The only bad thing about being a 10-win team is it’s a lot harder to improve than when you’re a four-win team.
Still, the Jets have plenty of room for enhancements, as evidenced by the way they collapsed in the last game of their season against a so-so Bills team even though Gang Green had everything on the line.
The offseason certainly didn’t get off to a strong start for the J-E-T-S. The two most important players for GM Mike Maccagnan to sign -- Ryan Fitzpatrick and Muhammad Wilkerson -- both have big issues.
For Fitz, it’s the fact that after the best season of his career, he was terrible in the must-win contest at Buffalo, reinforcing the widely-viewed position that, with his career record of 43-61-1 -- and zero playoff appearances -- the 10-year NFL vet isn’t a winner. (Yes, that’s a nice way of saying he’s a loser.)
I don’t agree with that sentiment. I think, much like dear ol’ Vinny T., and many other NFL QBs, Fitz has gotten better with time and experience, and is a much more capable and confident signal-caller than he was just a few years ago. I think he’s the guy to lead the Jets over the next few years, and I think he’ll make a few playoff runs during that time. But, given his resume, I can understand if that’s seen as wishful thinking.
Wilkerson, meanwhile, had an even worse day in Buffalo than his quarterback, leaving the field with a broken right leg in game’s third quarter. Still, the defensive lineman should be fully recovered in a few months’ time. Hopefully, by then, he’ll still be a Jet.
The fifth-year pro won’t come cheap. After a monster season that led to his first Pro Bowl recognition (the injury will obviously keep Wilkerson out of the Jan. 31 all-star contest, although the play is so soft in that joke of a game that he’d probably be fine taking the field), Wilkerson will command a very big payday. With fellow DL force Sheldon Richardson far from a sure thing given his colorful recent past (yes, that’s a nice way of saying he’s getting more ink on the police blotter than in the sports pages), It doesn’t seem like Maccagnan will let him go, especially with the advantage of having the franchise tag at his disposal.
But with the QB and DE likely costing a cap hit of well more than $25 million in 2016, the Jets will likely be out of the running for NT Damon Harrison, as well as RBs Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell and Stevan Ridley, all of whom are free agents.
So Gang Green may well have to replace its entire running attack in the offseason, and upgrading its woeful special teams unit is also an absolute must.
Yes, it’ll be another busy offseason for the Jets’ front office. But whereas a year ago the job was essentially a tear-down-and-rebuild, this time around it’s about making renovations in order to get from pretty good to very good.