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NY Jets can seal near-perfect free agency period on Monday

Mike Williams
Mike Williams

Joe Douglas has a chance to complete a dream free agency period

The past week has been a rocky ride in the world of New York Jets football. There were long periods of dormancy that caused unrest amongst the fanbase. Then there were savvy pickups that instantly restored faith in the team’s vision – followed by more periods of dormancy in which intriguing players went off the board for prices the Jets seemingly should have been willing to pay, thus causing more hysteria. And so the cycle continued throughout a five-day period defined by constant Twitter refreshing.

But after a week filled with drama, Joe Douglas and the Jets have given themselves an opportunity to complete a near-perfect free agency period.

New York Jets Live Free Agency Tracker

Friday night’s signing of Tyron Smith represented the “splash” that New York simply had to make in order to affirm its all-in mentality. All of their chips are pushed into the middle of the table for a 40-year-old quarterback coming off an Achilles injury. In this predicament, if the Jets are serious about competing for a Super Bowl in the high-octane AFC, they had to make at least one significant ceiling-raising addition to the offense. Smith represented that move.

And he might not be the only one.

When the Jets signed Smith, it felt as if they had made their sole splash signing of the offseason and would focus on the middle tiers of the market to fill their other holes – particularly at wide receiver, where the Jets still have not made any additions. But this new version of Joe Douglas – a desperate one who will probably be shown the door if the 2024 season is a failure – remains on the prowl for another big score.

Former Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams is visiting with the Jets on Monday.

If the Jets can somehow nab both Smith and Williams, they will have completed a near-perfect offseason.

Smith was the highest-ceiling offensive lineman available in free agency. When healthy, he is arguably the best pass protecting left tackle in the NFL. Having him on Aaron Rodgers’ blind side raises the Jets offensive line’s ceiling from good to elite.

As for Williams, he would provide the high-end WR2 next to Garrett Wilson that fans have long yearned for. With Wilson and Williams on the outside, the Jets would have a WR duo that can go toe-to-toe with any in the league. Wilson could finally get a chance to cook without being constantly doubled.

The Jets have a chance to secure a big-ticket addition at both of their top two positions of need – something that did not seem plausible going into the offseason. Due to their lack of resources, it felt as if the Jets had to choose one position to host the offseason’s lone billboard-gracing acquisition. Splurge on an elite lineman and take the economical route at wide receiver, or vice versa? It was difficult to concoct a realistic offseason plan that included splashes at both positions.

However, things changed when Douglas managed to fill out two of the offensive line spots in a surprisingly cost-effective fashion. He added John Simpson ($6M per year over two years) and Morgan Moses ($5.5M for one year) for only $11.5 million in combined AAV. The details aren’t out yet, but Simpson’s 2024 cap hit is probably even lower than $6 million, meaning Douglas got two starters for somewhere around $10 million in cap space.

This opened up the possibility for New York to add two big-time players if they wanted to. It would simply require a few more cap-maneuvering moves.

The Jets already made one of those moves by signing C.J. Mosley to a new contract that extends their team captain into 2025 and opens up $14 million in immediate cap space. There are still more restructuring possibilities available with players like D.J. Reed, Quinnen Williams, and John Franklin-Myers, while the Jets can open more space by trading Zach Wilson and Allen Lazard.

Altogether, the Jets have given themselves an opportunity to land both an elite offensive lineman and a high-end WR2. It’s a dream position for the team to be in.

Williams was not viewed as a realistic option going into free agency. He remained under contract with the Chargers, and while he was considered a trade candidate, his massive contract made him an unappealing target to attain. However, the Chargers released Williams shortly before the official start of the league year on Wednesday, making him a free agent.

Williams is just as good if not better than most of the household names that Jets fans were fixated on before Williams entered the ring. Compare his per-game stats over the past three seasons (2021-23) to some of the other popular trade or free agent targets that were being discussed going into free agency:

