Pressure on Jets GM Joe Douglas to select winners in free agency, draft
Joe Douglas’ to-do list this offseason is lengthy — once again. The Jets' general manager knows he has to make better decisions this time.
This is Douglas’ third full offseason on the job. The Jets have combined for six wins the past two seasons, which puts more onus and pressure on Douglas to get this offseason right.
It’s probably too soon to say the seat under Douglas is hot. It will get much warmer, though, if he doesn’t give young quarterback Zach Wilson the necessary pieces to make a big jump in Year 2 and second-year coach Robert Saleh the players for the Jets to become competitive, if not a playoff team.
Teams can start negotiating with free agents on Monday. The new league year begins Wednesday. Douglas has roughly $48 million to spend, but he can create more space with some roster moves.
The Jets need to find Wilson more weapons and protection, and the NFL’s worst defense last year needs some major improving. Specifically, the Jets are in the market for edge rusher, wide receiver, cornerback, tight end, offensive linemen and safety.
They will address some of those spots in next month’s draft, but they want to add some proven players to a franchise that has missed the playoffs for 11 consecutive years — the NFL’s longest active drought.
"There’s a lot of tools to improve your roster," Douglas said. "Free agency is one of those tools. I think we have a good opportunity. We have assets that we’ve acquired. We have financial flexibility."
The Jets have four draft picks in the top 38 (4, 10, 35, 38) that they can use to facilitate a trade. Douglas believes in building through the draft, though. The Jets aren’t a player or two away from contending so giving up some high draft capital in a deal may not be the way to go.
"You’ve got to be very careful and really, really understand where you are as an organization," Saleh said. "If you’re trying to go and buy a corner and using two of your first-round picks and you’ve got a four-win football team I don’t know how much that moves your needle compared to using two first-rounders to get a quarterback.
"It’s still about developing Zach the best we way we can, developing our defense, continuing to add pieces to the offense and get ourselves in a position where those conversations can be very real."
That doesn’t mean that Douglas shouldn’t explore everything. He should. He needs to be aggressive; more aggressive in spending than in past years.
"We’re going to get this team better," Douglas said.
Starting up front, veteran center Ryan Jensen is on the Jets’ radar. If they land him, Connor McGovern would be expendable. The guard market is good with Brandon Scherff, Laken Tomlinson and Connor Williams available along with tackle Trent Brown.
Wide receiver Allen Robinson, a likely target, has had three seasons of at least 1,100 yards. Other possibilities at that position include Christian Kirk, Cedrick Wilson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, D.J. Chark and Jakeem Grant, who has double value as a receiver and returner in case the Jets can’t re-sign Braxton Berrios.
The Jets remain in the market for a tight end. Zach Ertz, O.J. Howard, Evan Engram and C.J. Uzomah would be upgrades.
Defensively, Douglas hasn’t spent much on cornerbacks, but that could and should change this year.
The Jets don’t have a No. 1 shut-down, ball-hawking corner. J.C. Jackson and Stephon Gilmore will command big salaries, but this is where Douglas should be bold and take a shot. If he misses, Tampa Bay corner Carlton Davis is a name to watch.
Douglas also needs an edge rusher as Saleh’s defense is predicated on the front four being disruptive. The Jets have to find someone to put on the other side of Carl Lawson, who got a three-year, $45 million contract last year, but missed the entire season with an Achilles injury. Emmanuel Ogbah and Derek Barnett are options.
At safety the Jets are expected to pursue Marcus Williams. Savvy veteran and leader Tyrann Mathieu and Xavier Woods are candidates also.
"I have to do a better job," Douglas said. "I’ve got to do a better job and make better decisions moving forward."