jordan Jenkins, Juston Burris, Brandon Shell, Lachlan Edwards, and Charone Peake remain or at least lasted a few years in the league. Nonetheless, none were game-changers to build around.
How to Learn From the Old Jets Failed Rebuild
The offseason is where a roster gets pieced together. Veterans come to join the youngsters and the front office makes franchise-altering decisions. Over the past decade, the Jets have failed to make ones that will make them successful long-term. Now, it is time to see if Douglas has what it takes to break that trend.
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