Jets need to be wise in rebuild
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.
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.