A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:
1. Bo$$ Jet: CEO Christopher Johnson, who speaks to the media three or four times a year, is expected to sit down with reporters at the NFL owners meetings, which begin Sunday in Phoenix. The Jets are having a historic offseason in terms of spending, so he undoubtedly will be asked if his expectations have risen as much as the payroll. In previous years, Johnson downplayed those questions, never once issuing a playoff mandate for his coach and general manager. It’ll be fascinating to see how he answers because …
He. Just. Spent. $122 million.
We’re talking real dollars, not fluff money on the back end of contracts. The $122 million is the total amount of guaranteed money at signing, which, based on the league’s funding rule, must be deposited by the team into an escrow account. Actually, it’s probably a few million higher because that number doesn’t include the most recent deals, all of which were relatively small.
Know this: When a sports owner invests this kind of money in his roster, he expects results … now! That rebuilding narrative? It’s over. This, of course, means the pressure is on general manager Mike Maccagnan, the architect of this free-agent class. If the Jets end their eight-year playoff drought, he’s a mastermind. If they suffer a fourth straight losing season — all on his watch, by the way — he could be out of a job.
Without question, Maccagnan has improved the team in several areas, but there’s still plenty of work to be done. On paper, this is not a playoff team — not yet. If he crushes the draft, maybe. The point is, his rear end is on the line because Johnson, beneath that calm and affable demeanor, is a frustrated boss who wants a big-time return on his investment.
The Jets have set a spending record, according to ESPN Stats & Information, which uses total guarantees (as opposed to full guarantees) for its offseason calculations. Using the ESPN method, the Jets are up to $137 million, by far the most of any team since the current collective bargaining agreement went into effect in 2011. (Again, this doesn’t include the most recent signings.) The previous high was the 2016 New York Giants ($107 million). The Giants went to the playoffs that season, then crashed and haven’t recovered.
These numbers might pale in comparison to Mike Trout’s new contract with the Angels, but it’s serious coin in the football world.
Jets’ 2019 Free-Agent Acquisitions
|Player||Deal (YRS/Total)||Cap||Total Gtd||Full Gtd|
|C.J. Mosley, LB||5/$85.0||$13.0||$51.0||$43.0|
|Le’Veon Bell, RB||4/$52.2||$8.5||$35.0||$27.0|
|Jamison Crowder, WR||3/$28.5||$6.8||$17.0||$17.0|
|Henry Anderson, DE||3/$25.2||$7.3||$17.0||$17.0|
|Darryl Roberts, CB||3/$18.0||$4.5||$6.5||$4.0|
|Joshua Bellamy, WR||2/$5.0||$1.8||$2.8||$2.8|
|Jonotthan Harrison, C||2/$5.0||$2.8||$2.5||$2.5|
|Brian Poole, CB||1/$3.5||$3.5||$2.0||$2.0|
|Steve McLendon, DT||1/$2.8||$2.5||$1.6||$1.6|
|Chandler Catanzaro, K||1/$2.3||$2.3||$600K||$600K|
|Brent Qvale, OL||1/$1.4||$1.4||$550K||$550K|
|Trevor Siemian, QB||1/$2.0||$2.0||$1.0||$1.0|
|Notes: Contracts not available include G Tom Compton, TE Daniel Brown, LB Neville Hewitt
and TE Eric Tomlinson;
Dollar amounts are in millions.
2. The Big M: Players hit the free-agent market for a reason — injury, declining skill, bad scheme fit, etc. Elite players rarely make it. The smart shoppers are able to differentiate between a player on the decline and a one-year aberration. What I like about the Jets’ offseason haul is they have added three proven talents who should be highly motivated to rebound from down years.
Jamison Crowder: Playing for the Washington Redskins, he finished with career lows in receptions (29) and yards (388) because he missed seven games with a badly sprained ankle. Crowder said he’s healthy and excited about coach Adam Gase’s offense because of how it utilizes slot receivers.
