PHOENIX – Like most NFL teams, the Jets went into this offseason with a shopping list. Theirs was obviously a little different than others’ given their unqiue needs, the number of items they already had in stock like a young franchise quarterback, and their big budget when it came to salary cap space. But that’s not a surprise. Every franchise thinks they have a plan.
The difference for the Jets? Theirs worked.
Even general manager Mike Maccagnan seemed a little surprised by that when he spoke to reporters at the NFL’s league meetings on Monday, addressing the Jets’ activities from the past month publicly for the first time. In the landscape of pro football where unexpected activities usually set most roadmaps awry, the Jets punched their destination into Waze and achieved an NFL rarity.
They arrived at their destination.
“It was actually kind of an exciting offseason for us in terms of free agency,” Maccagnan said. “We had a plan in place. It actually worked out. I think we got a lot of the guys we were hoping to get and we feel good about some of the players we got.”
The two headliners in that haul, of course, are running back Le’Veon Bell and linebacker C.J. Mosley. In fact, they’ve been the buzz of these meetings. Maccagnan said those are the two additions that most teams have spoken to him about in Phoenix.
Maccagnan said the Jets started doing background work on Bell last season when it looked as if the Steelers might be interested in trading the season-long holdout. That never happened, but when Bell hit free agency earlier this month the Jets already had a fairly full book on him.
“He was a guy who we felt definitely could bring a lot of things to the table,” Maccagnan said. “Having him with our offense, with our other young players, especially with Sam, we feel he’s a very good piece for the coaches to work with…From our standpoint he has the potential to be a very impactful player in how he will be utilized.”
There may not have been as many suitors for Bell as some anticipated. The Jets wound up signing him to a four-year, $52 million deal.
“We felt good about the player and we felt good about the contract,” Maccagnan said.
He said the same about the big defensive addition in Mosley, who was added on a five-year, $85 million deal.
“A lot of people were surprised when he did get out there [to free agency],” Maccagnan said. “We knew going into it we had to be very aggressive. Like a lot of situations, with where he came from [with the Ravens], if you are going to be equal he may have just stayed where he was. I think we were very aggressive but we feel very good about it.”
None of which is to say the Jets got everything they set out to add. They did lose edge rusher Anthony Barr after reaching a verbal agreement with him just before the official start to free agency when he decided to return to the Vikings. They have a surplus at inside linebacker, and though Maccagnan refused to speculate on trading Darron Lee, his future with the Jets seems tenuous. Maccagnan said there are still holes on the roster he wants to address, either through the later waves of free agency or in the draft.
But for late March, and just two weeks into the league year, the Jets are in a pretty good spot.
“It’s interesting when you have an offseason where you sort of target certain guys and you actually get them,” Maccagnan said. “We’re kind of excited to see how those guys perform…We feel we’re making progress.”
Notes & quotes: Maccagnan reiterated what he said at the NFL Combine, that the Jets are “very open” to trading back from the third overall pick in the upcoming draft. “We’d definitely be interested if another team came with an offer that we felt would be worthy of moving out of that spot,” he said. He added that he’s had “conversations” with other general managers at these meetings, but “nobody is actively trying to do anything at this point” … Maccagnan said nothing the Jets did in free agency “changed dramatically how we’ll focus on the draft” if they stay at No. 3. Even if the Jets had landed Barr as an edge rusher, he said, the Jets would still likely be looking at pass rushers and defensive linemen at the top of the first round . . . The Jets have re-signed outside linebacker Brandon Copeland and tight end Neal Sterling, the team announced Monday.