FLOREHAM PARK, NJ – Five months later, Joe Douglas still remembers that feeling. The New York Jets had just lost their season finale to the Buffalo Bills 27-10 to finish 4-13 – their sixth straight losing season. On the trip home, the general manager tried to remind himself that it was a rebuilding year, and that growing pains were to be expected, but that didn’t relieve the sting.
“I’m tired of having games like this,” Douglas told ESPN, recalling his thoughts from January 9.
By the time they arrived, his mindset had changed for 2022 and beyond.
This is how the Jets’ offseason began, the period when Douglas went from sick to so-and-so.
The Jets used free agency and draft to add eight potential starters, sparking optimism around the team. They’ve been for the better part of a decade, and now find themselves in the unusual position of receiving pats on the back.
In his podcast, NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth taged the Jets as a team to watch, saying, “I just feel like if there’s a team that can jump in this year and surprise everyone…The Jets, maybe they’re that team this year.”
The Jets have a history of turning optimism into despair, but the difference with the 2022 squad is that it was built with young, up-and-coming players as opposed to not-so-popular big-name agents who took the money, became complacent and fell short of expectations. The roster includes seven players drafted in the first round from 2019 to 2022, and they have tied with the New York Giants and the Jacksonville Jaguars for more than a while. Six were chosen by Douglas, the only exception being defensive interference Quinn Williams (2019), who is in talks about a contract to extend.
“We have to develop it and we have to win games, but I feel like things have fallen out of our way in the last couple of years,” Douglas said.
After the 4-13 debacle, hardly a surprise with the number of youngsters on the roster, the front office devised a plan born out of end-of-season meetings with the coaching staff. Douglas called it “the most important meeting” at the offseason. They go through the list, player by player, discussing strengths, weaknesses, and potential growth. Free agents are grouped by priority. A depth chart for 2022 has been drawn up.
Abundant notes were taken during those meetings, and it crystallized into a master plan.
“That conversation, that meeting, really laid out the blueprint for the out-of-season,” Douglas said.
For the most part, planes used free agency to fill in holes in the undistinguished positions, and sign the tight ends. CJ Ozuma And the Tyler ConklinProtect Not Tomlinson and safety Jordan Whitehead. The exception was Cornback DJ Red. There are no household names, but they are all productive players in the 25-t0-30 age group. Tomlinson is the oldest, but 30 isn’t too big for an attacking lineman. He worked in the Pro Bowl last season as an injury substitute.
In the draft, Douglas focused on distinct positions – the corner back Ahmed “Sauce” Gardnerwide future Garrett Wilson and defensive end Jermaine JohnsonThey were all selected in the first round. Douglas said the swap with Johnson, which sparked an emotional celebration in the sitting room, was the highlight of the offseason.
Their choices in the first round were no accident. Douglas has a value system, one in which he prefers to invest his most valuable assets – that is, high drawdowns – in premium positions. He thinks he can fill the rest with bargains in free agency. It may be frustrating to the fan base, who is watching big-name players sign elsewhere, but Douglas isn’t deviating from his plan.
“We didn’t go out and have a big spending spree,” Douglas said. “We weren’t on the sidelines, but we didn’t go out and sign players worth $18, $19, and $20 million a year.”
The Jets spent $90 million in full warranties on free agents, including their own, which ranked fifth, according to overthecap.com. Among the AFC teams, they were far behind the Jaguars ($195 million), Miami Dolphins ($127 million), and Los Angeles Chargers ($124 million).
Douglas faced a difficult decision regarding allocation, namely how to divide the money between attack and defense. He wanted to upgrade his quarterback Zach WilsonThe supporting cast, but he didn’t want to neglect the defense, which ranked 32nd in most major categories.
In the end, it was a divide and conquer approach.
Counting the top four draft picks, Jets awarded 17 contracts worth at least $1.5 million in 2022, totaling $55.3 million — nearly a quarter of the entire maximum. Crimes account for 56% of $55.3 million, and defense 44%.
In other words, Wilson got a much-needed help with Garrett Wilson in the second round Press Halland Uzomah and Conklin, who Douglas thinks could be one of the surprises for the free-client class. The defense, which allowed 504 points to be scored for the franchise, received a boost with Gardner, Johnson, Reed & Co.
“We’re better, I know we’re going is being Coach Robert Saleh said: “Better. We’re young, we’re a year old, we’ve brought in some really great pieces, lots of players who defend the right things, live and breathe football.”
Having invested heavily in offensive line in 2020 and 2021, Douglas has focused on offensive skill players. The NFL is a passing league, averaging just 180 yards per game with Wilson in the middle — embarrassingly low.
Realizing the imperfection, Douglas made a well-known attempt to trade for the future of the stars Trek Hill, whose decision to play for the Dolphins was the low point of the Jets’ offseason. It was a bold attempt that did not bear fruit. They responded by drafting Garrett Wilson, sticking to the organization’s goal of adding dynamic athletes on both sides of the ball.
In doing so, they ignored the offensive line on the first and second days, a gamble calculated due to interference Macy Pictondate of injury Becton, a 2020 first-round pick, has played just eight full games out of 33. It would be ironic to leave Douglas, himself a former college employee, vulnerable up front. This is the biggest dribble in their off-season arrangement.
Former GM Randy Muller, who has worked in the front offices of Dolphins, New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks and now runs Mueller Football Advising Services, is taking a wait-and-see approach at the Jets’ offseason. He’s high on Zach Wilson’s upside – “I don’t really have a doubt about Zach Wilson” – but he’s unsure about the new pieces.
“Building a team on paper is one thing, getting it together is another,” Mueller said. “It’s down to the coaching staff, developing the players and bringing them together. I’m a little apprehensive to say, ‘Hey, this is it.'” “…
“They have to squeeze in the three recruiting picks,” he added, referring to the first round.
Douglas thinks this team is a lot better than the team he flew home with from Buffalo in early January, but he’s not about to throw a party. He knows they are a young team, and there is a lot of work to be done. Four of the top five receivers and backs rider are freshmen and sophomores, and will be fed by the sophomore quarterback. So don’t expect the pain of organizational growth to subside.
And don’t forget the competition.
“Conference is an absolute bear,” said Douglas.
Still, there is a positive vibe about the building, and this should not be underestimated. There was optimism last year as well, mainly due to Saleh’s arrival, but everyone knew there was an acute talent shortage. Now, there is hope.
back CG Mosleywho has been around long enough to know that every team drinks Kool-Aid in the spring, said: “Every year it will be The This year – we all know how it goes – but we’re all looking forward to putting something together and getting the New York Jets back on the map.”