Robert Saleh, NY Jets, Head Coach, 2022, 2021
Robert Saleh, New York Jets, Getty Images

If the New York Jets fall short in their pursuit of a receiver, the current progress should not be forgotten

The 2021 NFL offseason was easy for the New York Jets, whose activities were guaranteed to be rewarded with a passing grade. The preceding two-win campaign sank the franchise to depths so low that anything short of contraction of the franchise would’ve been a step in the right direction – and even some of the more masochistic fans of Gang Green probably wouldn’t have fully ruled out the possibility, at the very least.

Assessing this ongoing offseason will require some overtime. It came after another year that featured only marginal improvement by conventional means (doubling the prior year’s win total only produced four victories) but nuggets of hope were buried in the carnage, not least of which was the late stabilizing of new franchise quarterback Zach Wilson‘s NFL infancy.

No quarterback is an island, so it was up to the Jets to make sure the right assets were acquired to continue the revolution.

The NFL’s most trusted insiders have hinted that the Jets are still trying to make big moves as the ink dries on last month’s free agency contracts. With Las Vegas’ draft still two-plus weeks away, gossip fuels this rare lull on the football calendar, one in which baseball’s return and postseasons on the basketball/hockey circuits struggle to make up for the pigskin’s absence.

The Tennessee Titans have done everything in their power to quell rumors around A.J. Brown but whispers around the fates of D.K. Metcalf and Deebo Samuel have reached deafening levels.

So desperate are we, the football-loving public, for content that Samuel’s Instagram cleanse of all things Bay Area has been designated headline news, even with the hit-or-miss nature of social media purges actually yielding any lasting developments.

Such chaos is music to the ears of the Jets and their supporters. Lacking a four-digit yardage receiver is unacceptable in the aerial-friendly antics of the modern NFL, but it has been the Jets’ reality since 2016.

New York is also simultaneously blessed and cursed with a wealth of draft day assets (four podium trips over Sin City’s opening 38) and a hint of desperation where both general manager Joe Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh could potentially be fighting for their jobs.

The Jets’ record since Douglas took over in the summer of 2019 is by no means entirely the fault of Douglas and Saleh, but the trends could frown upon them. The 13-36 mark over the last three years is third-worst in the NFL (besting only Detroit and Jacksonville) while the sophomore Saleh’s relative brevity is no failsafe, as nine NFL coaches (including his predecessor Adam Gase) have been fired before the completion of their third season over the past four years.

Adding an established big-play threat would not only provide further stability for the Wilson era, but even insert the team at the cusp of the AFC playoff picture, whose frame has denied the Jets for over a decade.

Of course, when one takes the green gridiron oath, they go to it under the assumption of disappointment. But in a time where even climbing to the “in the hunt” column on the networks’ NFL postseason chart is a challenge, the star-crossed franchise needs something, anything, to assure its fanbase that there’s a plan to make things right.

Alas, that’s where the Jets’ past comes to haunt them. It’s easy to blame our football-loving society that deems the simplest green error comedy gold, but it’s hard to truly fault big-play receivers, particularly ones who are seeking greener pastures to chase the Lombardi Trophies, for exploring options beyond Florham Park.

The Jets’ pursuit became a little more painful when newly minted Miami Dolphin Tyreek Hill not only escaped from their grip but rhetorically asked “who?” when queried about how close he came to donning green instead of aquamarine.

Mike Sando of The Athletic described the Jets as being in a “weird purgatory”, one lacking “a selling point to players right now” after Wilson’s roller-coaster rookie year.

Thus begs the question: if these latest rumors fall through, what can be said about the 2022 Jets’ roster?

Asking anyone from the draft class, save for maybe the incoming fourth overall choice, to partake in the team’s quest for visible progress (namely in the standings table) is placing unnecessary pressure on a new name. The amateur comedians will no doubt use the Jets’ potential failure for further fodder, and games featuring the names in question could be the Jets’ best chance at getting a nationally televised game (why else would the country eagerly anticipate a modern Jets-Dolphins game?).

But even if no further help is on its way, it’s hard to quarrel with what the Jets have done and the experienced team they’ve assembled to date.

New York Jets, Mock Draft Simulator, Offseason Tool, Jets X-Factor, Deebo Samuel

Watering the postseason drought was, unfortunately, probably a never-realistic endgame of the Jets’ offseason. Crashing the AFC’s postseason party, packed with established contenders (this was a conference where a Los Angeles Chargers team averaging over four touchdowns a game missed the expanded playoffs, after all), would’ve required a massive spending spree, perhaps even a full-on team swap with one of the division winners, to assure any form of contention this fall.

