The Jets are Joe Douglas’ team now

Part 13 in a series analyzing the New York Jets

Joe Douglas has been the Jets’ general manager for almost a year now, but the evaluation of Douglas is only just about to begin.

Douglas basically got a free pass last year, because he was hired in June and had very little to do with the construction of the 2019 team. He was able to tinker and add a few pieces during July and August with varying results, but for the most part, no fingers were pointed at Douglas after any of the losses. Roster holes were blamed on his predecessor, Mike Maccagnan.

That is about to change. Maccagnan’s fingerprints still will be on the 2020 Jets, but this is now Douglas’ team. He flipped a lot of the roster over this offseason and brought in basically an entirely new offensive line, made changes at wide receiver and added at a few other positions in free agency. Douglas oversaw his first draft in April, and how Mekhi Becton or Denzel Mims performs will reflect on Douglas.

It is impossible to grade Douglas’ moves until we see the team on the field. Even then, it will take a while to get a full evaluation of all of his acquisitions. Right now, what we can grade on is the logic of his decisions. For the most part, everything Douglas did makes sense. He prioritized fixing the offensive line, which no one can argue with. He made protecting Sam Darnold the objective this offseason.

Joe Douglas
Joe DouglasAP

You could quibble with his approach in free agency. Instead of targeting a big-name, big-money free agent like Jack Conklin, Douglas spread the money around on several lesser accomplished players who came cheaper. If he hits on two of the three free agents — tackle George Fant, center Connor McGovern and guard Greg Van Roten — then his approach will be vindicated. If the Jets’ line looks like last year’s, then Douglas will get roasted.

As for questionable decisions, letting receiver Robby Anderson walk in free agency is one. The Panthers only gave Anderson $12 million guaranteed — which does not seem like an unreasonable price. Douglas opted to go the cheaper route with Breshad Perriman, who has had an inconsistent career but finished last season strong.

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When you look at the roster, there are still holes at edge-rusher and cornerback, which Douglas may still try to plug before the season gets here.

In the draft, Douglas stuck with the offensive line as his top priority by taking Becton instead of a wide receiver in the first round. Becton has size you can’t teach (6-foot-7, 364 pounds) and was a monster at Louisville last season. Douglas also found a receiver in Mims and added a few other players who could contribute right away — namely safety Ashtyn Davis, defensive lineman Jabari Zuniga and punter Braden Mann.

“The objective is to try to make this team better,” Douglas said after Day 3 of the draft. “I feel like we added a lot of quality football players, quality people. I think we’re better after this weekend than we were before the draft started.”

Another challenge still ahead for Douglas is navigating the Jamal Adams contract situation. There are clearly rocky times ahead in this negotiation, with Adams wanting an extension now and Douglas wanting to push it off until 2021. How he handles a star player like Adams, trade talks and whether a contract gets done will be a big part of Douglas’ legacy as GM.

The 2020 Jets are much more Douglas’ team than the 2019 Jets were. He is the architect of this team. The scrutiny will fall on him this year if the team struggles, not his predecessor.

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