PHOENIX - For a team that went on a wild, free-agent spending spree for the second time in 13 months after firing their coach three months ago, the Jets have been awfully quiet lately. No controversies. No scandals. Nothing but the business of football really.
And that's just the way they seem to like it … at least for now.
That may change when people realize the expectations have been raised, whether they admit it or not. It will certainly change if and when the winning actually starts. But for now, they are the quiet team in town, content to not make too many headlines.
Regardless, after listening to CEO Christopher Johnson, GM Mike Maccagnan, new coach Adam Gase, and several scouts inside and outside the organization, here are 10 takeaways from the Jets' time at the NFL's annual owners meetings at the Arizona Biltmore hotel:
They have huge expectations for a breakout year for second-year QB Sam Darnold
There is no uncertainty when they talk about the future of their franchise quarterback, and they can barely hide their excitement. What they saw at the end of last season particularly gives them reason to believe he will put it all together in Year 2. A lot of that hope also is because of Gase. No one will say bad things about the previous coaching staff, but let's just say they are very happy to have their young QB in the hands of a genuinely bright offensive coaching mind. They may have worries about this team, but Darnold is not one of them.
They believe they are loaded offensively and have huge plans for Le'Veon Bell and Jamison Crowder
Gase looked a little like a mad scientist talking about Bell and Crowder in particular, and the ways he plans to use them. He kept saying he won't put them "in a box", which makes it sound like he's open to lining them up everywhere. Previously he said the same about the holdover weapons like Quincy Enunwa, Robby Anderson and Chris Herndon. Obviously Bell is the key, but his offense really features the slot receiver in creative ways, which makes Crowder a fascinating addition. Think of what Wes Welker used to be for the Patriots, because that seems to be how Gase envisions him.
They are serious about trading down, but it'll cost at least a second-round pick, even to move down a little
Maccagnan wasn't lying when he said he's open to trading down and that he's already had some preliminary discussions about it. The Jets have only six picks in the draft and the third overall pick is going to be very valuable - especially for anyone that wants to get one of the top two quarterbacks before they're off the board. Word around the league is that the Jets want to recoup the second-round pick they gave up to the Colts last year in their own trade up from No. 6 to No. 3. My guess is that anyone who wants to move up, even a little, will have to start with that.
They will be very, very tempted to stay at No. 3 and take one of the best defensive players in the draft
Yes, I know I just said Maccagnan wants to trade down. The problem with that is the top of the draft is filled with what he needs most - players who can rush the passer. And not just edge rushers. Interior rushers too. He's guaranteed to get one of the big three defensive players - Ohio State DE Nick Bosa, Kentucky LB Josh Allen, Alabama DT Quinnen Williams - and if Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray goes No. 1 he might have his choice. How can he pass up on that? The answer is that maybe he can't.
They're not afraid of new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, and actually hope he brings a nasty side to their defense
There's a big smile any time anyone talks about Williams and what he'll bring to the Jets' defense - and the Jets practices. It sounds like they can't wait for Williams' D and Gase's O to go head-to-head, and if it gets nasty, so be it. Of course, they don't want fights or for anyone to get hurt, but there's a feeling that Williams' aggression will bring a competitiveness and edge to practices that the Jets sorely need. And if they can translate that into a game, they might be dangerous. Left unsaid is the hope that they end up more dangerous to others than to themselves.
They're going to shop LB Darron Lee, and if they can't they're definitely not going to exercise his fifth-year option
The signing of LB C.J. Mosley, one year after signing Avery Williams, made that clear. Gase seemed to say he could find a position for Lee, and Maccagnan talked about his inexpensive contract as if keeping him would be no big deal. But there's no way to sugarcoat it. The Jets are down on the former first-round pick and they won't be picking up his fifth-year option (which they'd have to do by May 2). So knowing he'll be gone in 2020 anyway, they will absolutely listen to offers for him, probably closer to the draft. He's only 24 and due only $1.8 million this season and isn't a terrible player, but it's hard to imagine the Jets could get more for him than a Day 3 draft pick.
They think LB C.J. Mosley is going to be a star
As giddy as the Jets are over the addition of Bell, they're even more excited about Mosley. He's not the edge rusher they need, but they look at him as a guy that can do everything from the middle of their defense. Also, as Gase said, he's a "culture changer". They see him as a Ray Lewis-type who can be the leader in their locker room, and help make young safety Jamal Adams into a real leader too, not just a team spokesman. The defense over the last few years has been a bad mix of characters and players who seemed to do what they want. They think Mosley, both with his voice and by example, is the man to put a stop to all of that. Oh, and they think he's going to be a dominant player, too.
They're not worried about what seems to be a hole at center
I find this odd, but neither Maccagnan nor Gase were very worked up over not having an obvious starting center. They made a somewhat half-hearted run at Matt Paradis in free agency, and they had a meeting with Stefan Wisniewski that didn't seem to lead to anything. They seem oddly comfortable with Jonotthan Harrison, who re-signed after he took over at center for Spencer Long last season. They obviously saw something they liked in the 27-year-old. Don't be shocked if they also take a center on Day 2 of the draft.
Adam Gase is convinced he'll be a much better coach the second time around
When he looked back on his time in Miami he saw a young coach who was overwhelmed by all the other stuff that went into being a head coach - the non-football stuff like planning and organizing schedules and dealing with the media and handling everyone's problems. He's more relaxed now and was able to quickly get through the basics and move onto football things. That's often a huge problem for rookie coaches. They can't focus on the most important stuff - the football - because they're swamped in executive-level issues. It's why so many coaches are better in their second stop. Gase seems confident that's the way it will be for him, and so are his bosses.
There's no playoff mandate, but make no mistake: They expect to make the playoffs
The Jets don't want to say it, and they probably won't, but they are absolutely looking at what they built as a playoff team. They would be stunned, from top to bottom, by another five- or six-win season and barring a string of catastrophic injuries they won't even be happy with 8-8. Their internal expectations are sky high, and they believe this is the year they will finally arrive. They believe the pieces are in place for nine or 10 wins. No one will say it. No one will mandate it. But it's clear they love their team for the first time in many years.