Despite that, the Jets have accomplished modest, yet undoubtedly important, goals. They’ve undoubtedly gotten better by every metric that can be accurately assessed without watching a single down. Hill’s denial, as well as any future rejections from his high-yarage brethren, could also become a blessing in disguise in the sense that a future cap-crippling extension won’t follow.

On paper, many assets made their way to the metropolitan area. Wilson got back one of his favorite targets in Braxton Berrios (rectifying the relative sin of separating Robby Anderson from Sam Darnold) as well as a reliable veteran rusher in Tevin Coleman, a rare New Yorker who has partaken in a recent Super Bowl. Speaking of Super Bowls, the Jets brought in one of its most recent competitors, C.J. Uzomah, to start at tight end. Another, Laken Tomlinson, is set to block in the interior.

The influx of veteran talent to surround Wilson has been a perfect counter to the youthful revolt on defense, though the other side still managed to find some delightful presents under the offseason tree in the form of D.J. Reed and Jordan Whitehead (who will each likely have starting roles in the secondary) while Jacob Martin and Solomon Thomas have been added for experienced depth.

Even in the most ideal of offseason circumstances, one would have to be a dire fan and/or observer to detest what the Jets have done.

There’s always room for improvement, especially in New York. The Jets, frankly, shouldn’t rule themselves out of any move that can make their team better until they’re safely situated back in the AFC playoff bracket, the move that will officially signal their return to NFL relevancy.

But the Jets’ current progress shouldn’t be forgotten if rejection looms. What they’ve done could serve as a sizable, stable building block in turning Florham Park into a football destination.

Big-ticket free agents might avoid the New York area for a perceived lack of championship opportunities. One step more from the Jets and that excuse will lose further merit.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

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Geoff Magliocchetti is a veteran football writer with years of credentialed experience with the Jets and Giants. Email: geoffmags90@gmail.com
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ncjetsfan
ncjetsfan
5 months ago

Excellent article. The Jets have made progress this offseason. True to his word, JD has been aggressive in trying to add a veteran WR. He expressed interest in Ridley, in Cooper, in Adams, and in Hill, until it became clear that Ridley would be suspended, the Cowboys wouldn’t allow the Jets to negotiate with Cooper on a new contract, that Adams only wanted to play for the Raiders, and Hill wanted to go to Miami. He still has interest in Metcalf, and Samuels, and if the opportunity to trade for one of them at a rational, reasonable cost presents itself, I’m certain that he will. The problem is that many Jets fans have become irrational. They have forgotten what abysmal shape this roster was in when JD took over, and they have unrealistic expectations. They expect him to make a crazy, trade-the-ranch-type deal for a big name WR, and the Jets cannot afford that. They still have too many holes and too little depth. For most of the last 22 years, the Jets have been a joke, a clown show. That image isn’t going to be erased overnight. The Jets truly may have to build through the draft and become winners on their own before they become a desirable destination for elite free agents. It’s not what any of us wants to hear, but we may have to be patient for another year or two. If Zach breaks out this year, shows why the Jets drafted him at #2, and proves that he is a rising start in the NFL, that will change things. It will help them start winning more games and will make others sit up and take notice. If Lawson, Becton, Moore, and Davis can stay healthy and live up to their promise this season, it will pay huge dividends and will help the team become a winner and playoff conteder. There is reason for hope. If JD has another excellent draft in a few weeks, and there’s no reason to think he won’t, and if Zach is the talented QB I believe he is, this team will be on the cusp of becoming a playoff team. I am excited for the future of the Jets.

Jets71
Jets71
5 months ago

Let’s quell a few rumors before they fester into fact, like that “butt fumble” that was really the OL getting knocking into the QB, that has become more mythical than the Trojan Horse. Watch the replay with the commentary and you’ll see what I mean. Hill’s comment “who” to any observer with a brain, and no lust for sensationalist journalism, was clearly a question because he actaully didn’t hear what the reporter asked. No surprise that ESPNquirer has run with it along with the minions on the Jets’ beat who can’t resist infantile stories. As for the football, and this is a matter of opinion of course, neither Douglas or Saleh is even CLOSE to the chopping block. You can look at Joe’s record blah, blah, blah but the reality is that he started a new job last year, when they gave him total control, got him out from under the poisionous partnership with Gase and said:”Joe go run the team.” I know fans and media types don’t like it but this is Joe’s second year on the job through that lens. His first draft class looks pretty good, his recent free agent moves look to be prudent, the salary cap is in order, the draft capital is there, and there are no obnoxious contracts limiting their options for the next year or two. This by NFL standards is a job well done by any GM, let alone a GM who came into one of the most disasterous and toxic teams in sports history, so we can all tap the brakes on the “seat getting warmer” headlines. Right now it’s ice cold, now if they aren’t making a playoff run by the end of the 2023 season we can talk about it. Another year of patience is required, that goes for the Jets’ beat too. The team is improving, we all knew it was a long road.

