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Joe Douglas Creating Long-Term Window for Success in Free Agency

As free agency is well underway for the New York Jets, it is clear general manager Joe Douglas is setting up a long-term window for success.

If there is one thing New York Jets fans have learned over the past decade, it is that wins cannot be bought in free agency. Past general managers for gang green have tried and failed, most recently being Mike Maccagnan. He dealt out massive contracts to players such as Trumaine Johnson in order to fill out needs created by poor drafting. Maccagnan tried to change the way the game is won, except the fact of the matter is that free agency is for building around what is accomplished in the NFL Draft. Luckily, currently General Manager Joe Douglas is aware of this fact, and is rebuilding the organization the right way.

Now in his second full off-season with the team, Douglas finally has a chance to execute his true vision. He has emphasized the importance of piecing the team together in the draft and is sticking to it. As NFL teams stand pat or spend like crazy in a COVID-19 free agency frenzy, Douglas has played his cards his way. And it is quietly creating a long-term window for the Jets to regularly win football games.

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Joe Douglas Creating A Sustainable Winner

Prioritizing Youth

From the moment free agency started, it appeared there would be two kinds of teams – the aggressive and the conservative. The New England Patriots went on a spending spree to reload and chase after the Buffalo Bills. At the same time, the New Orleans Saints have been scrambling to create cap space in order to remain in contention post-Drew Brees.

Meanwhile, Douglas has been waiting for the right time to strike. Currently, the Jets have signed four players to multi-year deals. Two came to an agreement within hours of the tampering period, in receiver Corey Davis and pass rusher Carl Lawson. Both would go on to sign three-year deals with the team. Additionally, the Jets signed defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins to a two-year deal and defensive back Justin Hardee to a three-year deal.

While none of them are the splashy signings fans were demanding prior to free agency starting, what they do bring is high upside. Davis is a former fifth overall pick and is only 26-years-old as he comes off of a career-year in 2020. He also has seen his best play come from a play-action offense, which will be run often under offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. As for Lawson and Rankins, both are young, high-upside defensive lineman who will have a field day rushing the passer alongside Quinnen Williams. Even Hardee, who is primarily a special teams player, is one of the best gunners in the game.

No, these are not the splashy signings often seen from the Jets in free agency. They are smart signings that open a window for their own development, but for the Jets to become a competitive football team.

Maintaining Flexibility

One of Joe Douglas’ biggest values in a player is their versatility and maintaining that flexibility to move them around. The same can be said about his approach to free agency when it comes to contracts. Last off-season, he brought in many players on one-year deals not only to create more competition on the field but to have cap flexibility moving forward. And he is back at it again.

Outside of high-upside, young signings in the four previously mentioned, all additions have been one-year deals. To this point, Douglas has added wide receiver Keelan Cole, tight end Tyler Kroft, offensive lineman Dan Feeney, linebacker Jarrad Davis, and safety LaMarcus Joyner through the 2021 season. It is also worth noting that Joyner is the only player age 30 or above.

Again, none of these signings will guarantee more wins. They will be rotational or depth pieces that create a winning culture. Pieces that will complement those who are selected in the draft to be the future of the franchise. Speaking of which…

All Eyes on the Draft

All the talk of New York’s off-season has been and will continue to be what happens at quarterback. Do the Jets trade Sam Darnold and pick his replacement second overall? Do they give him one more shot at starting and trade down from second overall? Can the Jets swing a trade for Deshaun Watson or Russell Wilson?

Well, nobody knows the answer to these questions, with the exception of maybe Joe Douglas. Since coming to New York during the Adam Gase mayhem, it has seemed as if he has always had a plan. One that was to form a winning roster the right way he learned from his time with the Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears, and Baltimore Ravens – through the draft.

The Jets have five picks within the first 100 in the 2021 NFL Draft, highlighted by the second overall pick. With this capital, Douglas is going to draft talent and have new head coach Robert Saleh develop his players. Something that no general manager-head coach tandem for the Jets has done successfully for years.

When the 2021 NFL off-season is over, chances are the Jets are not going to be a playoff team. Rather, a young, scrappy team that plays their heart out and competes week in and week out. And because of the flexibility, Douglas is creating, the Jets are creating a long-term window for success based on developing through the draft.

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