National Football League
Jets GM Joe Douglas’ impressive offseason gives team flexibility in draft
National Football League

Jets GM Joe Douglas’ impressive offseason gives team flexibility in draft

Published Apr. 19, 2024 10:52 a.m. ET

New York Jets GM Joe Douglas could prove unpredictable when making his pick at No. 10 overall in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Prior to free agency, it seemed like a sure thing that he'd take either a receiver or a tackle. Those were, after all, the Jets' biggest needs and they aligned perfectly with what this draft class had to offer. It was as if the draft class were tailored to New York's depth chart. And if Douglas had wanted to sit back, save money and wait to get a plug-and-play starter, he could have done that. 

Initially, the Jets remained quiet in free agency. They unloaded a few big contracts before the new league year (C.J. Uzomah and Laken Tomlinson) but then sat back quietly in the first wave of free agency. Aaron Rodgers, their 40-year-old quarterback coming off of an Achilles tear, presented every reason for urgency. But it wasn't totally clear whether the Jets would get after it. 

They had to rebuild their offensive line. That much was clear. That is, as it turned out, where Douglas began what turned out to be a busy offseason.


New York entered free agency with basically two solidified starters on the offensive line: Joe Tippmann and Alijah Vera-Tucker. Because last season was such a mess for New York's offense, both players played out of position due to necessity (and injury). Tippmann, a center, played some guard. And Vera-Tucker, a guard, played some tackle. They played admirably. AVT played well enough for his position to remain something of a mystery heading into the offseason.

The Jets first signed guard John Simpson and then traded for right tackle Morgan Moses. The two veterans make plenty of sense to plug and play on the offensive line. Simpson replaces Tomlinson, a major free agency signing from 2022 (three years, $40 million). And Tomlinson's failure in New York serves as an important reminder that these acquisitions — while seemingly sensible at the time — aren't always functional. Tomlinson was a great player until he got to New York. But he never quite fit. So there's no knowing if everything is going to work seamlessly for these new Jets. 

But on paper, the Jets were inputting solutions to their problems on the offensive line. Around the time they signed Simpson, the Jets also added defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw after seeing a handful of departures at that position. It was another sensible, if not exciting, solution to a problem. To finish off the job with the offensive line, however, Douglas needed a left tackle.

That's when things got exciting for New York.

New York agreed to terms with tackle Tyron Smith.

The day later, they added receiver Mike Williams.

Will Mike Williams be a good fit on the Jets?

At reasonable costs, Douglas managed to fill the team's two most expensive needs — the ones that aligned with the offerings of the draft. The Jets got a left tackle and a top-tier receiver.

There's no denying the risks involved with both players. They would not have been available if not for their injury history. Smith had back, neck and knee injuries in 2023 and Williams tore his ACL. And long injury histories were, in part, what sunk the Jets at tackle, particularly when it came to Mekhi Becton. But Smith and Williams are so dang good that they're worth that risk. Smith and Williams are Pro Bowl-caliber players. Smith is just what the Jets need on Rodgers' blindside. And Williams is an ideal red-zone threat for New York's offense. 

Certainly, Garrett Wilson won't complain about having a little help in the passing offense. The wideouts around him were unimpressive last season, from Allen Lazard to Randall Cobb. Williams is likely to be a massive upgrade, even coming off a torn ACL.

"It was a great fit," said Williams, who played seven years with the Chargers. "Aaron — I want to be able to play with him, pick his brain, learn from him. Playing alongside Garrett, it kind of reminds me of Keenan [Allen] a little bit. Similar style of play. Great route runners. I think we can complement each other."

At the end of March, the Jets found their replacement for edge Bryce Huff when New York traded for Eagles Pro Bowler Haason Reddick.

What Haason Reddick means for Jets defense

Even though the Jets entered the offseason with a little — but not a lot — of cap space, they found themselves filling every need. And they did it before the draft.

It all adds up to a unique opportunity for New York when the draft gets underway.

Douglas can pick …. whoever he likes.

Because this draft has so much talent to offer on offense — and it's easy to imagine the team wants to appease Rodgers — the Jets seem like a natural fit for tight end Brock Bowers or receivers Rome Odunze and Malik Nabers. They would be threats for this offense on Day 1. But there's a strong case, given Smith's injury history, to take one of the tackles. JC Latham and Olu Fashanu, for example, should and could be options for the Jets. Even the draft's top defensive player, edge Dallas Turner, could be on the board for New York.

Colin Cowherd's Mock Draft 2.0: Rome Odunze to Jets at No. 10

[READ MORE: Jayden Daniels moves up, Bo Nix goes 12th in Colin Cowherd's NFL mock draft]

If Douglas really wants to, he could even trade back from No. 10.

If Douglas really wants to get nuts, he could take a quarterback.

OK, fine. Maybe we're getting a little crazy.

A trade back is unlikely to set up Rodgers for success in 2024. A quarterback could fracture Rodgers' relationship with the Jets. So we probably won't see either thing happen. 

But Douglas, whose roster looked like it had the potential to lose a substantial amount of talent, has a healthy roster. He has alleviated all concerns about drafting for need. The Jets can simply take the best player available. They can think about the future — about players who won't just help Rodgers but help coach Robert Saleh and the next quarterback. And given what this team looked like when the 2024 league year opened, it's a credit to Douglas' work to find affordable solutions.

Prior to joining FOX Sports as the AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @henrycmckenna.


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