This could be the Summer of the Jets.
Unlike the “Summer of George” from Seinfeld, the Jets could have an interesting and productive offseason.
It will begin soon when general manager Mike Maccagnan can begin to plot and maneuver with an $80 million-plus cap surplus along with an additional second-round draft pick.
There will be the question of whether they should move up in the draft to get one of the marquee college quarterbacks or stay content with their number six pick in the draft, still being able to claim a worthy signalcaller.
“I think we’ll be very active,” said Maccagnan. “I do think we have a lot of potential to improve this team going forward.”
Current owner Chris Johnson –acting in place for England ambassador and brother Woody – has stressed the point.
“There’s so much to look forward to on this team with this core we have,” said Johnson. “And we have a chance to build on that. We’ve got some great draft picks, we’ve got a lot of money to play with, and we’re going to be active in free agency. I think there’s a lot of reason to believe that we’re going to be a better team this coming year.”
So be it. Start the process.
It should begin with the release of defensive lineman Muhammed Wilkerson.
Since he signed a five-year, $86 million deal after the 2015 season, he has 8 sacks in 28 games. He has been benched for tardiness four times in the past three years and was inactive for the final three games.
Wilkerson recently had the gall to state that he “earned everything he made over the past two years.”
If he is talking about a selfish attitude and lackadaisical effort, he’s right. It can’t be about the $37 million he was paid. Cut him before the middle of March and save $11 million in cap space.
There are plenty more positives than negatives.
Start with quarterback Josh McCown.
McCown had a career year, and he should avoid the Ryan Fitzpatrick sophomore jinx.
Tighten the line in front of him, and McCown should have another productive year. He also can be the perfect mentor for the up-and-coming new franchise quarterback.
Other no-brainers on offense are tight end Austin Sefarian-Jenkins and kicker Chandler Catanzaro. Both blended in nicely with steady contributions.
The Jets will need to be active in the pursuit of starting and reserve offensive linemen.
They should also shop for a pass rusher, a linebacker, and cornerback help.
Defensively, resign defensive lineman Kony Ealy, linebacker Demario Davis, and cornerback Morris Claiborne.
Ealy had a productive first-half of the season and then tailed off. Still, he is an ideal rotational player who could see more time. Davis was among the top 10 tacklers in the league and emerged as a leader. Claiborne had a good season and is a solid presence in the locker room.
Keep linebacker Julian Stanford, safeties Terrence Brooks and Rontez Miles, all of whom had solid seasons.
Those who can be shown the door are running back Matt Forte, center Wesley Johnson, guard James Carpenter, and wide receiver Jeremy Kerley.
Forte is a chronically injured player, Johnson and Carpenter’s statuses could be upgraded, and Kerley’s status was deflated with his suspension.
Do they sign either free-agent quarterbacks Kirk Cousins or Alex Smith?
They would both be fixes for three-to-five years and could elevate the team to playoff status if Maccagnan plays the rest of the money right.
That call and the draft call will be the lynchpin to the offseason.
Whatever the moves, Johnson shouldn’t expect the Jets to be a playoff team next season.
“I want to get to the playoffs,” Johnson said. “I want to build a team with Mike (Maccagnan) and Todd (Bowles) that can compete for the playoffs every year. That can’t happen fast enough. But there’s no mandate.”
Good to hear.
Let the process naturally play out. I hope he keeps his word.
Maccagnan is the key player for the Jets’ monopoly game. Play the money to win.
Let it be the “Summer of the Jets.”