The free agency nightmare has to end at some point, right?
Free agency is meant to be an exciting and optimistic time for NFL fans. And for most of them, it is.
Free agency is where a team can add a player that puts them above, like the Bucs did with Tom Brady two years ago. Last year was where the Bengals found several key contributors who helped propel them from the bottom up to the brink of a championship.
When the free agent trading window opens on Monday, fans across the country will see the chips start to fall and will dream of a brighter future. And New York Jets fans will too, because we’ve all seen how quickly things can change in this league when things are going well this time of year.
But their excitement is also sure to be mixed with trepidation, because if free agency has shown us anything over the past decade, it’s that the Jets don’t need to play football to give a boost. devastating punch to their fans.
The Jets have been so bad in free agency since their last postseason trip after the 2010 season that it’s almost hard to fathom.
Go ahead, try making a list of the top 10 free agent signings they’ve made since that trip to the AFC Championship Game. I defy you.
First, you will struggle to come up with 10 names. And if you can get to 10, you’ll end up arguing over whether guys like Morris Claiborne, Avery Williamson and James Carpenter make the cut. It’s not a blow for them – they were reliable players who earned the respect of Jets fans with their solid play – but if you have several average starters in the league making your list of top 10 free agents for decade, things obviously did not go as planned. .
And despite all the talk of the Jets’ poor draft record in recent years, they’ve been just as bad in free agency and it’s been just as damaging to the quality of their football team.
We all know the big duds: Trumaine Johnson was supposed to be the corner of containment they needed, but it was a nightmare on and off the pitch; Le’Veon Bell was signed to be the perfect safety cover/utility weapon for Sam Darnold, but after a year away from football, Bell moved like someone who had been out for five years. CJ Mosley missed three games in his career before signing with the Jets in 2019, and he didn’t play his first full game with the team until 2021.
The Jets aren’t alone with their big misses. It’s a risk that comes with free will and it happens to all teams. But most teams can overcome that because they sign a player who exceeds expectations. Well, unless you’re the Jets, who since that last playoff trip have only signed two players in free agency who went to the Pro Bowl with them: running back LaRon Landry in 2012 and running back corner Darrelle Revis in 2015.
It’s hard to build a team when you’re missing top guys and can’t uncover unexpected talent. And of course, it’s no coincidence that the Jets haven’t made the playoffs for five years longer than the team with the next-longest playoff drought.
It’s been a problem long before general manager Joe Douglas arrived, but his free agency record isn’t exactly encouraging. He added some nice pieces, including offensive linemen Connor McGovern and George Fant. But a lot of it has been more frustration.
Adding Ryan Kalil out of retirement to be center during training camp in 2019 worked as badly as it could. And most of his best free agents from last year had their seasons sabotaged by injury – including defensive end Carl Lawson (Achilles) and wide receiver Corey Davis (core muscle surgery).
But there are encouraging signs about how Douglas and coach Robert Saleh have built the roster in their year and more together. While a lot of the guys the Jets brought in last year didn’t contribute on the field the way they wanted, they were still players who matched their on-field schema and team identity in the locker room.
It makes you feel better that Douglas won’t reach a player like Johnson or Bell, who clearly weren’t good picks for the Jets on or off the field. Douglas at this stage has also refused to give a contract which could damage the Jets’ financial situation in the long term – mainly opting for three-year agreements which give the team the option of leaving the player in the third year without any penalty of ceiling. Douglas is therefore very unlikely to go on a spending spree this offseason that hurts the team’s chances for years to come, but if they don’t show improvement in 2022, Douglas’ job could be over. in play. Could that make him a little freer with the expenses this offseason?
It could happen, especially given the pressure on Douglas to progress into his third full offseason as general manager. Many of the Jets’ young players took advantage of their opportunity to play last season, giving them key experience as they try to build on it. And they’re heading into the league’s top five in cap space next week, and they have nine picks in the April draft, including four of the top 38.
The Jets are clearly aiming for 2023 as the end of their rebuilding and the start – they hope – of playing well enough to contest the playoffs. But there’s no reason they shouldn’t be better next year – the pressure is certainly on Douglas to do so as he enters his third full offseason. But for that to happen, they’ll have to get it here and surround Zach Wilson with the weapons and support he needs to have a chance in a breakout second season, and fix the defense so they don’t not always play from behind. .
And maybe the only thing the Jets have on their side is that it’s a numbers game at this point. Sooner or later, even if it’s an accident, one of these signatures will have to go right. It sounds silly, but any team that wins a championship will tell you that they enjoyed good fortune. And the Jets, by anyone’s guess, have been waiting for this for a long time.
Andy Vasquez is the Jets Beats author for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to all Jets analytics, news, deals and more, please sign up today and download our app.