The NY Jets made some smart moves so far in free agency but remember to have trust in general manager Mike Maccagnan. He’ll make sure the Jets continue to be contenders in 2016.
Don’t try and guess Maccagnan’s next move. The man now has a track record for pulling rabbits out of hats. Scratching your head over the loss of stud defensive tackle Damon Harrison to the cross-stadium rival New York Giants? Don’t bother. Are you screaming out on Twitter begging the Jets to toss money at guys like Ryan Fitzpatrick and Muhammad Wilkerson? Don’t do that either.
Don’t even be surprised if, with the 20th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Jets select running back Ezekiel Elliott out of Ohio State. Yes, the Jets have three running backs under contract just to kickoff the new league year. If you look up and down the roster, Maccagnan has assembled a depth chart with veterans at most of the starting positions and young guys ready to take over if or when their number is called.
Jan 21, 2015; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets owner Woody Johnson (left) and new general manager Mike Maccagnan (right) speak during a press conference at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: William Perlman/NJ Advance Media for NJ.com via USA TODAY Sports
One of the few positions where this system currently does not exist is at running back. Maccagnan created a similar system at defensive lineman by drafting Leonard Williams, so don’t put it past him to do it this year. The Jets will also sign a veteran quarterback and it will be at a reasonable price. Maccagnan’s apparent plan (not that we can predict this man’s plans) appears to be to construct a roster around the quarterback position in an effort to lure someone in with the realization that they will have more support than they would know what to do with. Who wouldn’t want to play on this offense?
Speaking of offensive weapons – the new three horsemen of running backs are all much more durable than Chris Ivory, and cheaper. Over the course of eight seasons, Matt Forte has missed just eight games. Last year, Forte had nearly 1,300 yards from scrimmage – his lowest total over his career (granted he played just 13 games), while Chris Ivory had a nearly identical total number of yards from scrimmage, albeit most coming via the handoff.
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What Maccagnan is displaying with this move is that he realizes when to not overpay a player.
That’s why fans shouldn’t be surprised if Wilkerson does not get a new contract this offseason and why he absolutely will not overpay for Ryan Fitzpatrick, despite his incredible season (relative to the franchise history at the quarterback position).
It’s why he cut dead weight where he could with Antonio Cromartie, and he put offers in on low-risk, high-reward guys like Zac Sudfeld, Kenbrell Thompkins and Khiry Robinson. It’s why Bilal Powell was signed to a back-loaded contract that puts him at free agency right at that magic age of 30 for running backs.
The beauty of this whole situation is that the Jets have set themselves up to not be buried under contracts for a long period of time. Right now, Maccagnan is swapping potentially toxic contract situations for ones that bear little risk. By 2018, the Jets will be in salary cap heaven. This makes it simple for a general manager.
You build through small contracts and the draft, then have enough room to pay your young players when their rookie contracts are running low. This is also where the “best player available” strategy comes into play. Based on last year’s draft, Maccagnan didn’t draft for needs at present. Moves were made based on the current contracts in play and when people would have to be paid. NFL lifer Charley Casserly has even gone on record to say that last year’s 7th round pick (remember, Damon Harrison went undrafted), Deon Simon, could be the next Harrison:
Casserly on NFL Network says #Jets fans need to look out for 2nd-year NT Deon Simon (a 7th-rounder). "He's Damon Harrison"
— Dennis Waszak Jr. (@DWAZ73) March 9, 2016
This is a name that most fans probably do not recall, and he could be the starting nose tackle on the Jets’ defense. How much is Simon’s salary? A paltry $525K. Maybe this time if the Jets have another Harrison on their hands, they’ll be able to pay him like one.
Same goes for the Sheldon Richardsons, the Calvin Pryors, the Devin Smiths, the Marcus Williamses and the 2016 rookies added to the team. For as much talk that will go on over these next few weeks regarding free agency, Jets fans should not fret. Remember, Maccagnan is a scout by trade. There’s a captain steering this ship in the right direction, even if the fans can’t tell exactly what direction that is.