Jets general manager Joe Douglas hasn’t made the big move that gets fans excited, but he also hasn’t given out a contract that might hurt the team in the long run.
That should be a welcome change for the Jets and their fans.
Douglas has studied the roster, studied free agency and realized that the quick fix isn’t the way to go. The Jets aren’t a player or two away. They have plenty of holes to fill, and he has just started the process of plugging them.
His approach in free agency has been to not overspend on players, address the major needs and try to build something sustainable.
The former Jets regime had a different mentality, a win-at-all-costs thought process aimed at finally ending the Jets’ long playoff drought.
How did that work out? The drought is up to nine years.
What Douglas has accomplished won’t end that long hiatus, but he’s just beginning. Free agency isn’t over and the NFL Draft is a month away.
In the first five days of free agency, Douglas reached deals with three offensive linemen (George Fant, Connor McGovern and Alex Lewis), two cornerbacks (Brian Poole and Arthur Maulet) and a linebacker (Neville Hewitt). They may have been ho-hum, but they’re value moves. The total cost of those contracts is about $80 million, with about $45 million guaranteed. Douglas is adding key pieces at a reasonable price and maintaining flexibility.
In the first few days last year, former general manager Mike Maccagnan had either traded for or agreed to deals with Kelechi Osemele, C.J. Mosley, Le’Veon Bell, Jamison Crowder and Henry Anderson. Their total salaries were close to $210 million.
They also had an agreement with Vikings All-Pro linebacker Anthony Barr before he flip-flopped and decided to return to Minnesota.
At the time, it appeared Maccagnan’s moves would at least make the Jets competitive and put them in the playoff hunt.
The result of all that spending? Seven wins, a lot of unrest and controversy with Osemele because of his shoulder injury, and drama surrounding Bell, his usage and his relationship with Adam Gase.
The moral of this cautionary tale — and Douglas knows it well — is that winning free agency doesn’t guarantee anything.
The previous year, Maccagnan offered quarterback Kirk Cousins a fully guaranteed three-year, $90-million contract. Fortunately for the Jets, Cousins turned it down and went to Minnesota. Maccagnan then gave cornerback Trumaine Johnson a five-year, $72.5-million deal. That didn’t work out well. Douglas released Johnson on Wednesday after two disappointing seasons.
Bashing Maccagnan is not the intent here, but the Jets have been down that road before, and it hasn’t worked. Douglas has brought the Jets a fresh new approach that has been proved to work. You don’t buy your way into the playoffs. That’s fool’s gold and not always sustainable.
Douglas spent 19 years working for the Ravens, Bears and Eagles, and in that time, he was a part of 12 playoff teams and three Super Bowl champions.
He spent most of his time with Ozzie Newsome in Baltimore. Newsome is widely considered one of the best talent evaluators and team-builders in recent NFL history. When he was asked about Newsome last month, Douglas gave a little glimpse of how he would attack building the Jets.
“Ozzie’s consistent,” Douglas said. “Ozzie’s patient. Ozzie is not going to get wrapped up in emotions when he’s making decisions. He’s not going to get wrapped up in perceived needs. You know, he’s going to do what’s best for the team short- and long-term.”
As Douglas continues to fill holes, his approach will remain the same. He’ll be strategic and disciplined. This is just the beginning of a deliberate process that the Jets believe will put them in a better position to succeed.