PHOENIX - Mike Maccagnan's long rebuilding of the Jets should theoretically be complete now. Maybe not completely complete, as in they're ready to make a run to the Super Bowl. But, after two years of lavish spending and high draft picks, being a playoff contender shouldn't be unrealistic.
Not that Jets CEO Christopher Johnson is going to give Maccagnan a playoff mandate. But surely, the expectations have to be as high as a playoff berth now, right?
Johnson will have to answer that when he speaks to the media this week during the NFL owners meetings at the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa. This is one of the most important offseasons in franchise history. What does Johnson think of it so far?
That's one of five big questions that Johnson needs to be asked:
1. Is Johnson expecting a playoff berth this year?
He's made it clear that he won't demand one, or make Maccagnan's job hinge on it. But the Jets haven't been to the playoffs since 2010. The fan base has endured two years of rebuilding. They've found their quarterback, they've spent a ton of money in free agency. Isn't it right to at least expect it will happen now?
It'll be interesting to see how Johnson words this. Surely he's thinking playoffs, but he can't put that kind of pressure on his GM - not after promising that he won't. He can't set the standards low, though, either. The fan base did not react well in January when he said there'd be no playoff mandate. It's safe to say his paying customers would like one.
2. How committed is he to GM Mike Maccagnan?
When Johnson fired Todd Bowles but kept his GM he created an interesting dynamic. Maccagnan is only signed through 2020. New head coach Adam Gase's deal goes beyond that. It's hard to imagine that Maccagnan's job could be in jeopardy this year, right after hiring a head coach for the first time. It's much more likely his fate is tied to that of Gase, which means another three years at least.
But the Jets do have that odd structure where the coach and GM are separate entities and both report directly to the owner. It's unusual, but workable, but it will still be interesting to see how patient Johnson pledges to be with Maccagnan. He clearly has endorsed his GM's rebuilding plan. But how soon does he need to see results?
3. What did Johnson think of Maccagnan's latest spending spree?
The spree he went on in 2018 didn't turn out so great, particularly with the regrettable five-year, $72 million deal deal for cornerback Trumaine Johnson. On paper, this one has been outstanding. It was particularly good that the Jets got their top target, Le'Veon Bell, and for a relative bargain at $52.5 million over four years.
Was it all enough? There's still no edge rusher and still no center, and there was the unseemly whiff on edge-rusher Anthony Barr, who turned down more money from the Jets (after agreeing to terms) to return to the Vikings. Johnson had the luxury of knowing the plan going in. Was he happy with how it all turned out?
4. Does Johnson believe Sam Darnold has enough weapons?
It was painfully obvious last season that the young quarterback absolutely did not have enough offensive talent around him. Obviously, the addition of Bell will be huge, and the signing of slot receiver Jamison Crowder will help, too. But the only other moves with skill players were the re-signing of receiver Quincy Enunwa and the tendering of restricted free agent Robby Anderson.
Is that enough? New coach Adam Gase sure thinks he's got enough weapons - at least that's what he said at the scouting combine a few weeks ago. Not everyone is sold on his high praise for Enunwa and Anderson, though. What does Johnson think? There was no real No. 1 available in free agency for the Jets to target, but many have been available in trades in recent years, and surely they could find one if they're able to somehow get back into the second round of the draft.
5. What does Johnson want with the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, or will he be comfortable trading down?
Johnson is comfortable being aggressive, and he loved the bold move to trade up last year to put the Jets in position to draft Darnold. With the third pick this year, they could be in position to draft a star edge-rusher - obviously their biggest need.
There are indications that Maccagnan wants to trade down, though, to take advantage of the mad rush expected for the top quarterbacks in the draft so he can replenish what is currently a thin supply of picks. Adding picks makes sense, but giving up the No. 3 pick can be tough. As Giants GM Dave Gettleman famously said last year, picking that high usually nets teams a "gold-jacket player."
Johnson will likely defer to Maccagnan, but he was all-in on the quarterback plan last year. Will he be all in this year if Maccagnan's plan is to trade down, or will he lean towards keeping the pick and grabbing the pass rusher that most of his fans know the team so desperately needs?