Are the New York Jets asleep at the wheel?
Concerned fans might be pondering that question because the Jets have remained quiet during this unprecedented, pre-free-agency trading frenzy. It started Super Bowl week with the Alex Smith trade, and it got really crazy last week, led by the aggressive Cleveland Browns.
All told, there have been 11 trades involving 13 teams, 13 players and a lot of draft picks. Some of the players who changed teams could have helped the Jets, namely Smith and cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. General manager Mike Maccagnan, never shy about making trades (see: Brandon Marshall and Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2015, and Jermaine Kearse and a draft pick for Sheldon Richardson in 2017), decided to sit out “Let’s Make a Deal” week.
A certain segment of the fan base probably is ready to panic because, well, that’s part of the Jets fans’ DNA.
My advice: Chill out, and let’s see what happens over the next week or so. Let’s see how Mike Maccagnan’s offseason plan unfolds before we start with the Twitter rage.
The plan is obvious. Of the three primary ways to improve a roster in the offseason — trades, free agency and draft — the Jets are putting their eggs in the latter two baskets. The reasons for that aren’t hard to figure out.
With a league-high $90 million in cap room, they have the money to buy free agents. “Straight cash, homie,” as Randy Moss would say. The Jets also have eight draft picks, including five in the top 107, making this their most front-loaded draft since 2006.
Maccagnan wants to preserve his draft capital because, if he doesn’t sign free agent Kirk Cousins, he might need those picks to trade up for a quarterback. He also needs his picks to, you know, plug holes in the roster. If he starts dealing away draft picks for short-term solutions, the Jets will be repeating their mistakes from 2012 to 2014 that got them into this mess: barren drafts that forced an over-reliance on free agency.
Sure, it’s exciting to have $90 million in cap room, but no team wants to be in this position too often because it underscores a lack of talent on the roster. Ideally, Maccagnan would like to accumulate extra draft picks, but the Jets don’t have any assets to trade. The last good bargaining chip was Richardson, who brought back a second-round pick — a terrific return, considering what some recently traded players fetched.
Oh, sure, the Jets have a few young players with movable contracts who would draw interest — Leonard Williams, Marcus Maye and Darron Lee — but the Jets see them as part of the foundation. (I didn’t mention Jamal Adams because his contract includes too much guaranteed money to trade.) Robby Anderson would have some trade value if it weren’t for his legal issues.
Right now, the Jets’ top assets are the sixth pick in the draft and their war chest of cap room. Although it might have been tempting to pursue Peters or Talib, this wild and crazy trade market doesn’t suit them. That explains the lack of activity. But that’s about to change.
The “legal tampering” period begins at noon Monday, and free agency starts at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
“Obviously, we’ll be very active on the first day in terms of the higher profile guys,” Maccagnan said at the scouting combine. “I think the one thing I’ve noticed in the NFL this year or in the past years, I should say, is free agency moves very quickly. If you have guys targeted and you have your range how you value them, we’ll be very active.
“We may sign a big-ticket guy, we may sign a small-ticket guy. It’ll will be very interesting to see how it plays out.”
It’s time to wake up.