Mike Maccagnan is everything that John Idzik wasn’t during his two years as general manager of the New York Jets. And that very thing can be said about Maccagnan because he was willing to be bold this offseason in free agency, a series of moves which now allowed him to be equally bold in the NFL Draft.
The Jets landed USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams with the sixth overall pick in Thursday night’s first round of the NFL Draft. Considered the best player in the draft by many, Williams joins a Jets defensive front that already was among the best in the league. That the rich got richer is a testament to Maccagnan, who put the Jets on solid footing head into this three-day draft.
He was able to go big because there was no need he had to fill, no overwhelming issue on this team that could be addressed with the sixth pick. And that is because he took care of business in the weeks before, rebuilding this team in just one offseason.
Perhaps, finally, the demons that have trailed this franchise for four decades are finally being exorcised.
This offseason was an undeniable success for the Jets and for their first-year general manager. He signed the top two cornerbacks on the market, bring back perennial Pro Bowl players Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie back to the team in moves that addressed the roster’s most glaring deficiencies. There was also the trade for Brandon Marshall, who immediately bolstered a receiving corp that was lacking star talent.
All this and plenty of other savvy moves by Maccagnan meant that outside of the quarterback position – which the Jets couldn’t address in the first round without moving up – that the team came into the draft looking to get better. They didn’t have to draft for need because there wasn’t a vortex on the roster that had to be taken care of.
They just had to take the best player available. So while Williams doesn’t fit a need or address some massive hole on the roster, he makes the defense and the pass rush perhaps the most feared in the league. It creates a severe match-up for any offensive coordinator, something that can’t be ignored.
And it immediately helps an offense that, while much improved on paper is still rather average. The Jets should create turnovers and be forcing punts, all of which takes pressure off the offense. If coordinator Chan Gailey can manage games and limit turnovers, then watch this defense fly and create havoc.
It is playing to a strength and it might just work well enough to get the Jets back into the playoffs sooner rather than later.
Here is the genius of Maccagnan, who didn’t bluff his was through free agency like his predecessor who ended up heading into last season with a roster deficient in terms of talent. This isn’t to pile on Idzik, who in large part lost his job due to his failings last offseason in both free agency and the draft. But it is to say that Maccagnan has vision and personality and isn’t afraid to roll the dice.
He did so in free agency, spending and utilizing the cap space he inherited which set him up on Thursday night to take a player he didn’t need but a player who will nonetheless help transform this franchise.
If Williams can live up to half his hype, then the Jets have a front line that will be more fearsome than the New York Sack Exchange. They will harass and sack quarterbacks and limit the run game. It is the perfect pick for head coach Todd Bowles, also in his first year with the Jets, and his blitz-happy defense.
It is making a strength of this team even stronger as the Jets have decided to make their identity be their pass rush. Something Idzik, who at times seemed to happy to play possum rather than make deals, was unable or unwilling to do.
It is a reward of sorts for the Jets and for a franchise where things rarely go right. Now a team that went big this offseason in free agency had the chance to do the same thing on Thursday night and they finally got it right.