INDIANAPOLIS - Mike Maccagnan and Adam Gase set the stage for an aggressive offseason for the Jets when they met the media at the NFL scouting combine last week, in part because they have no choice. They have a depleted roster, tons of cap room, a high draft pick, and a willingness to trade.
So how will they reshape their roster? They didn't exactly lay out a blueprint. But from their press conferences and plenty of info from NFL sources, here are 10 things we learned about the Jets' plans while they were at the combine...
1. The Jets aren't trading for Antonio Brown
Maccagnan said the Jets hadn't really looked into that yet, which almost certainly means he's not going to. Already three teams are reportedly heavily involved -- the Titans, Raiders and Redskins. If the Jets were going this route, they'd already be in the mix. The problem is they know Brown is a huge headache and could be disruptive for their young quarterback. Also, with no second-round pick and no willingness to give up their first pick, they don't really have the ammunition to get this done.
2. Le'Veon Bell is definitely a target for the Jets
He may not be the top target that everyone has expected, but given all their salary cap space (close to $100 million) that's just semantics. Multiple NFL sources said this week the Jets are likely to be most heavily involved in the pass-rusher market. That doesn't mean they won't go hard after Bell too, but they're likely to be more aggressive in other areas. Also, there's still a strong sentiment that Bell doesn't want to sign with the Jets. Maybe that explains why the Jets seemed to be all over the Day 2 running backs in the draft last week.
3. They are going to spend big on a pass-rusher in free agency
The top of the draft may be loaded with pass rushers, but the Jets aren't going to wait until April. Multiple NFL sources say they've been nosing around all the top pass-rushers in free agency. Many of them are going to be off the market when they get the franchise tag. One they are definitely going after is Rams linebacker Dante Fowler, whom they tried to acquire in a trade in each of the last two years. They could also be involved with Detroit's Ezekiel Ansah. Keep an eye on Jadeveon Clowney too, if he doesn't get tagged, because the Jets aren't going to hold back here.
4. The Jets really like their receivers -- a lot more than most others do
This was true last year, too, when the Jets didn't make a move to bring in a No. 1 receiver even though that seemed to be a glaring hole. Maccagnan made it clear he thought the Jets had more than enough at that position. Now Gase has chimed in and he agrees. He seems to love his possibilities with Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson. It sure looks like they could still use a tall, No. 1-type receiver. The problem is, there really aren't any on the free-agent market. And with no second-round pick, their options are limited on Day 2 of the draft.
5. They want to trade down from the third overall pick -- especially if they land a pass rusher in free agency.
Several sources on other NFL teams say the Jets have let them know they're interested in trading back, but those sources always threw in "if they don't land a pass rusher in free agency". Call that informed speculation. The thought is that there are so many good pass rushers at the top of the draft, that if the Jets miss their targets in free agency they'll have to take one at No. 3. It's good logic, but also keep in mind that whenever there's a run on quarterbacks, the teams trading down can get tremendous deals.
6. Mike Maccagnan wants to rob whatever team tries to trade up for a quarterback
He basically said that. "In my personal opinion," he said, "if you're trying to go chase a quarterback, it's sort of whatever the market is and then some." The Jets paid a reasonable price last year to move from 6 to 3 to chase a quarterback, giving up three second-round picks. That would seem to be a starting point, but the farther down you go, the more it's going to cost. If the Jets trade down, don't be shocked to see them get a first-round pick in 2020 as part of the deal. It all depends on how desperate teams get for quarterbacks and how convinced everyone is that the Giants are a threat to take Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins at 6.
7. The Jets might just luck out by staying right where they are
Remember Leonard Williams dropping to them at 6 in 2015, and Jamal Adams sliding to them at 6 in 2017, and Sam Darnold falling to them at 3 last year? The Jets have some pretty good luck in the first round. Now, with so many people around the NFL being convinced that the Arizona Cardinals are taking Oklahoma's Kyler Murray No. 1, it could happen again. The top two pass rushers in the draft appear to be Ohio State's Nick Bosa and Kentucky's Josh Allen. The Jets sure could use them, and it looks like they could have a chance to get one of them. Of course, if one of them slips to 3 and a quarterback like Haskins is available, there could be a ton of teams bidding to trade into their spot. But it could be hard to pass on Bosa or Allen, both of whom could turn into stars.
8. Leonard Williams has a long-term future with the Jets
He's due $14.2 million this year, which is about right for pass rusher these days, but awfully high for a guy with 17 career sacks in four seasons. The Jets will surely take a wait-and-see approach before deciding whether to sign him to a long-term deal. It may not seem worth it, given what pass rushers are likely to get on the open market. But the Jets don't seem to agree. Gase raved about Williams and how difficult he is to scheme against, how "disruptive" he is as a pass rusher and how terrific he is against the run. Maybe that was smoke, but it seemed to be a sign that Gase thinks the 24-year-old Williams has plenty of potential. If new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams can unlock some of that, don't be surprised if Leonard Williams eventually does get his long-term deal.
9. The Jets are in the market for a guard and a center
Maccagnan made it clear he's happy with the three starters he has on the offensive line -- left tackle Kelvin Beachum, right guard Brian Winters and right tackle Brandon Shell (when he's healthy). So especially with Spencer Long gone, they now need a center and another guard. Maccagnan made it sound like that will be a priority, too. The free-agent market isn't deep, but the Jets should be players. And if they drop far enough in the first round, an offensive lineman could be in play there, too.
10. Josh McCown has a job as Sam Darnold's backup if he wants it
Asked if the popular backup is coming back, Gase said he was giving McCown his space to decide if he still wants to play at his age (he turns 40 in July) or if it's time to retire and spend more time with his family. If the Jets didn't want McCown back they probably wouldn't have left the door open at all. But McCown might be the most popular player in the building and everyone thinks he had a huge influence on Darnold last year. He may not be an NFL starter any more, but teams have done way worse with their backup quarterback. If he's willing, the Jets surely would love to have McCown return to guide Darnold for one more year.