With the New York Jets not having a busy offseason, it led to some harsh words from one ESPN Writer.
Barnwell gave the Jets a “D” in his AFC East offseason grades on ESPN.com, which was the lowest grade in the division (the Miami Dolphins received a “D+” grade, barely beating Gang Green).
The only thing Barnwell believes the Jets did well this offseason was something they didn’t do: Cave in to Ryan Fitzpatrick’s demands. Barnwell applauded the Jets for refusing to raise their offer to the obviously inflated market value.
“As badly as the Jets need a quarterback (and we’ll get to that in a minute), it was never going to be a good idea to give a journeyman like Fitzpatrick an eight-figure salary after a career year at 33,” Barnwell said.
It’s tough to disagree with him on this topic.
Yes, Fitzpatrick shattered a Jets single-season record with 31 touchdowns, but Fitzpatrick’s value is also quite dependent on his weapons, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, as well as his offensive coordinator, Chan Gailey.
The Jets will likely have to improve their offer slightly, but it’s tough to say Fitzpatrick will top that career year in New York next season, let alone anywhere else.
That was the only positive Barnwell listed in his analysis of New York’s offseason. He observed the New York’s glaring void at quarterback and wasn’t a fan of drafting Christian Hackenberg in the second round.
“Christian Hackenberg is the exact sort of quarterback who teams overrate: a passer with prototypical size and arm strength who struggled with accuracy in college,” Barnwell opined.
Barnwell also mentioned New York’s failure to solve the Muhammad Wilkerson quandary after slapping the franchise tag on him earlier in the offseason. He added that it’s hard to imagine Wilkerson returning to New York after the 2016 season.
Maccagnan struck out badly in the Wilkerson situation.
He was unable to trade him for fair compensation and will likely lose him to free agency next season. The Jets will likely get a 2017 compensatory pick, but that won’t merit Wilkerson’s value as one of the best 3-4 defensive ends in the league.
The Jets are also hamstrung financially because of Wilkerson’s $15.7 million cap hit on the books this season.
The Wilkerson and Fitzpatrick situations are somewhat tied together and the Jets failed to resolve both of them.
Barnwell’s final critique regarded spending what little cap room Maccagnan had on running backs Matt Forte and Bilal Powell.
Barnwell credits Maccagnan for letting Chris Ivory go to Jacksonville, but is fearful Forte’s performance won’t merit the three-year, $12 million contract he earned during free agency.
After having an incredibly cheap, but productive backfield tandem last season, Maccagnan splurged on Forte and Powell.
Forte has a lot of tread on his tires and at 30 years old probably won’t be the same player he was for the Chicago Bears.
Powell is a solid complementary piece and was a major factor in New York’s offense toward the end of last season, but he is also somewhat injury prone and has similar traits to the new tailback in town.
Spending more than $23 million on running backs in an evolving league that throws the ball more than ever may seem hasty. The good news is both tailbacks are capable receivers.
If Forte can perform at a similar level in the first year or two of his deal, the $12 million will look like a bargain. That could be a big if, however, especially at the running back position.
It’s been a difficult offseason for the Jets and Maccagnan and there are still many unanswered questions. Amazingly, it all came right after Maccagnan’s 2015 spending spree that helped the Jets win 10 games and reach the doorstep of the playoffs.
But that’s simply the way the parity-filled NFL ebbs and flows: Jubilance at one moment, gloom soon after.