It’s safe to say the 2019 season hasn’t gone exactly according to plan for the New York Jets. While they have played better football down the stretch of the year, plenty of that can be attributed to a pretty soft schedule. In reality, New York never looked like competing for anything close to a playoff berth this season, and a defeat in Week 17 would send the franchise to its fourth-straight season of 10 losses or more.
Plenty of the Jets’ struggles this season can be attributed to questionable decision-making last offseason. Adam Gase never really showed anything during his time in Miami to lead people to believe that he is capable of being a high-level head coach in the NFL, yet the Jets hired him, anyway. The team also went against Gase’s wishes and paid a ton of money to secure the signature of running back Le’Veon Bell, who missed all of last year amid a contract dispute with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
If you have spent the season betting on Super Bowl 2020, the fact that Bell has really struggled this season may be a surprise to you. The Jets haven’t been relevant in the playoff race since the start of the year, so Bell’s struggles haven’t garnered a ton of national attention. The 28-year-old is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry on the year, and if he fails to score against the Bills on Sunday, he will tie a career-low for rushing touchdowns (3).
If the Jets want to improve their chances of competing for a playoff spot next season, then parting ways with Bell should be one of the first orders of business. Bell is due about $19 million in salary next season, which means cutting him really isn’t an option for the Jets. Instead, they are going to have to eat some of that hefty salary in order to find a trade partner this offseason. The Jets will not get much in return but clearing that salary cap space should be high on general manager Joe Douglas’ to-do list.
Upgrading the offensive line should also be an area of focus. Would an improved O-line help Bell rediscover the fountain of youth? Possibly, but the Jets’ need to trade Bell has less to do with football and more to do with finances.
Complicated Path for Jets
Betting on NFL futures is obviously inherently risky because there’s no way of predicting how injuries will affect things. While Bell had some doubters after spending an entire season away from football, few would have realistically predicted that he would go on to enjoy such an unproductive year. He just hasn’t shown that same explosion and elusiveness that made him one of the premier backs in the league during his time with the Steelers.
Betting on the Jets making the playoffs is also complicated because they have the misfortune of sharing a division with the New England Patriots. While Tom Brady and company have shown some vulnerability this season, there is still no real reason to expect Brady or Bill Belichick to be gone by next year. Assuming the roster remains largely intact, the Patriots are almost surely going to enter next season as heavy betting favorites to win the AFC East for a 12th consecutive season.
So, either the Jets are going to have to dethrone New England, or they’re going to have to settle for one of the conference’s Wild Card spots.
The Jets would also be best served to pay Jamal Adams rather than trade him to the highest bidder. The team seemingly showed interest in trading Adams once the star safety expressed interest in leaving earlier this season, but Douglas ultimately decided against it. That’s for the best, considering Adams is still only 24 and he’s pretty clearly the face of the franchise at this point.
Should the Jets trade Adams if Douglas gets an offer he absolutely can’t refuse? Of course. No one player should ever really be “untouchable,” and the Jets have enough holes on the roster to where a boatload of high-end draft compensation could be enough. I have my doubts that they will receive said offer, though, and keeping Adams is the better option if the Jets are serious about competing for the playoffs next year. Dealing a player of his caliber would only extend the rebuilding process. The Jets have been in the rebuilding phase long enough.
Should the Jets Let Anderson Walk?
Sam Darnold has shown enough positive signs to where I think you can win with him leading the charge. He will still throw a baffling interception every now and again, but that’s the case with just about every young quarterback in the league.
A big question for the Jets is what to do with arguably Darnold’s most important weapon, Robby Anderson. Anderson isn’t the most consistent performer, either, but the Jets’ late season winning ways have coincided with Anderson’s leap in productivity. Anderson has a pair of 100-yard games over his last 4 games, and he has found the end zone 4 times in 6 weeks after scoring just once through the first 9 games.
Anderson has a rapport with Darnold that the quarterback hasn’t enjoyed with many other pass-catchers through his first couple of years, but he will command a sizable raise in salary this offseason. While Anderson is a nice piece, I don’t think he’s necessarily a No. 1 option a team should be building around. Letting Anderson walk as a free agent rather than committing the big money it’ll take to keep him is in the Jets’ best long-term interests.
Jets on the Rise
After New York’s 16-10 win over the Steelers in Week 16, Adams said,
“We’re not that far away, man, we’re really not. I want people to understand that. It might seem like it is, but we have to put our head down and keep grinding.”
Whether Adams is right or whether he’s grasping at straws obviously remains to be seen. The Jets do certainly have some interesting pieces in place, but it’s been a while since this franchise enjoyed much success. New York hasn’t been seen in the postseason since losing the AFC Championship Game to the Steelers back in 2010.
I think the Jets make for a viable bet when it comes to challenging for the playoffs in 2020. A win on Sunday would push New York to a fairly respectable 7-9 record, and Darnold should only continue to get better. If Douglas can be diligent about spending salary space wisely this offseason, New York should be able to close the gap on Buffalo and the other teams that figure to be in the Wild Card hunt.
I certainly won’t be betting that the Jets are suddenly going to be pushing the Patriots at the top of the division, but New England’s reign of terror has to come to a close at some point in the not-too-distant future. If you’re looking for a high-risk, high-reward futures bet, I think you can do worse than taking a look at the Jets heading into 2020.