The Jets put their faith in Mike Maccagnan on the day in December when they fired coach Todd Bowles. Ownership was making it clear it believed in the general manager's plan and vision. Christopher Johnson had faith that Maccagnan could carry it out.
So armed with nearly $100 million in salary cap space as they headed into free agency, Maccagnan headed into one of the most crucial offseasons this star-crossed franchise has ever had. He needed to win big. He needed some splashy signings.
And he certainly didn't disappoint.
Maccagnan was clearly one of the biggest winners in the early days of NFL free agency, landing a bunch of players the Jets desperately needed, including the biggest name on the market - running back Le'Veon Bell. There's still work to do, and no guarantee that this free-agent heavy team he's built will come together.
But on paper, everything about the Jets looks great so far:
Signing RB Le'Veon Bell - This was everything for Maccagnan and the Jets. He was the best player on the market and the perfect weapon to help QB Sam Darnold. And with all the hype over the Jets' obvious interest, they would've looked like failures if they couldn't land him. Also, they resisted the urge to bid against themselves when his market didn't materialize. His four-year, $52.5 million deal with $25 million guaranteed is a relative steal, makes him cuttable in Year 3 if it doesn't work out, and includes financial insurances incentives to make sure he doesn't hold out later in the deal. There's nothing about this move that isn't great. Grade: A-plus.
Signing LB C.J. Mosley - He is only 26 and a terrific defender who makes the Jets' linebacking corps so much stronger. He'll be a huge upgrade over Darron Lee, who is now very expendable. The only criticism of this signing is the cost. Five years, $85 million and $51 million guaranteed feels like the Jets vastly overpaid. That's what usually happens in free agency, though. Maybe they paid too much, but they get points for being aggressive. Grade: A-minus.
Losing LB Anthony Barr - The Jets were thrilled to get the edge-rusher they needed at about $14 million, only to wake up the next morning and find out Barr was breaking their agreement and heading back to Minnesota for less (five years, $67.5 million and $15.9 million guaranteed). Since then he's pounded the Jets, saying the thought of playing for them made him feel "sick", like he was "marrying the wrong woman" and on and on. The Jets can't be blamed for a guy not wanting to play for them. But shouldn't they have known before they spent so much time on him? Because once he changed his mind, most of the best edge rushers were already off the market. Grade: D.
Signing WR Jamison Crowder - The Jets really do like the receivers they had, but the one thing they were missing was a true, slot receiver - something new coach Adam Gase loves to use in his offense. The 5-foot-9, 25-year-old Crowder was generally considered one of the best slots on the market. The three-year, $28.5 million price tag (with $17 million guaranteed) is a bit pricey, but there were limited options at receiver on the market, so the Jets had to be aggressive. Grade: B-plus.
Signing WR/special teamer Josh Bellamy - A good, low-risk deal for a special teams ace. He'll get $5 million over two years, but can be cut after one. He adds some depth as a fourth receiver, too. Grade: B.
The Kelichi Osemele trade - All it took for the Jets to get this two-time Pro Bowl guard, was flipping a fifth-round pick for a sixth-round pick with the Raiders. Forget his $10.2 million cap hit. The Jets had plenty of room for that. He fills a massive hole on their offensive line and allowed them to stay out of what was a weak free-agent market for offensive linemen. The deal was a steal. Grade: A-plus.
Signing CB Brian Poole - Beyond the disappointing Trumaine Johnson, the Jets were thin at corner with Buster Skrine gone to Chicago and Mo Claiborne not expected to return. The 26-year-old Poole was a nine-game starter for Atlanta last season. They didn't tender him as a restricted free agent, but wanted him back at a lower price. Instead the Jets get the slot cornerback they needed for just one year and $3.5 million. Grade: B-plus.
Not re-signing Pro Bowl kicker Jason Myers and Pro Bowl returner Andre Roberts - Myers got a crazy deal from Seattle (four years, $15.45 million, $7 million guaranteed) and it's hard to fault the Jets for not matching. They believe kickers are interchangeable. Letting Roberts go was strange, though. Reportedly he only got $5 million over two years. That seems affordable for a team with a ton of cap space and a returner who was huge for their revived special teams last year. Grade: D.
Signing K Chandler Catanzaro - There's familiarity there from his time with the Jets in 2017, but he wasn't great then (25 of 30 on field goals). And last year, for two teams, he was 16 of 20 and missed five extra points. This feels rushed and like the Jets could have done better. Grade: D.
Re-signing DE Henry Anderson - Lost in the Jets' search for pass-rushing help is the fact that they had a pretty good one in Anderson last year, and they brought him back for three years, $25.2 million and $17 million guaranteed. The Jets like him a lot and he's a big part of the reason why new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is sticking with a 3-4 scheme. The price is high for a guy whose big breakout last season netting just seven sacks, but pass-rushers get paid a premium nowadays. Grade: B-plus.
Re-signing DT Steve McLendon - It's never a bad thing to bring back a solid, strong veteran who is a good influence in the locker room. He's 33, though, so the Jets need a younger upgrade (and there's no sign last year's rookie, Nathan Shepherd is going to be it, though). But if the Jets end up drafting a defensive linemen like Quinnen Williams or Nick Bosa, McLendon is going to be a valuable influence on the new kid. And for one year and $2.5 million, that's worth it. Grade: B.
Re-signing CB Darryl Roberts - By giving him a three-year, $18 million deal with $4 million guaranteed the Jets sure are signaling he's going to be a starter - presumably with Trumaine Johnson, and with Brian Poole inside. He did start 10 games last season and played reasonably well. There's potential there for the former waiver claim, but this deal was surprisingly large. Grade: C-plus.
OVERALL - It's hard to find anything not to like about the Jets' offseason so far. Maccagnan landed Bell, the one free agent he absolutely had to have, a weapon at receiver for his young quarterback, and a linebacker who will be a huge boost to his defense, all while bolstering his club with some lesser signings. Yes, he lost Barr and never found an edge-rusher to replace him. That was certainly a failure. He needed to find a center, too, and came up empty on the top ones - Matt Paradis and Mitch Morse. There are still a few decent edge rushers on the market, though, and it's still early in free agency. Plus the Jets are in great position to take one with the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, if they want. Finding a center may be harder to find. But the big picture is certainly bright. The Jets went from a young, building team to a likely playoff contender. Most of the pieces are finally in place. Grade: A-minus.