Jets general manager Joe Douglas made a promise to Sam Darnold’s parents the first time he met them last summer, and he intends to keep it.
Douglas told the Darnolds he will make sure their son has a strong line in front of him and plenty of weapons at his disposal. He has done some work to that end, but he knows he has more to do.
“That’s our focus — doing everything we can to help Sam succeed,” Douglas said during a conference call Wednesday afternoon. “The one thing that we didn’t want, we just didn’t want a situation where Sam was just going to be under fire at all times with protection issues.
"When I first met his parents at the first preseason game, I promised that I was going to do everything in my power to take care of Sam with protection and playmakers. We still have a lot to do in both those regards moving forward.”
Douglas was very busy through the first two waves of free agency, trying to shore up an offensive line that sprung so many leaks last year. Douglas reached deals with five offensive linemen — George Fant, Alex Lewis, Connor McGovern, Long Island’s Greg Van Roten and Josh Andrews.
Douglas said he’s not done, but he likes the versatility and flexibility that group creates.
He pointed to Fant’s athleticism and lateral quickness and said he can play both tackle spots as well as line up as tight end, as he did with Seattle. Douglas said Lewis “brings that element of toughness and a nasty mentality that every good offensive line needs.” He said Van Roten can play both guard spots and McGovern can play center and guard.
“We’ve done our best to attack some of the issues that we’ve had in the past,” Douglas said. “I think there’s a real shortage of quality offensive linemen in the National Football League. We’re going to do our best to get as many quality ones as we can. You can never have too many. We’re going to try and keep it simple with guys that are smart, tough and versatile. We’re going to keep addressing that moving forward.”
He also made it sound as if right guard Brian Winters will be back. He was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury, and with his salary not guaranteed for 2020, Winters was viewed as a candidate to be waived.
“We love his competitiveness, his toughness,” Douglas said. “We should have a really good competition for our starting offensive line.”
Douglas said his plan in free agency was “strategic and disciplined” and that he likes the outcome. But there are holes that still exist, including at backup running back behind Le’Veon Bell and the receiving corps.
“We’re going to keep addressing playmakers moving forward,” Douglas said.
He said they did “their due diligence” when DeAndre Hopkins and Stefon Diggs became available in trades. They lost Robby Anderson to Carolina as he signed a two-year, $20 million contract. Douglas acted quickly and signed former Ravens first-round pick Breshad Perriman to a one-year deal with $6 million guaranteed. Douglas scouted Perriman for the Ravens.
Perriman has bounced around the NFL, and the Jets are his fourth team in five years. But he has shown flashes, particularly at the end of last season. He caught 20 passes for 419 yards and five touchdowns in the Buccaneers' final four games.
“I’m happy for Robby that he was able to get the money he got,” Douglas said. “But also equally excited about the opportunity to get Breshad in here . . . He has a unique size-and-speed combo. His career trajectory was different than most first- rounders. Really excited about his speed, his ability to take the top off the defense. I feel like he can come in here and make an impact and he’ll be able to develop a chemistry with Sam moving forward.”
The Jets' other receivers are Jamison Crowder, Vyncint Smith, Josh Doctson and Braxton Berrios. Douglas is expected to add more weapons, whether it be in free agency or through the draft. The Jets will pick 11th and have four selections in the top 80.
“We’re going to look at multiple positions through the rest of free agency and the draft,” Douglas said. “If there’s an opportunity for us to upgrade, I think we have the flexibility to do it.”