The Jets spent the last three years deep in a rebuilding process, hoping for a better tomorrow. But with two moves over the last week, new GM Joe Douglas has made it clear that he believes tomorrow has finally arrived.
No, the acquisition of a 34-year-old, recently-retired center (Ryan Kalil) and a trade for an oft-injured guard (Alex Lewis) aren't the moves that will push the Jets over the top or even into contention. But what they do is signal a new, more aggressive, even urgent approach from the front office. Both players are under contract for only this season. Together, they could cost the Jets more than $10 million.
Rebuilding teams don't make short-term, expensive moves like that. Those are the moves of a general manager who thinks his team can win now.
And that certainly is a new approach for the Jets, who spent far too long crawling back towards contention under the patient eye of former GM Mike Maccagnan. He did a seemingly terrific job of rebuilding the team, of course, and when he was fired he left behind what looks like one of the most talented teams the Jets have had in years.
But outside of his deep dives into offseason free agency, Maccagnan's style was more about giving his younger players a chance to succeed or fail, which didn't often work out with many of his recent draft picks. Douglas, so far, seems more proactive. If he sees a hole, he tries to fill it, rather than wait to see if a solution develops on its own.
Kalil was a great example of that. The Jets had an issue at center, where they clearly weren't comfortable with Jonotthan Harrison as the starter. Under Maccagnan, the Jets weren't active in the free agent market at that position, even though Gase clearly wanted to shop for an upgrade. By the time Douglas was hired, there were no good free agent options left.
So he went after Kalil, who had retired at the end of last season -- a creative solution that not every GM would have even seen. And, even more encouraging for the Jets, once Kalil indicated he wanted to return, CEO Christopher Johnson gave the green light to spend perhaps as much as $8.4 million on a player who thought he was done just seven months ago.
Kalil isn't the Jets' future at center. This isn't about competing in 2020. He was brought in because he makes the Jets better now.
The same goes for the 27-year-old Lewis, a former fourth-round pick out of Nebraska who has battled injuries throughout his career. He missed all of 2017 with a shoulder injury, and had surgery on that shoulder again this offseason. Even though he's apparently healthy, the Ravens were about to cut him. But rather than take their chances on the waiver wire, Douglas jumped the line and got him for a conditional seventh-round pick.
Yes, he's a health risk and he'll only be a backup guard to Kelechi Osemele and Brian Winters. And that makes the cost (his salary is $2.025 million) seem pretty hefty. But offensive line depth is important, and if Lewis stays healthy and the Jets need to play him at some point this season, no one will care about the money and that pick they gave up will look relatively small.
It's a small, but shrewd move. And again, it was a move for just one season, not the kind of thing a rebuilding team is likely to do. Both moves are proactive and aggressive, money be damned.
When's the last time anyone felt the Jets operated like that?
These, though, are not the same, old Jets. They are trying to throw patience out the window before their window of opportunity is closed. These were two small steps in that direction, but they sent a significant signal about the Jets' intentions.
They're not messing around anymore. And they believe their time is now.