By MICHAEL FAIRLIE //
The 2017 NFL Free Agency Frenzy is upon us and the astronomical anxiety levels continue to rise in Jets Nation. It’s Day 2 of the official free agent signing period, less than 24 hours since its beginning and alarm bells are ringing throughout the Gang Green landscape.
Why aren’t the Jets doing anything? They already missed out on Glennon, Bouye, Hoyer, etc. The answer is that they have been doing something. Mike Maccagnan is focusing on taking care of in-house players they want to keep while not overspending on the first wave of free agency.
Maccagnan started out early by locking up starting RG Brian Winters for four years. Yesterday saw starting C Wesley Johnson and CB Marcus Williams get second round tenders as well as OT Ben Ijalana, special teams standout/ reserve OLB Josh Martin and pass-rushing reserve OLB Corey Lemonier all receiving two-year contracts.
It is understandable why fans are clamoring for action by the Jets’ front office. The team dumped Brandon Marshall, Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold, Ryan Clady, Breno Giacomini and Erin Henderson, freeing up about $45 million in cap savings, providing them with approximately $33 million in space leading into the free agency period. That is a lot of money for a team with a lot of holes.
But if you take a closer look, it is not as much as it seems when you have myriad needs and it would be going against the philosophy they are going forward with. First off, the Jets got rid of those players because they are either past their prime and/or overpaid for what they contribute, with the exception of maybe Marshall. I get that Mangold was a fixture and I hate to see him go, but his play has slipped and it appears as if his body is finally starting to break down the last two years.
It is obvious to anyone who is truly paying attention to the way Mike Maccagnan and company are doing business, that they are looking to build from within, adding pieces along the way and looking towards the draft as the future of the franchise. They attempted to throw caution to the wind during the free agency period of 2015, by filling up an incredible roster on paper, which has landed them in the hole they are currently trying to dig out of.
The idea of throwing band-aids on the wound by giving mediocre players huge contracts is not the way to get out of that hole. If you throw somebody like Glennon a fat paycheck like the one he received from Chicago, you have just cut your cap room in half and still have a ton of needs in free agency along with the draft picks you are going to have to sign. You also don’t even know if you really fixed your problem at QB.
Teams that make big splashes in the first couple of days of free agency, grossly overpaying for potential production at positions of need, has not historically led them to success. The most recent example is the Jacksonville Jaguars, who doled out $230 million during free agency in 2016, bringing their record from 5-11 in 2015 to 3-13 last year. Then you have the 2015 Jets, who spent $182.8 million, which did lead to a 10-6 season, only to come crashing down into complete chaos in their 5-11 campaign in 2016.
The list goes on and on of teams that thought they could fix their problems by overpaying players in free agency. The only time this works is when you already have a true contender that just needs a piece or two to put them over the top. To turn a team around that has been headed in the wrong direction, you need to find bargains in free agency to complement the pieces you add in the draft. It takes time. There are no quick fixes.
In theory, this would seem to be the proper approach to take if you want to build a long-term contender from the ashes. This is how great teams are formed. The question is, can Mike Maccagnan hit a homerun with bargain free agents looking to make a name for themselves and draft picks who are for the most part ready to contribute from day one? This is what we are going to find out in the next couple of years, but you are going to have to be patient to find out.