Jamal Adams is doing his best to sell the Jets to the free agent class of 2019, talking with agents, recruiting players on social media, and making a few calls to friends. It's good that the Jets have such a passionate ambassador.
Just don't expect his sales job to work.
Here's the truth about NFL free agency: There are only two things that matter to players on the market -- money (lots of it) and a chance to win a ring. Now the Jets do have plenty of money to spend and could be the high bidders on just about any player they desire.
But offering a chance to win a ring? That's a fantasy even Adams might not be good enough to sell.
That's not to say the Jets don't have hope of a brighter future or that they can't lure some premium free agents. With franchise quarterback Sam Darnold in place and $100 million-plus in salary cap room to spend, they rightfully have hopes of a quick turnaround and dreams of a franchise that remains in contention for years.
But until they prove that their plan will work, that Darnold is the real deal and that they can assemble the pieces around him, that's all they have to sell: Lots of hope.
And no matter what Adams tells his buddies or their agents, the history of NFL free agency suggests that hope is not usually enough.
For a recent example, just look at what happened with Kirk Cousins last year. He was the "Plan A" for the Jets at quarterback, the guy they believed would help turn them into an instant contender. They were so sure of it that they offered him an unprecedented, fully guaranteed, three-year, $90 million contract, as the quarterback later revealed.
They didn't just throw money at him, either. They pitched him hard on their plan. They talked up their young players and the other free agents they were targeting. They tried to convince him that he wouldn't be entering a playoff wasteland that would spoil three prime years of his career.
And what happened? Cousins wouldn't even visit. He took $6 million less to sign with the Minnesota Vikings. Why? The Vikings were coming off an NFC championship game. The Jets hadn't been to the playoffs and had only one winning season since 2010.
Granted, that worked out great for the Jets, who are thrilled with their "Plan B" of Darnold. But the point is they had a free-agent target, lots of money, and what they thought was a great sales pitch, and they still couldn't seal the deal. Cousins, in a video documentary of his free-agent experience, seemed to make it clear he was only using the Jets for leverage. He wasn't seriously considering them at all.
So what's the pitch from the Jets and Adams now? Is it really any stronger than it was last March? They have Darnold and cap room and … what, exactly? When Adams or GM Mike Maccagnan talks to free agents (or their agents) they can't sell the Jets' offensive weapons, because they don't really have any around Darnold. They can't sell the defense, Adams' strong suit, since the last few seasons it has badly underachieved.
Adams wants to convince Le'Veon Bell, perhaps the NFL's top free agent, to sign with the Jets. He'd like the Jets to trade for Steelers receiver Antonio Brown too, though the Steelers hold all the cards there. The problem is he just doesn't have anything tangible to sell.
"I want you guys to come be a part of something special," Adams said Wednesday on NFL Network, explaining his pitch to Brown and Bell. "I think we have a lot of new energy, new coaching staff. The sky's the limit. We're just missing a few pieces. If you guys come join us, there will be nothing like bringing a Super Bowl back to the Jets organization."
Or, in other words, as Jets CEO Christopher Johnson put it back in December: "If you make it here, you're a freaking legend. And that counts for something."
It does. But so does the Jets' 14-34 record over the last three seasons, or the five times in the last seven years they lost at least seven games, or the 50 years they've gone since their last appearance in the Super Bowl. All of that continues to weigh down the franchise and it looms over any Adams' pitch like a very dark cloud.
Maybe the Jets will be the highest bidders for Bell. Then again, the disgruntled Steelers running back has already told people he prefers to sign with the Indianapolis Colts, as SNY has reported. The reasoning is obvious: They were just in the playoffs and are much closer to being a Super Bowl contender. The Jets could use a pass rusher too -- someone like DeMarcus Lawrence or Dante Fowler. But if the money was close, how could Adams convince them to come to New York instead of returning to the NFC East-champion Cowboys and the NFC champion-Rams?
There is no way, of course. And that's the Jets' problem heading into free agency. They likely will have to overpay to lure players to their franchise on the basis of hope alone. They do have a bright future, but NFL careers are short and players -- especially top players -- don't usually have the patience for any kind of rebuilding. They want to win now, because they know their career can end at any moment.
If they see the potential for a ring, they will want to grab it.
And there's nothing Adams or anyone in the Jets' organization can do or say to compete with that.