Jets general manager Joe Douglas during Jets OTAs at Atlantic...

Jets general manager Joe Douglas during Jets OTAs at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park, N.J. Credit: Noah K. Murray

With one notable exception – and there’s nothing he could have done to change the outcome, anyway – it has been an outstanding offseason for Jets general manager Joe Douglas. Including his latest masterstroke: signing five-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle Duane Brown on Thursday.

Douglas has done yeoman’s work in continuing to reshape the roster from the ground up after Adam Gase flamed out with a 2-14 season in 2020, and the last five months have featured some of his most noteworthy accomplishments.

The Brown signing, which came just two days after the Jets knew they’d be without Mekhi Becton for the entire season because of another knee injury, was another example of Douglas reacting quickly and decisively when the Jets needed it most. Faced with the possibility of going with either Connor McDermott, Chuma Edoga or rookie Max Mitchell in Becton’s place at right tackle – flawed options one and all – Douglas signed Brown to a two-year deal, meaning the 36-year-old former No. 1 overall pick of the Texans may ultimately supplant Becton on a more long-term basis.

And there’s even a chance Brown goes to left tackle and George Fant goes back to the right side. 

Like any good GM, Douglas was proactive in his approach to signing Brown, because he laid the groundwork even before Becton’s latest injury surfaced in Monday’s practice. Douglas had Brown in for a visit on Friday, where he, Jets coaches and players did their best to recruit him. Those efforts paid off when the luxury of having Brown as a swing tackle behind Becton and Fant became a necessity when Becton suffered an avulsion fracture in his left knee on Monday.

The price surely went up because of Brown’s leverage — it’s reported to be a $22 million deal — but it’s money well spent at a hugely important position. With second-year quarterback Zach Wilson needing all the help he can get up front, Brown’s veteran presence will go a long way toward allowing Wilson to flourish and take advantage of the pieces that Douglas added to the offense.

And as for that one notable exception, Douglas never really had a chance, anyway. He offered a bevy of draft picks to Kansas City and a pile of money to Pro Bowl wide receiver Tyreek Hill, but Hill had his mind made up that he was going to the Dolphins. No shot there for Douglas, even though he took a big swing.

But he still did fine work in adding pieces around Wilson and helping coach Robert Saleh’s defense as well. He scored big in the draft with Ohio State receiver Garrett Wilson and Iowa State running back Breece Hall. He signed free agent tight ends C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin, and drafted Long Island’s Jeremy Ruckert of Ohio State. And former 49ers Pro Bowl guard Laken Tomlinson was another huge get in free agency.

First-round cornerback Sauce Gardner and edge rusher Jermaine Johnson are big-time additions, and free agent cornerback D.J. Reed and safety Jordan Whitehead were sensible signings to upgrade the defense. Ditto for linebacker Kwon Alexander, whose familiarity with Saleh’s defense from their time together in San Francisco, gave Douglas an edge in signing him two weeks ago.

Now it’s up to Saleh to put the pieces together and turn the Jets into a competitive team. That process continues Friday night in Philadelphia, where the Jets begin the preseason against the backdrop of hope for at least an improved 2022 regular season, if not a playoff year. This team is still too young, and Wilson is still not ready to make the kind of quantum leap necessary for a spot in the tournament next January.

But there is no denying the upgrade in talent since Douglas and Saleh joined forces in early 2021 to reshape a Jets team that had hit rock bottom with Gase. If Wilson can be the quarterback they envisioned – clearly the biggest factor of all – and if the promising young players brought in over the last two years can develop into reliable pros reasonably quickly, then there is at least the possibility of seeing good things ahead.

Douglas did his part once more to help achieve that goal by adding the oldest man to the starting lineup. Brown has the experience to hold the fort at right tackle, and he’s as good an option as there is to replace Becton after the 23-year-old’s latest injury-related misfortune.

Now the rest is up to the coach.