Despite some teams still playing football, it’s another long offseason for Jets fans, watching their team miss out on the postseason for an NFL-worst eleventh straight year. And while I don’t enjoy watching New York lose every year, I do take solace in the offseason process, as it’s the only time where expectations are allowed to be high for this team.
So what if the organization hasn’t won a divisional game since 2019, or beaten the Patriots since 2015? The Jets boast two top-10 draft picks, five selections in the top 68 and the fifth most cap space heading into free agency. Quarterback Zach Wilson showed flashes of his No. 2 overall potential and hopes to make that historical second-year jump in 2022.
Sophomore success might not happen. In fact, based on past precedent it likely won’t happen. Fan expectations for quarterbacks haven’t worked out in the Meadowlands since the Mark Sanchez era, and even that is pushing it. There’s an organizational issue that has taken the team 11 years and four head coaches to rebuild the program, and they’re still not done.
Meanwhile, you can look within the division to the Patriots, who needed to “rebuild” after one seven-win season with Cam Newton and already have found themselves back in the playoffs. The Jets have reached seven wins once since 2016.
The Bills have had no problem taking their young quarterback Josh Allen, who needed some accuracy help coming out of college, to two straight division titles. The Dolphins are still trending upwards despite firing Head Coach Brian Flores, as they have seen two straight winning seasons. It has to be New York’s turn to get things going, right?
Jets GM Joe Douglas needs to have a solid offseason. This past year, he had a great draft, nabbing the potential quarterback of the future in Wilson, while adding offensive cornerstones like guard Alijah Vera-Tucker and wideout Elijah Moore. Running back Michael Carter looks legit, and corners Brandin Echols and Michael Carter II have shown flashes of their potential. Bringing in guys like Quincy Williams and Corey Davis helped the organization as well.
While that offseason was a step in the right direction, the 2020 draft class did Douglas no favors. The only major contributor out of that class was fifth round corner Bryce Hall, as first round offensive tackle Mehki Becton couldn’t stay on the field for more than five minutes at a time. It is imperative that Douglas takes these two wildly different offseasons and learns from them both.
At the top of the draft board this year, there are a ton of different options for New York. There’s no consensus No. 1 yet, and it will be interesting to see who will fall to the fourth and tenth picks. Some of the team’s biggest needs – corner, edge rusher, offensive line and wide receiver – are plentiful at the top.
If for some reason the top two guys on PFF’s Big Board, edge rushers Aidan Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux, fall to the fourth pick, the Jets should pounce on that opportunity. Besides that, they’ve been linked to a couple defensive backs, corner Derek Stingley Jr. and safety Kyle Hamilton. For a team that allowed the second best passer rating in the league to opposing quarterbacks, any of these defensive options would be great. Stingley is an intriguing option, but his injury history, combined with the Jets having the most cap dollars on injured reserve for two years in a row, makes him more of a risky pick.
At the tenth pick, anything can happen. Expect them to hit one of those already listed top four needs, or even trade down for other picks.
In free agency, while attempting to fill those major holes, there’s one position that needs a fresh face: tight end. Did you know that during Super Wild Card Weekend, four out of the six winning squads scored with their tight ends? Hell, Travis Kelce even had a passing touchdown. The only teams that didn’t were the 49ers, who have All-Pro George Kittle, and the Rams, who threw the ball just 17 times in their blowout win over the Cardinals.
On the flip side, the Jets rarely use their tight ends, with the combo of Tyler Kroft and Ryan Griffin racking up just three touchdowns and 434 receiving yards. They should pursue either the Cowboys’ Dalton Schultz or the Dolphins’ Mike Gesicki, both solid receiving options that have a knack for finding the end zone. What a weapon either one of these guys could be for the budding Wilson.
While it’s almost guaranteed that New York won’t be Super Bowl ready by this time next year, this offseason is going to be crucial for Douglas. He has plenty of opportunity to improve upon the current squad and at this point, that’s all Jets fans can ask for. There are a lot of holes in the boat, but there’s plenty of Flex Seal. It’s on Douglas to channel his inner Phil Swift and patch things up.