Jimjets
Jimjets
5 months ago
Reply to  Jets71

I’m a big fan of JD and love his approach and patience. To say his first draft, however, looks pretty good is looking through jet green glasses. If Becton busts the draft is a borderline disaster but I do think Gase shares blame. If Zach hits his second draft is a franchise altering masterpiece. He HAS to nail this one – these first four players have to be stars to immediate impact players on day one.

Jets71
Jets71
5 months ago
Reply to  Jimjets

I’m counting last year as “his” first draft. Gase had say given they were 50/50 and they were colaborating on players that would fit in Gase’s system. Based on that, I’m giving Joe a pass on that draft. Yes Zach is key but AVT, E. Moore, AVT, Echols, all look like they can be “pretty good” pros, if not better and, if Zach hits that’s a killer draft. My point is, looking through the lens that he was basically given a new job last year I’m counting last year as year one being the top dog running the show.

Jimjets
Jimjets
5 months ago
Reply to  Jets71

Oh I like that way of looking at it. And I also think JD knew from day one to be successful he had to lose Gase. Ashtyn Davis? Zuniga? James #^%+! Morgan?

ncjetsfan
ncjetsfan
5 months ago
Reply to  Jimjets

I think the poster to whom you are responding is referring to last year’s draft as his first draft, since he referred to this being JD’s second year as the Jets’ GM through the lens of when he was given complete control of the team. I think his true first draft was made with the input of Gase and his staff and what they wanted. It’s clear that JD works closely with the HC and his staff so that they are on the same page. JD didn’t know that Gase was going to be fired, and he wasn’t going to create tension between the two by ignoring Gase’s wants and picking entirely different players in that draft. Thus, I think much, if not most of the blame for that first draft goes on Gase and his staff.

Jonathan Richter
Jonathan Richter
5 months ago
Reply to  Jets71

This is how I look at tit as well. Trying to please Gase, who probably more than anyone was responsible for his hiring, hampered JDs 2020 draft. To be fair though, i think the turnaround was more the intense preparedness of Saleh and his team. I really think they are driving the draft bus.

I don’t get the headline though. Why would this be as good as it gets? We improved the team immensely in last year’s draft, and our draft assets this year are twice as good. I fully expect 4-5 more starters to come out of this draft, and then JD will go back tot eh Fa market and sign a few more guys to plug roster holes for a year.

And as for having a “four-digit receiver”, the Tennessee Titans went 12-5 and grabbed the #1 seed in the AFC without having a single 1000-yd receiver. In fact, AJ Brown was the only receiver over 500 yards.

ncjetsfan
ncjetsfan
5 months ago

I agree that the Headline or Title of the article is probably not the best. I think what the author meant is that if the Jets aren’t successful in being able to trade for a topnotch veteran WR, that the draft and whom they already have, will be “as good as it gets,” i.e., they won’t get the immediate boost that a proven stud WR could give them.

ncjetsfan
ncjetsfan
5 months ago
Reply to  Jets71

Overall a good response, and I especially with your comments regarding JD, but have a slight disagreement with you on Hill’s response and the “butt fumble.” Yes, in Hill’s initial response, he was asking “Who” because he didn’t hear who the team was, but then he did make a comment that could be taken as being slightly derogatory towards the Jets. Still, I agree with you that many in the fanbase and media overblew that comment, and made it something it wasn’t, especially the initial reporter who edited Hill’s response. I don’t think the author was continuing that attitude of making too big a deal of it, but rather, in being thorough and looking at the issue from all sides, had to mention it, as the Jets have not been a destination where elite FAs have wanted to sign since the days of Parcells and maybe a year or two under Bowles.

Regarding the “butt fumble,” you are correct that the OL was knocked backwards, but imo it was also a matter of Sanchez’ being reckless/careless with the ball, and not paying attention. He was not a particularly astute, aware, or instinctive QB. He made other similar mistakes with the Jets, and was never the answer at QB for the Jets. I agree that ESPN and the media overblew it and used it to make fun of the Jets, but ifthe Jets hadn’t been a circus under Rex, they wouldn’t have been able to do that. Rex was largely responsible for all of that with his brashness, promising a SB his rookie season as HC, getting a tatoo of Sanchez, having other men fondle his wife’s feet, his lack of discipline, and inability to get the team to play at a high level on a consistent basis. Rex created the fertile ground which enabled the media and fans of the other teams to make fun of the Jets. He could have easily shut them up, but didn’t.