by Jake Brown
Former Jets general manager Idzik is looking worse and worse by the second. That’s the growing sentiment around Jets Nation right now. The new GM in town, Mike Maccagnan, is less than 24 hours into free agency and has already put together a better roster than Idzik did in two seasons.
A team that was lost on and off the field last year suddenly has an identity, and on paper at least, a pretty good one. A defense that had a secondary comprised of guys off the street now looks formidable.
The Jets have reunited with Darrelle Revis, arguably the NFL’s best cornerback. His focus was bringing in the best player possible, regardless of saving money or cap space. And that’s exactly what he did, signing Revis to a five-year, $70 million deal with $39 million fully guaranteed. Prior to that, “Magic Mike” (sorry Channing Tatum) went out and signed a solid number-two CB in former Brown Buster Skrine. Maccagnan gave Skrine a four-year, $25 million contract with $13 million guaranteed. Oh yeah, and as if those two weren’t enough to patch up Gang Green’s biggest hole, the Jets just signed another old buddy in Antonio Cromartie. (That’s the same Cromartie that Idzik refused to give a couple million bucks to stay in New York. Go figure.) The 30-year-old was one of the most underrated cornerbacks in the NFL in Arizona last year. As if that wasn’t enough, Maccagnan just went out and signed former Chargers safety Marcus Gilchrist to a four-year deal. That completes what could turn out to be the NFL’s best secondary.
Dee Milliner, Darrin Walls, Marcus Williams, and Antonio Allen just turned into Revis, Skrine, Cromartie and Gilchrist. BOOM.
But wait, the magic doesn’t end there. Maccagnan made a splash by trading a fifth-round pick to get Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall from the Bears. The Jets upgraded, released Percy Harvin and saved some money in the process. Sure, Marshall, now in his early 30s, isn’t the same receiver, but he gives them a towering red zone target. He also takes pressure off Eric Decker, making him a No. 2 wideout, which is what he should be. All this only costs them $7.5 million, which isn’t a lot to pay. Marshall, Decker and Jeremy Kerley give them a solid 1-2-3 punch at receiver.
The Jets also signed James Carpenter, a former first-round pick, at left guard. They still need to bolster the offensive line a bit, but that can be done in the draft. They’ll also likely add another receiver or two through the draft and maybe a veteran via free agency. They could also use another running back to join Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell. Remember, C.J. Spiller is out there now…
The defense is almost set now. They have a tremendous front seven, led by Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and David Harris, who Maccagnan brought back on a three-year, $21.5 million deal. (That was a move that gets overlooked in this frenzy, but one the team had to make to anchor the middle of that 3-4 defense.) The upgrade at corner will help the safeties, another position that hurt them last season, largely because they were forced into coverage. Calvin Pryor can get back to what he does best – hit guys hard.
There’s still one major question mark, which could alter the Jets’ plans of fighting for an AFC title: quarterback. It’s been the team’s biggest issue for the Jets year after year after year since Vinny Testaverde and Chad Pennington said goodbye. It’s essentially what earned Rex Ryan his pink slip. It’s boosted sales of Advil at MetLife Stadium. And it could be the team’s undoing again in 2015.
Maccagnan traded for Ryan Fitzpatrick to join Geno Smith in what could be a battle between the veteran and the amateur. Jets fans hope that Marcus Mariota falls in their lap with the sixth pick. Rumors have suggested all offseason that Chip Kelly would make a blockbuster deal to move up and get him. But he also came out recently saying that they don’t want to mortgage their future to move up.
That’s the big question for the Jets. Who is the guy behind center? When we look at the best teams around the NFL, they all have capable QBs. Right now, Fitzpatrick would probably get the nod, especially because of his relationship with offensive coordinator Chan Gailey in Buffalo. Fitzpatrick is a nice backup, who can fill in if there’s an injury, but he gets exposed over time. That said, Fitzpatrick continues to get overlooked and somewhat disrespected around the NFL. He finished the 2014 season with 17 touchdowns, eight interceptions and three fumbles in 12 games, with a completion percentage of 63.1. He has 123 TDs and 101 INTs in his career. Those actually aren’t bad numbers at all; there have been far worse. The Texans actually overachieved with their 9-7 record, and Fitzpatrick has better receivers with the Jets.
Geno Smith’s body of work has been nothing short of atrocious. At 24 years old, he’s showed no signs of progress. He actually regressed last year. Sure, he didn’t have a tremendous receiving core, but the number of mistakes the second-year QB made was mind-boggling. His 25 TDs and 34 INTs in two seasons won’t get any team into the playoffs. The Jets underachieved dramatically with a 4-12 record, and most of those early losses fall right on Smith’s shoulders. If they don’t go out and get another QB, “FitzMagic” should manage the offense.
Are the Jets done? Not a chance. They still have around $20 million to spend after these moves. And Maccagnan has proved he isn’t afraid to go spend every penny of it. That’s what Jets fans want. They have seen too much mediocrity, the result of poor spending decisions. The Jets have been New York’s weaker football team recently. The Giants run their organization with class, and have two Super Bowl titles in the last seven years to show for it.
The days of John Idzik – that joke of a GM – are over. Jets fans can get past the last two seasons of embarrassment and start the healing process. The mindset is totally different now. “Magic Mike” is taking chances and stocking the team with Pro Bowl talent. And he’s got a strong young coach in Todd Bowles to make it happen on the field.
While the quarterback position is still a major question mark, the Jets future looks bright because they are doing things right. The team looks like they mean business now. All of their moves this offseason show a singular focus: winning.
Jake Brown is the Program Manager of CBSSportsRadio.com. He hosts Brown and Troupe with former NFL tight end Ben Troupe on CBSLocalSports.com and Play.it. Jake lives in Queens, NY and has lived through being a Mets, Knicks, Jets fan his whole life. Find him at the big game, concert, or in the studio.