As free agency starts, the New York Jets and GM Mike Maccagnan have another chance to rebuild this franchise. Can he learn from past mistakes?
It’s no secret of the New York Jets history of failure since winning Super Bowl 3. When they entered the NFL at the time of the merger in 1970, they were supposed to be a major player in the new league. That never occurred as they have won the fewest division titles (two) of any of the teams that took part in the merger.
Regimes have come and gone. However, unlike past situations where a general manager and head coach fail in their initial chance, the Jets are trying a different strategy now.
One thing we know is that their past strategies have not worked. The question now remains, can general manager Mike Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles have success in building a consistent winner, something they failed miserably the first time around?
With over $90 million in salary cap room, how the Jets spend their money over the next few days will be a huge sign as to how the offseason will progress. If the Jets have learned anything, it’s that signing NFL veterans (see Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie) to big money deals is not the best way to go.
Unless you are dead to the world, the biggest issue remains if the Jets will reward Kirk Cousins with a record-setting contract. In today’s salary-cap world, signing one player to a contract that will command so much of the salary cap per season will be a tough hurdle to overcome.
On the flip side, however, Cousins’ potential is still a bit unknown. It’s not exactly fair to say he is just a “nice” player. Eli Manning has been “nice” his entire career and has won two Super Bowls. Jim Plunkett was far from “nice” before leading the Raiders to multiple Super Bowl wins.
I think the decision that Maccagnan and company make should be based on more psychological reasons. It’s obvious to me that Cousins can put up good numbers and be a difference maker. Why the Redskins won and lost the games they did had more reasons to do with the overall makeup of the team.
What makes Cousins so valuable is the consistency he has shown over the last three seasons and his age of 30. Both those things make it very valuable for the Jets to finally get a quarterback that can stay healthy first, put up consistent numbers second and still be young enough to lead the team for several years. Cousins also could improve the numbers he has already built around.
However, playing in New York is a tough thing to dissect in a quarterback. Who knows if Cousins has the mental toughness to really understand the depth of frustration he will face from the fans and media.
The rest of the salary cap decisions for the Jets should come down to menial contracts for younger players that are fresh and have not had a chance to consistently prove themselves. More than ever, having quality depth and players who can play multiple positions matter.
Maccagnan and company have already done an excellent job by adding a second-round pick to their arsenal this season. Drafting well is the biggest component in achieving long-term success in the NFL.
While free agency matters, understanding the way in which it matters has a massive impact on if a team succeeds. Handing out long-term contracts to aging players for a quick fix is a mistake a lot of teams make. I can understand how Cousins can be viewed in that regard. However, the quarterback position, especially for a franchise that has never had continued consistency at that position, has the biggest impact of any position in all the four major sports.
Understanding and using the impact of the draft is the only consistent way to develop long-term success. While Jets might be excited about the amount of salary cap space they have, dreaming of a few high-priced free agents coming in would turn into nightmares.
The current Jets regime should already know that from experience. The success Maccagnan had in the 2017 draft should be the biggest reason fans are looking forward to this offseason.