Although Joe Douglas has yet to make a big splash for the New York Jets in free agency, he’s giving the offense the attention it needs.
The New York Jets are attacking 2020 free agency with a completely different approach this year. In 2019, then-general manager Mike Maccagnan landed the big fish of free agency—Le’Veon Bell.
This offseason, GM Joe Douglas is avoiding the big splash, but adding depth to the position that needs it most. Filling the holes on the roster is far from complete, but it’s easy to see Douglas’ plan.
Slow and steady wins the race.
Jets fans have watched a lackluster offensive line fail to protect Sam Darnold for the last two seasons. Again, the Jets missed out on the splashy names like Jack Conklin, Joe Thuney, and Graham Glasgow, but they still made improvements on the line.
The Jets’ most high-profile signing on the line—Connor McGovern—brings experience and steadiness to the center position. Re-signing Alex Lewis and picking up Greg Van Roten help solidify the interior around McGovern. Lewis needs to bounce back after a disappointing 2019, but Van Roten is a solid starter and an obvious improvement to the group.
Signing George Fant to protect Darnold’s blind side is a risk, but if the Jets take one of the highly-touted tackles in the first round, that’ll add some more beef to the line. It’s impossible to fix the offensive line in one offseason.
Sure, it would have been nice to see the Jets land a guy like Conklin or Glasgow, but this line needs more than one or two-high priced guys. Look for Douglas to continue his reconstruction of the offensive line in the draft with a tackle in the first round and possibly an interior lineman to add depth in the later rounds.
If the Jets don’t go with an offensive lineman, they could wind up with one of the dominant wide receivers in this year’s class—Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, or CeeDee Lamb.
The Jets could use another weapon for Darnold, but it’s worth noting that Robby Anderson is still on the free-agent market. New York could swoop in and bring back the speedy deep threat on a short-term deal.
Line and receiver are the two positions that can help Darnold the most.
Defense still needs help
But the offense isn’t the only area where the Jets need significant improvements. Cornerback and edge rusher are two position groups in significant disrepair.
In terms of fixing the cornerback spot, the Jets are bringing back Brian Poole and Arthur Maulet. Poole was one of the better slot corners in the NFL in 2019 and Maulet showed flashes in defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ scheme last year as well. New York cut bait with Trumaine Johnson and Darryl Roberts.
As it stands, the Jets still need serious help at corner, but having two All-Pro caliber safeties in Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye can help mitigate the weakness of the cornerback unit. Moreover, Adams’ pass-rushing ability can help provide support to an uninspiring group of edge rushers.
But Adams won’t hide all of the blemishes on New York’s defense. Douglas might have to be more creative to fix those holes. A trade for Yannick Ngakoue is still a possibility and Jadeveon Clowney is still mulling over his options in free agency.
Although some of the holes on defense are concerning, revamping the offense around Darnold was priority No. 1 coming into the offseason. Williams’ scheme and Adams’ brilliance can mitigate some of the defense’s shortcomings. Moreover, if linebackers C.J. Mosley and Avery Williamson are healthy in 2020, the defense should be fine.
Some Jets fans might be disheartened by this year’s free agency thus far. Douglas hasn’t made the big splash and the positions that needed complete overhauls still could use some help.
There’s still much work to be done this offseason, but Douglas is clearly working towards a long-term solution rather than a quick fix.