This upcoming offseason is one of the most important in the history of the New York Jets franchise.
After coming off a 4-12 season, which saw a 21-year old Sam Darnold take the reins as the franchise quarterback, many changes were expected to come following the season. The first major change came as head coach Todd Bowles was fired. Although many people thought general manager Mike Maccagnan would be next in line to get axed, acting-owner Chris Johnson ended up retaining him. Maccagnan will now work hand in hand with Johnson to help shape the future of the team.
And for the first time in a while, the Jets have reason to be optimistic about the future. With $100 million in cap space, the third overall pick in the draft, and a good young quarterback on a rookie deal, the Jets head coaching vacancy should be very enticing for potential head coaches.
However, getting the right coach is just one of the things the Jets need to do if they want to win the offseason.
With so much on the line this coming offseason, the Jets will have to be aggressive and calculated in their pursuit of greatness. Here are four key moves the front office have to make in order to turn the Jets into true contenders:
1. Hire an Offensive-Minded Head Coach
The first priority should be to find the next head coach–one that can take Darnold’s potential and help mold him into one of the best quarterbacks in the league. The biggest name that has been attached to the Jets is former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy.
McCarthy won the Super Bowl in 2010 and oversaw the successful transition from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers. Given his proven track record with developing and managing Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks, he should be the frontrunner to develop Darnold into himself.
Yet, there have been many other names that have floated out there: names such as Kliff Kingsbury, Todd Monken, and Matt Rhule. All three of these coaches are offensive-minded, like McCarthy, and would be considered splashier hires.
However, getting McCarthy would be the right choice in a crowded field of candidates. He would bring immediate stability and accountability to the Jets, and have a chance to potentially work with Darnold for the next five years.
2. Get Innovative Play-Callers at OC and DC
If the Jets do indeed hire McCarthy, their next step should be to fill in the other coaching vacancies. As previously mentioned, there are plenty of brilliant offensive minds out there to be hired.
The Jets can definitely land either Kingsbury, Monken, or Rhule as their offensive coordinator. Although Kingsbury is currently barred from interviewing with NFL teams, the Jets may just make him an offer he can’t refuse. Switching from being the offensive coordinator in USC to the Jets would be a huge leap for Kingsbury. It would also be a huge win for the Jets, who are in need of an innovative play-caller.
To help on the defensive end, the Jets should hire Dallas Cowboys defensive backs coach Kris Richard. Richard was an essential part in the formation of the legendary Seattle Seahawks ‘Legion of Boom’ defense.
Given his long history of player development, the Jets should offer him to be their defensive coordinator. He already would have All-Pro safety Jamal Adams to work with and could help further develop the other young talent on the squad.
3. Sign Bell, Clowney, and Other Playmakers
The free-agency market is pretty solid this year. Some of the top players available this summer include Trey Flowers, Landon Collins, Jadeveon Clowney, N’Damukong Suh, and Le’Veon Bell.
The Jets should heavily pursue Bell and Clowney. Although Bell sat out the entire 2018 season, he is only 26. Furthermore, he is one of the best dual-threat running backs in the league. Similarly, Clowney is 25 and is coming off back-to-back nine-plus sack seasons.
Bell would lift some the offensive burden off of Darnold, while Clowney would give the Jets a consistent pass-rusher. Getting either one of them, or possibly both, would immediately impact the Jets.
4. Draft a Lineman with the Third Pick
For the second year in a row, the Jets have the third draft pick. Last season they were able to draft their franchise quarterback. This year, they should either find the guy to protect him or the guy that can get to the opponent’s quarterback. Both options are on the table, as the Jets are in desperate need of both a revamped offensive line and an edge pass-rusher.
The best draft prospects available are defensive end Nick Bosa, defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, linebacker Josh Allen, and offensive tackle Jonah Williams.
Many mock drafts have Bosa going first to the Arizona Cardinals, and either Quinnen or Allen going to the San Francisco 49ers. Assuming this happens, the Jets should get OT Williams to protect Darnold for the next decade.
If the 49ers do end up passing on Allen though, then the Jets should consider drafting him. Allen is one of the best young defensive talents and could be the pass-rusher the Jets have craved for years. Although they can always acquire a pass-rusher in free-agency, drafting and developing one would be even better.
The Jets can’t afford to waste another young batch of players. Adams was displeased with the team this season. Another losing season could result in them floundering in a never-ending rebuild.