  • Mike Williams (32 games): 4.9 receptions, 71.6 yards, 0.44 touchdowns (Per 17 games: 84 receptions, 1,217 yards, 7 touchdowns)
  • Mike Evans (48 games): 4.8 receptions, 71.1 yards, 0.69 touchdowns (Per 17 games: 81 receptions, 1,209 yards, 12 touchdowns)
  • Tee Higgins (42 games): 4.5 receptions, 66.1 yards, 0.43 touchdowns (Per 17 games: 77 receptions, 1,124 yards, 7 touchdowns)
  • Diontae Johnson (46 games): 5.3 receptions, 60.0 yards, 0.28 touchdowns (Per 17 games: 90 receptions, 1,020 yards, 5 touchdowns)
  • Calvin Ridley (22 games): 4.9 receptions, 59.0 yards, 0.45 touchdowns (Per 17 games: 83 receptions, 1,002 yards, 8 touchdowns)
  • Jerry Jeudy (41 games): 3.9 receptions, 53.6 yards, 0.20 touchdowns (Per 17 games: 66 receptions, 911 yards, 3 touchdowns)
  • Courtland Sutton (48 games): 3.8 receptions, 49.5 yards, 0.29 touchdowns (Per 17 games: 64 receptions, 842 yards, 5 touchdowns)

Mike-Williams-NY-Jets-Stats-Rumors

Outside of Mike Evans (who only has Williams beat in touchdowns), Williams significantly clears all of these players in terms of his overall box-score production. When you toss in the value of his 6-foot-4, 218-pound frame being the perfect complement to the quickness and route running of Wilson, it can be argued he is a better option for the Jets than any of these players outside of Evans.

The main concern with Williams is his recovery from an ACL tear that he suffered in Week 3. However, he had a solid injury track record before the ACL tear; he was averaging 15 games per season over the previous five years. There is an overblown narrative that Williams is injury-prone. Yes, his recovery from that injury is a very real concern as he approaches 30 years old in October, but he’s had plenty of time to recover as the injury was early in the season. It also gives the Jets a unique opportunity to grab him at a bargain while his value is down.

It would undoubtedly be quite nerve-wracking for the Jets’ offense to rely on both Smith and Williams next year. That is a risk the Jets will have to take, though. If Smith were an iron man, he’d currently be in Dallas after signing a record-breaking contract. If Williams hadn’t torn his ACL last year, he’d probably still be a Charger.

Their durability concerns are why they’re available. For an all-in Jets team that is trying to maximize a short-term window, they should be all over these high-ceiling/low-floor moves. The Jets have already sacrificed their future by making tons of contract restructures, trading future draft picks, and investing in an ancient quarterback. It’s about winning a Super Bowl right now for the Jets, so the goal is to raise the ceiling as high as possible even if it means accepting a lower floor.

Let’s be clear: Joe Douglas has not been good enough in his Jets tenure. That’s inarguable. He had four full offseasons with the team and was unable to build a single 8+ win team. Simple as that.

Yes, he’s made some good moves and shown flashes of having a vision. And yes, injuries are largely to blame for the Jets’ failures. Regardless, after four seasons, you are who you are. That’s far too much time for any excuses to justify a 20-47 record.

But for one reason or another, Douglas is still here, and the Jets are counting on him to make the most of this final opportunity. The 2024 offseason is a chance for Douglas to atone for his past mistakes and give the Jets a legitimate chance to compete for a Super Bowl this season.

Despite all of Douglas’ past follies, the Jets do have a chance to be a legitimate contender in 2024 with the core pieces they have in place. They have a Hall-of-Fame quarterback, young stars at wide receiver and running back, and an elite defense that is loaded with stars. If nothing else, he has built a championship nucleus.

Last offseason, Douglas did not do enough to surround that nucleus with the right pieces to facilitate a Super Bowl run. He’s not making the same mistake again. Less than a week into the new league year, Douglas has added three new offensive line starters – one of those being a superstar when healthy – and signed a high-end backup quarterback. This is already lightyears beyond the effort that was put into improving the offense last year.

And if he can top off with Mike Williams in addition to all of that? Then you have to give him and the Jets all the credit in the world.

I’ve been extremely critical of this Jets regime over the past six months. Even over the past week, I tore Douglas and Robert Saleh apart for their overpay of Javon Kinlaw.

Douglas and Saleh have made their fair share of mistakes. But now, they are one move away from completing a free agency period that could hardly be more ideal for what the Jets needed. Grab Mike Williams, and the Jets’ Super Bowl aspirations will return in full force. Except this time around, it won’t be solely because of Aaron Rodgers. It will be because the Jets have built a complete football team.