Kelechi Osemele: The veteran left guard wasn’t a free-agent addition — he came via trade — but he will have a chip on his shoulder after a disappointing season with the Oakland Raiders. He blamed nagging injuries. He also let his weight get too high and he probably needed a change of scenery. He was one of the league’s best interior linemen in 2016, and he wants to be that guy again. “I’ve got to stay healthy this season and play at the Pro Bowl level I usually played,” said Osemele, who is down to 307 — a 25-pound drop from his 2018 listed weight.
Le’Veon Bell: People who know the All-Pro running back say he’ll be determined to prove the doubters wrong. He sat out an entire season because of a contract dispute with the Pittsburgh Steelers, raising questions about his motivation. “I think he’s a very hard worker and he’ll have a chip on his shoulder — and he’s very talented,” former Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley told ESPN. Describing Bell’s work ethic, Haley said Bell frequently sat outside his office door, studying tape on his computer tablet while he waited for the offensive meeting to start.
3. A trade in the works? The approach in free agency has me convinced the Jets are very interested in moving down in the draft, hoping to accumulate extra picks and/or players. Think about it: The big-money players are gone, off the market, and they still have needs at center, cornerback and outside linebacker. The Jets are telling people they can live with center Jonotthan Harrison and cornerback Darryl Roberts as starters, but I’m not buying that. They’re borderline starters. Outside linebacker? There’s a gaping hole opposite Jordan Jenkins.
I think Maccagnan would love to bolster those positions in the draft, and it’ll be tough to do with only six picks, including only one in the top 68. If a quarterback-needy team comes calling, looking to trade up to No. 3 overall, the Jets will be all ears. Maccagnan really wants to recoup a second-round pick, filling a hole in his draft card. The question becomes, would they pass up the chance to draft a blue-chip defensive talent (Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams or Josh Allen)?
My gut says yes, if they get a second-round choice and a 2020 first-rounder out of it.
4. Pick-6: For the record, the Jets own the following picks: first round (No. 3 overall), third round (68), third round (93), fourth round (105), sixth round (196) and seventh round (217). Only the Chicago Bears (five) and Seattle Seahawks (four) have fewer picks than the Jets (six). Which team has the most? The New England Patriots and Giants are tied with 12.
5. Lee is going … going: The future of linebacker Darron Lee will become a hot topic as we get closer to the draft. He became expendable when the Jets signed C.J. Mosley to a blockbuster contract. Publicly, the Jets will say they can find a role for Lee, who actually improved last season, but the sense I get is they will shop him during the draft. If there are no takers, they could hold on to him for a while longer, holding out hope. They had success with that approach two years ago, waiting until June to deal safety Calvin Pryor, another disappointing former first-round pick (No. 18 overall in 2014).
The Jets have until May 3 to exercise Lee’s fifth-year option, but that decision seems academic.
6. Smack talk: It will be a noisy practice field this summer. The defense includes a couple of Type A personalities, safety Jamal Adams and coordinator Gregg Williams. The offense … well, the lead trash-talker is bound to be Bell, who was no wallflower in Pittsburgh.
“He’ll be chipping and yapping,” Haley said. “He’ll get after Gregg Williams. He was after [Steelers defensive coordinator] Keith Butler. It’ll be interesting to see that dynamic because Le’Veon is the one yapping. He’s into every play, whether he’s in or not. He’s sitting on his helmet, watching and yapping. You can hear him all over the field. He’s a fun guy to be around.”
Haley knows what it takes to set off Williams, as we all witnessed last summer on HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” which featured the Cleveland Browns.
7. The last word: “Oh, man, I can’t say enough good things about C.J. He’s just a ballplayer, man. … When you think of a football player, I think of C.J. Mosley. He’s just a natural. I’m excited to have him on the team. I know what he’s capable of. He’s extremely productive and extremely consistent. I mean, I might be slightly biased, but I think that was the best acquisition of the offseason, in my opinion” — Osemele, who played with Mosley in Baltimore.