There are plenty of reasons to believe that Mike Maccagnan has learned lessons from the past few free agency cycles and finally has pieced together a New York Jets team that not only is a playoff contender but might be ready for sustained success. Right now, the Jets general manager is one of the clear-cut winners of free agency.
Three years ago, Maccagnan made splashes in free agency, using the savings from his predecessor to go big with a trade for Brandon Marshall and bringing back marquee names such as Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. It worked, for one year at least, with the Jets going 10-6 and playing meaningful football in Week 17.
The next year it came crashing down, a year that was supposed to be a return to the playoffs ending with another high draft pick. Not only were they losing, but the Jets were in a tight spot when it came to the salary cap with lots of guaranteed money on the books the past two seasons.
Simply put, the Jets had boxed themselves into a tight cap situation. It was presumed that 2016 would be an improvement on the year before. When it fell flat, the Jets had to go through a painful rebuilding season.
Maccagnan spent last year getting ready for this offseason. Gone were the big name contracts as the Jets went through a youth movement. They cleared $90 million in cap space, ushering in an era where they could certainly spend plenty.
But Maccagnan didn’t chase the big names in free agency. He let the likes of Sammy Watkins go, taking his bloated contract to the Kansas City Chiefs. Big names began to fall off the board on Tuesday as the Jets sat quietly.
#JetsTwitter wasn’t so quiet, mocking their general manager. The same moves that got the Jets into this rebuild were the moves that Jets fans now wanted the team to replicate. Spend big on stars, they yelled in 140 characters or whatever the limit Twitter allows these days. Their anger ignored the fact that the same philosophy they wanted got them into this mess.
Instead of going big, the Jets general manager has gone for some value. Yes, the Jets went after quarterback Kirk Cousins, the biggest prize in free agency but they lost out. Other big names went elsewhere. But the Jets didn’t up the ante and inflate deals just to land names to appease their fanbase.
Instead, they stuck to the gameplan. Maccagnan didn’t want just one or two big names it appears. He wanted balance on both sides of the ball.
So yes, the Jets are bringing back quarterback Josh McCown and bringing in Teddy Bridgewater. Trumaine Johnson as the cornerback that head coach Todd Bowles needs for his defense, so too is the addition of Isaiah Crowell to pair in the backfield with Bilal Powell.
They aren’t big names. They aren’t splashes. They won’t suddenly sell a slew of PSLs. But they are collectively the type of moves that win games.
The Jets became a far better team on Mar. 14 than they were in Week 1 of last year and that is what counts. All the moaning and complaining on #JetsTwitter as the team was quiet while other teams overpaid and spent big in free agency means nothing. The Jets got better, plain and simple.
Winning the headlines in the offseason means nothing if it doesn’t translate to moves on the field.
What the Jets have done so far in free agency is address needs. They got better as a team while sticking to salary cap discipline. This team needs money down the road to retain the likes of Leonard Williams and Jamal Adams.
They have that flexibility now and can still chase more free agent additions, proven commodities to add to this team.
Did the Jets sell posters and jerseys this week with any big name signings? Likely not yet. But, they as a team got a whole lot better and that is all that should matter.
So when #JetsTwitter is tweeting about being in the #NFLPlayoffs in nine months, perhaps the angst of this week will all be worth it.