Mike Maccagnan tapping the CFL for talent
By Paul Newbold
When it comes to finding new talent for the New York Jets, general manager Mike Maccagnan is tapping into the CFL for hopeful prospects ready to push the envelope in their new opportunity.
General manager Mike Maccagnan is on a talent search, and he’s proven he’ll look everywhere to find talent to improve the roster of the New York Jets. In the past two years, Maccagnan has turned to the Canadian Football League in search of talent. As a result, the Jets currently have three former CFL players that will be attempting to break onto the final roster this summer. In fact, the team signed two of those players in the past several months. Let’s take a look at what he might have found to improve the Jets.
Freddie Bishop came to the Jets last season from the Calgary Stampeders. He’s listed as a 6’3″/255-pound outside linebacker. Bishop played his collegiate football at Western Michigan, before being taken by the Detroit Lions as an undrafted free agent following the 2013 NFL Draft. After being cut by the Lions, Bishop signed in Calgary and saw significant playing time in his second season.
Bishop appeared in thirty games over three years for the Stampeders, posting 17 sacks, with 11 sacks coming in his final season before being released to sign with the Jets. Bishop impressed the Jets coaching staff during camp last season but spent significant time on the team’s practice squad in 2016. He did appear in four games for the Jets in 2016, posting nine tackles, two run stops and a pass defense to his credit.
Bishop will be back for another go at the Jets roster this summer. His chances of making the team may be slim, however. His time in the forty yard dash is listed as 4.88 seconds, hardly NFL speed for an outside linebacker. He played along the defensive line at times for the Stampeders, but the Jets have a talented group up front currently. It is possible, that he could find a role for himself as a special teamer, and possibly work into a rotation, but he’ll need to show development if he hopes to stay around.
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During this year’s offseason, Maccagnan turned to the CFL once again. On January 13th, the team announced they had signed Frank Beltre to a future/reserve contract. Beltre went undrafted following the 2013 NFL draft and was subsequently signed by the San Diego Chargers. In 2014, he spent time with the Oakland Raiders before moving on to play for the Calgary Stampeders alongside Bishop.
Beltre comes to the Jets as a 6’2″/246-pound linebacker. In three years with Calgary, Beltre played along the defensive line and as a special teams contributor. During his time with Calgary, he’s credited with two sacks, a forced fumble, a pass defense, 25 tackles and six special teams tackles. While Beltre may be a long shot to make the Jets roster this year, he will bring competition to camp. It’s a low risk signing, with little investment on the Jets part.
Finally, Maccagnan turned to the CFL this past week to sign cornerback John Ojo. Ojo played his college ball at Florida A&M. He tried out for the Seattle Seahawks following the 2014 NFL Draft, but never signed an NFL contract. Failing to find a team in the NFL, Ojo signed with the Edmonton Eskimos.
Ojo played for the Eskimos during their Grey Cup victory in 2015. He missed the entire 2016 season with an Achilles tendon tear, but is reportedly healthy and ready for the challenge this summer with the Jets. He’s listed as a 6’3″/205-pound cornerback. In his only season with the Eskimos, Ojo played a major role in their secondary, intercepting five passes and returning them for a total of 81 yards. One of those picks he took 57 yards for his only touchdown. Along with his interceptions he was credited with four pass defenses, a fumble recovery and 43 tackles.
Joining a beleagured Jets secondary, Ojo has a legitimate opportunity to make the final roster this summer. Of course, he’ll need to adjust to the NFL game, and may not ever become a starter, but he’s talented enough to offer the team depth at the position. If he can show he’s healthy and can contribute on special teams, Maccagnan may have found a diamond in the rough.
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Turning to the CFL for talent is nothing new to in the NFL, but in recent years it appears to be a growing trend. Maccagnan has joined the trend, and with any luck, his signings will have an impact at camp this summer. Here’s hoping.