The sad reality of the ones that got away from the Jets
By Bobby Kirschenbaum
The New York Jets once again are on the outside looking in. The sad reality in the grand scheme of things is that they let so many great players get away.
As New York Jets players and fans sat in their homes these past few weekends, watching the top teams battle in the 2017 NFL Playoffs, certain no-names became sudden-stars as they made big plays and helped their teams advance in the postseason. Of course, Tom Brady continued his dominance and is back in the Super Bowl. And Matt Ryan continued his MVP-caliber season as he dominated the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers en route to his first Super Bowl appearance.
But some of the younger guys who went undrafted or overlooked in the offseason have been key components to their teams’ success. It’s these players that are the most important in the offseason yet the Jets’ management constantly makes the same mistakes and looks for the big name. Maybe the Jets could continue watching these playoffs and learn that the smaller pieces play a much more crucial role towards major success.
It is a given that Brady can make any player great. He has rarely had a top-tier wide receiver on his team, but the Patriots’ management knows just which guys would mesh with Brady and for the right cost. One such player who has hit headlines with his phenomenal play this season has been wide receiver, Chris Hogan.
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Hogan went undrafted after playing lacrosse in college and only one year of football. He was then signed by the Buffalo Bills, played one season and was dropped. But Bill Belichick saw potential, jumped at the opportunity and signed Hogan. And he has been Bradys’ go-to guy this postseason, especially after tight end Rob Gronkowski‘s season-ending back injury.
In the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game, Hogan hauled in nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns. Hogan’s base salary is just $1M this season, with a $4.5M roster bonus. While the Jets went out shopping past talent on the decline, such as running back Matt Forte, they should seek the sleeper playmakers, such as Hogan.
The other side of this year’s Super Bowl features the Atlanta Falcons, a team who is filled with young talent for the right price. Wide receiver Taylor Gabriel is one of the fastest guys in the league, has incredible hands and eyes for the ball and only makes $500K per year currently. Additionally, although a little bit more costly, the Falcons went out and signed wide receiver Mohamed Sanu after he didn’t resign with the Cincinnati Bengals for around $8M per year.
With a top receiver in the league in Julio Jones getting double-teamed often, it forces guys like Sanu and Gabriel to step up and they certainly have. The Jets did not even make any major wide receiver additions last offseason, which ultimately harmed their passing percentage and abilities on the offensive end.
In order for a team to make the playoffs, they have to have these type of guys, the ones who give a “bang for the buck.” The Jets constantly shop for the big name players which leave no additional money for playmakers and this is certainly an additional reason as to why the team hasn’t made the playoffs in six years and hasn’t been to a Super Bowl since they won it 48 years ago. The Green Bay Packers, another top team in the NFC, signed Jared Cook last year, who was huge for them in the run to the NFC Championship. The Steelers signed Eli Rogers after he went undrafted in 2015, who was dynamic for the Steelers with Antonio Brown getting shadowed and Martavis Bryant‘s season being suspended due to drugs.
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This offseason, while the Jets management will most probably look immediately for the Pro Bowl caliber guys like Kirk Cousins and Alshon Jeffery, they need to start watching the up-and-coming, team-first, low price players. Names that pop out at me immediately are guys like Jordan Cameron, Andre Holmes, Stephon Gilmore and Dexter McCluster. These guys are cheap, high-upside and can only benefit a team that lacks any sort of tight end, special teams returner or slot receiver, with Eric Decker out. We’ll have to wait and see what general manager Mike Maccagnan does, after just barely maintaining his job, but it would be wise to sit back, watch this year’s Super Bowl and think about how the Jets can once again be back on that stage.