Jets need to be wise in re­build

The Buffalo News - - NFL SUNDAY - By Bob Glauber

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – The New York Jets’ re­build­ing process will be long, and it will be painful. Of that there is no doubt.

A ros­ter filled with barely rec­og­niz­able play­ers and a hand­ful of es­tab­lished ones means there is lit­tle hope of mak­ing the play­offs soon. But the sweep­ing ros­ter purge even­tu­ally may turn out to be a pos­i­tive, al­though only if the Jets choose the right play­ers to re­stock.

With only three play­ers over 30 and a ma­jor over­haul on of­fense and de­fense, this is not a team that’s ready to win. Af­ter an open­ing loss in which they gave up 190 rush­ing yards to the Bills, the Jets are big un­der­dogs Sun­day against the Raiders, a team with le­git­i­mate Su­per Bowl as­pi­ra­tions. But as dif­fi­cult as it will be for even the most loyal fans to watch the Jets strug­gle, at least one ma­jor com­po­nent of the re­build­ing process ac­tu­ally has gone smoothly.

Call it ad­di­tion by sub­trac­tion, even if it comes a year too late.

The Jets made a cal­cu­lated de­ci­sion af­ter a 10-6 sea­son in 2015 to keep the team to­gether and make one more run at a play­off berth. It was an ill-fated choice that led to an un­prece­dented house­clean­ing for this team. If this were the first year of the Gen­eral Man­ager Mike Maccagnan/ coach Todd Bowles era, the re­build would have been un­der­stand­able. Be­cause it’s Year Three of their part­ner­ship, it cre­ates an awk­ward dy­namic that may re­sult in the ouster of one or both at sea­son’s end.

But there was logic in the dizzy­ing num­ber of changes in­volv­ing ex­pen­sive, un­der­per­form­ing vet­er­ans. And when you look at who was given the boot and where they are now, the moves make sense. Even the ones that cre­ated ini­tial head-scratch­ing. Con­sider: • It was a no-brainer to part ways with Ryan Fitz­patrick, who fol­lowed a ca­reer year in 2015 with one of his worst years last sea­son. He’s a backup to Jameis Win­ston in Tampa.

• Dar­relle Re­vis had to go, too, be­cause his skills had eroded to the point where he had be­come a li­a­bil­ity. Al­though some had sug­gested the cor­ner­back even­tu­ally would find a land­ing spot, he hasn’t signed any­where. It’s over for the fu­ture Hall of Famer.

• Re­leas­ing line­backer David Har­ris in May was prob­a­bly the most star­tling move. But af­ter sign­ing a two-year deal with the Pa­tri­ots, Har­ris barely played in the opener against Kansas City and likely would play ex­ten­sively only in the event of in­juries. That could hap­pen be­cause of Dont’a Hightower’s knee, but Har­ris, 33, has been slow to pick up Bill Belichick’s sys­tem.

• The Jets had no lon­grange plans for de­fen­sive tackle Shel­don Richard­son, who is in the fi­nal year of his rookie con­tract, but got a sec­ond-round pick and re­ceiver Jer­maine Kearse for him in a deal with the Sea­hawks. That’s a smart move for a team in re­build mode. Richard­son will be a good fit with a ter­rific Seat­tle de­fense, but he wasn’t worth keep­ing around for one more year and los­ing him for no com­pen­sa­tion.

• Re­ceivers Bran­don Mar­shall and Eric Decker were re­leased be­cause of age and salary-cap con­sid­er­a­tions, and each started slowly with his new team. Mar­shall had one catch for 10 yards in the Gi­ants’ 19-3 loss to Dal­las, and Decker had three catches for 10 yards in Ten­nessee’s loss to the Raiders. Mar­shall and Decker prob­a­bly will make mean­ing­ful con­tri­bu­tions, but nei­ther was a long-term an­swer for the Jets.

• Calvin Pryor was traded to the Browns for De­mario Davis, who has filled Har­ris’ spot. Pryor, a dis­ap­point­ing first-round pick of for­mer Jets GM John Idzik, was re­leased last week af­ter fight­ing with a team­mate. He was claimed on waivers by the Jaguars, with whom Idzik is an ex­ec­u­tive. The Jets, who also re­leased safety Mar­cus Gilchrist (now a Tex­ans backup) have re­stocked at safety with draft picks Ja­mal Adams and Mar­cus Maye.

• Cen­ter Nick Man­gold was re­leased. He said he’d have con­sid­ered play­ing at a re­duced salary, but the Jets weren’t in­ter­ested. Man­gold, af­ter a look-see in Bal­ti­more in the off­sea­son, hasn’t been signed.

So it’s not as if the Jets tar­geted the wrong play­ers to sweep aside for the youth move­ment. And while that doesn’t make their task any eas­ier, at least they can take com­fort in know­ing that the ini­tial moves made sense. Now the trick is find­ing the right young play­ers to fill their spots.

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Gen­eral Man­ager Mike Maccagnan has a lot of work to do in build­ing the New York Jets back into a con­tend­ing team, and he’s al­ready started in free­ing the team of vet­er­ans.

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