Continuing on Buster Skrine’s thoughts that the Jets cannot rebuild in New York, here is how Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles have approached the team since 2015.
The unfortunate reality of no rebuilding meant that both men have had to walk a thin tightrope. It was obvious to anyone the Jets had severe talent deficiencies in 2015 coming off a 4-12 season. Even worse the core talent on the team was aging. The Jets once again tried to have their cake and eat it too – except in this case they were forced to.
John Idzik’s austerity measures forced Maccagnan to meet certain spending requirements under the CBA. He added Skrine, Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Marcus Gilchrist in what was dubbed a spending spree. When looking beneath the surface however, those deals were mostly smoke & mirrors. The Jets could escape mostly painless after two seasons: Gilchrist has minimal guarantees, Cromartie was a one-year deal, Revis had most of his money upfront and was cut with a $6 million cap hit that has offset language and the team decided to keep Skrine longer by converting his salary for cap relief last season.
All of the additions the Jets had made, in 2015 and in 2016 (trading for Ryan Clady and signing Matt Forte) were short term moves. As Greg Bedard of SI.com put it, they were temporary fixes, band-aids to cover up talent deficiencies. They were designed to mask that the team would need multiple drafts to fix years of bad drafting.
The players cut this offseason were always designed to be cut in the 2017 offseason. The guarantees were expiring for Nick Mangold, Brandon Marshall & Ryan Clady as well as the contracts for the aforementioned players. No one that was signed was done so at the expense of the long-term health of the salary cap or the draft.
As for the veteran acquisitions via trade, in essence Mac has traded away the equivalent of three 6th round picks- what is typically expected to result in a rotational or special teams player – for Marshall (got Marshall and a 7th for a 5th) , Fitzpatrick (conditional pick maxed at 6th) and Clady (got Clady and a 7th for a 5th). Those moves are not sacrificing the long term health of a franchise. Forbes broke down that a 6th rounder will likely result in a starter 5% of the time and over an 80 game career would only start 2% of them.
After two seasons of drafting, the team is expecting their young players to take on bigger roles. How have they done? (Compare against the ’09-’14 picks)
- 2015: Leonard Williams, Devin Smith, Lorenzo Mauldin, Bryce Petty, Jarvis Harrison, Deon Simon
- 2016: Darron Lee, Christian Hackenberg, Jordan Jenkins, Juston Burris, Brandon Shell, Lachlan Edwards, Charone Peake
Jarvis Harrison is the only failure, but for a 5th round pick, which likely results in a starter 6.4% of the time, that is tolerable. Williams and Lee were immediate starters, so those are pluses. Smith and Hackenberg are unknowns, they get an incomplete grade but their time is this season. Mauldin and Jenkins have played well in limited roles and can become valuable role players. Petty, Simon, Burris, Shell, Edwards and Peake all show degrees of promise – far better than many of the previous years late round picks.
Mac has hit one home run in Williams and has a lot of high floor players in the rest of his choices. Overall this can be called a pretty good strategy for a team in need of multiple talented players. They just needed time to develop.
Again, Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles have made some mistakes, but ultimately it comes down to the players on the field. Unfortunately, when the wheels fell off because integral players regressed (Fitzpatrick and Revis), turnover margin flipped (+6 in 2015 vs -20 in 2016) and veteran players mentally checked out when the expectations of playoffs were dashed, the lack of talent was exposed again.
The biggest point of difference will be the play of the QB. If the Jets find their ever elusive QB, who can minimize turnovers, they have enough talent to play closer to their 2015 record. If Hackenberg or Petty proves they can keep the job in camp, the team will be far better off.
In summary, the cuts that were made and the acquisitions were all part of the plan set forth when both men were hired. They aren’t rebuilding now, they’re halfway there. It has been far from perfect in their two years, but it has been better than what the Jets were dealing with in the prior six years. If the Jets continue to draft at least as well as they have for two seasons, they will be flying high again.