There’s little doubt that the Jets’ moves in free agency make them better today than before the frenzy commenced two weeks ago, but did Mike Maccagnan hit all the right cords?
Here’s my report card for the notable signings by Gang Green. Warning: I’m a tough – but fair – grader.
Le’Veon Bell (Keith Srakocic / AP)
RB Le’Veon Bell Grade: A
The Jets delivered on giving Sam Darnold the dynamic weapon that he needs to take his game to the next logical level, but let’s not pretend that there’s no risk with Bell. Truth be told, the Jets were indeed divided on making a push for Bell. They ultimately agreed (begrudgingly for some) to hop on the Le’Veon Express. At this point, it makes no sense to come clean about reservations, but there are plenty of folks who believe that Adam Gase would have been just fine if the three-time Pro Bowler didn’t wind up in green-and-white. A look at Gase’s offenses through the years shows that he can get production out of running backs regardless of pedigree. Regardless, Bell is here now. Will he be motivated to prove that he’s the same dual-threat, game-wrecking force that he was before he took his year-long hiatus? Will he stay healthy? The Jets wisely dressed up a de facto two-year deal to make Bell’s camp happy. The team has protection beyond 2019, so kudos to the money men on One Jets Drive.
ILB C.J. Mosley Grade: A-minus
There’s no denying that Mosley is an aggressive tackling monster, but, oh man, that contract. The four-time Pro Bowler became the highest paid inside linebacker in history by shattering Luke Kuechly’s deal ($14 million/year). The Jets didn’t set out on giving Mosley $17 million per season (as part of a deal that includes $51 million in guarantees over the first three years), but they had some stiff competition. The Ravens wanted him back badly, but the money just got too crazy. The Colts identified Mosley as one of the few players in this year’s free agency class who was actually worth pursuing too. The Browns were among the other teams that wanted Mosley too. Mosley will be an anchor, but he’s not particularly adept in coverage. He’s a terrific talent, but this was a steep price to pay.
LG Kelechi Osemele Grade: B
The Jets swapped late-round picks with Oakland to land the former Pro Bowler with two non-guaranteed years left on his contract before the start of free agency. It was a classic, low-risk, high-reward move by Maccagnan. Some of those types of deals have worked out in the short term (see: Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brandon Marshall), while others have been duds (see: Ryan Clady). Osemele, who will turn 30 this summer, has transformed his body after being plagued with lower leg issues last season. Some scouts that I touched base with believe this was a sneaky good move by the Jets.
Jamison Crowder (Mark Zaleski / AP)
WR Jamison Crowder Grade: B-minus
The Jets targeted Crowder from the jump. He’s a quality player, but I’m not so sure that this was a particularly good contract for the team. It’s a three-year, $28.5 million pact on paper, but it’s really structured like a 2-year, $17.8 million deal. The Jets have an escape hatch after 2020. The nearly $18 million in cash is a pretty sweet deal for a player coming off a 29-catch, 388-yard, 2-touchdown campaign. Crowder battled through an ankle injury last year, so kudos to him for getting this type of contract. He’s a solid player, who should help Darnold.
Kicker Chandler Catanzaro Grade: C
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The Jets let Pro Bowl kicker Jason Myers walk out of the building, because they A) didn’t believe that his talent warranted his asking price and B) they wanted to save some cash at a position that they don’t value that much for some odd reason. You could make a case that Myers was the most valuable player on the team last year not named Jamal Adams. The Jets, however, chose to take a cheaper route by bringing back Chandler Catanzaro on a one-year, $2.3 million deal. Myers will get $5.5 million in cash from the Seahawks in 2019. In other words, Gang Green saved about $3 million in 2019. Catanzaro had a solid season for the Jets in 2017. Special teams coach Brant Boyer repeatedly raved about him before the kicker signed with Tampa Bay last offseason. The Cat Man was a train wreck for the Bucs, who cut him after missing four of 15 field goal attempts. (He also missed four PATs in nine games). Catanzaro finished up the season with the Panthers. Cutting corners with your kicker can be dangerous. The Jets better hope that this cost-cutting measure doesn’t blow up in their faces.
CB Brian Poole Grade: C-plus
You can’t help but raise an eyebrow as to why the Falcons didn’t tender Poole after three seasons. The undrafted slot corner logged over 1,000 snaps as a rookie for a team that appeared in the Super Bowl. He was solid in his first year before a decline in his play in 2017 and 2018. Poole, 26, will replace the Buster Skrine in as the nickel corner. Poole has been a sneaky-good blitzer in his career, so look for Gregg Williams to utilize that part of his repertoire.
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QB Trevor Siemian Grade: B
The best-case scenario would probably have been to bring back Josh McCown on a cheap one-year deal, but Siemian is a solid fallback. He’s got previous starting experience (13-11 with the Broncos), who should be a help to Darnold. The backup quarterback crop wasn’t exactly loaded with great options. The Jets would have likely wound up with Brock Osweiler or David Fales, who both played for Gase in Miami, if Siemian wound up elsewhere.
Henry Anderson (Nam Y. Huh / AP)
DE Henry Anderson Grade: B-plus
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Adam Gase has made it clear since his arrival that one of the biggest traps for new coaching staffs is to misevaluate/overlook quality players in-house. Well, Gase & Co. wisely decided that Anderson was worth bringing back after a thorough look at his production and value last season. The Jets, frankly, loved everything about Anderson.
CB Darryl Roberts Grade: B-minus
The Jets still need help at cornerback, but there was nothing wrong with bringing Roberts back on a three-year, $18 million deal, which is really a 1-year pact with $4.5 million in cash for 2019. There’s no guaranteed money beyond Year 1, so the Jets can move on easily after this season if they choose. Roberts played well last season, so it made sense to retain him with an easy escape hatch after 2019.
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NT Steve McClendon Grade: A
This was one of my favorite signings. The Jets retained a valuable leader who can still make a contribution on the field. And they got him for a good price: $2.5 million in 2019. There is nobody more respected in the locker room than this guy.