The offseason will not be a failure if Williams signs elsewhere. The Jets can still land on their feet by signing multiple solid role players at wide receiver, such as Corey Davis, Tyler Boyd, Odell Beckham Jr., or Josh Reynolds. In that case, it would still be a nice offseason.

If they can land Williams, though, this offseason will be a certified home run. The Jets will have squashed concerns about their apparent complacency and their beholdenness to Rodgers, sending a message that they are indeed serious about doing whatever it takes to win a Super Bowl this year.

Tomorrow is a big day for the New York Jets.

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Jim G
Jim G
2 months ago

Please re-read your first paragraph. You said some version of the same analysis in 2023. And in 2022. And again in 2021. And in 2020 and 2019.

Each year fan base lament grows as free agency opens, only to give rise to the reverse: unlimited euphoria as the Jets sign a few free agents and win yet another off-season.

Peter Buell
Peter Buell
2 months ago

Michael, I disagree with your assessment of JD.
Yes! he’s had 4 Yeats but most of the moves last season were dictates by Woody (Rodgers) and Rodgers…5 stiffs including himself since he didn’t play.
He came here with Jamaal Adams and Sam Darnold as the teams two top players…pretty sad but he turned those 2 into two #1s, #2, 3 and 5..helping the super draft that included trades up and down getting Sauce, Garrett, Breece, JJ and others yet tbd.
I never like when another team has the final interview but given the way he has played the offseason so far..imo…Williams isn’t leaving Jet Drive without a signature on a deal.
Now if he wants to get me giddy he can pull off trades for Lazzard and Zack.

saxmanjb
saxmanjb
2 months ago

And what about Monday/Williams yes, but also Clowney on Tuesday!! If both, WOW!

Jets71
Jets71
2 months ago

You say Douglas is desperate, and also say he made cost effective moves on the OL. I don’t think anything Douglas has done this off-season has been out of desperation, including the Smith contract. The two don’t mix.

I also think the record doesn’t exist in a vacuum, “you are what you are” is close minded thinking, context matters. Context is given to all the managers/coaches/GM’s/players we like and “context” doesn’t matter when people aren’t happy. You hammer Douglas’ record, which I understand is a convenient “bottom line” , and you can certainly bash his inability to build an offensive line but the bottom line isn’t comprised ONLY the things about the team we as fans don’t like.

In response to “for one reason or another, Douglas is still here” the answer is….this roster is FAR better than the one he inherited. That’s not debatable, and that’s why he’s here. That’s the bottom line, and that’s why “you are what your record says you are” is a nice sound clip for players, coaches, and GM’s, but isn’t reality.

If Rogers doesn’t go down last year they win more than 7 games, are at min in the hunt for a playoff spot, maybe get one, and we are all talking about how if the OL wasn’t the most injured OL in the league it would have been a better season. Context matters.

pat brady
pat brady
2 months ago

To be fair, all records are not the same. He came into the worst roster in the NFL and was working with an awful coaching staff that he inherited. Even before this off season, the roster was pretty good so whoever would have come in was going to inherit a pretty good roster of talent.

He missed badly on the QB but the bigger mistake in my opinion was taking a kid that was as raw as Wilson was and acting like he was a plug and play QB. The plan should have been to have him surrounded by veterans and let him sit and watch for a full year.

In the end, Douglass is still better than just about any GM I can remember going back to the Walt Michaels days. He’s made some mistakes on the OL which is ironic but at LEAST he knows the importance of the OL. The Jets went a full decade after taking Mangold and Ferguson in the 1st round before they took an OL in the 1st round. It was so long that both of those guys were retired by the time they spent another 1st round pick. I think it was a decade since they had spent a 2nd round pick (who can forget the immortal Vlad Ducasse?).

Jets71
Jets71
2 months ago
Reply to  pat brady

I see we were thinking the same thing at that same time…haha. You’re opening statement is spot on…”All records are not the same.” I like the GM and the coach, I do think they have vision, and if you fire them then who are you bringing in? You’re back to the roulette table. These are first time guys, there are growing pains. Everybody loves Mike Vrabel, he had 6 season in Tenn, took over a playoff team and basically choked away the best record in the conference and did nothing with them. He’s got a slightly above .500 winning percentage and people consider him a good coach, shocked he hasn’t been hired. Context matters…..but nobody here would consider giving Saleh 6 seasons.

Last edited 2 months ago by Jets71
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