The New York Jets were an unmitigated disaster in 2020. Their head coach, Adam Gase, was on the hot seat heading into the year and he didn’t do himself any favors with a 2-14 record.
Ultimately he was fired on Black Monday and the team was left in rubble.
Thankfully the Jets entered the offseason with a ton of cash (second-most cap space in the NFL) and a bounty of draft selections.
In the NFL, unlike many other major sports, you can turn things around in a single offseason.
The playoff turnover rate is 50 percent from year to year, which means new teams are entering the mix on a seemingly annual basis.
Could the New York Jets Be Next?
If the Jets are next, they would end the NFL’s longest active playoff drought (10 years).
There’s a lot of optimism around Gang Green and for good reason.
They hired one of the best coaching candidates on the market in Robert Saleh. The team invested over $75 million during the free agency period. Plus the Jets added 10 rookies to the mix via the 2021 NFL draft.
All of that hype inspired Michelle Bruton of Bleacher Report to list the green and white as one of the most improved teams of the 2021 NFL offseason.
As a matter of fact, she listed the Jets as the third most improved franchise in the NFL:
“It’s hard to say whether the Jets would be able to actually contend in 2021 but there’s no question whatsoever they’re putting out a vastly improved team from last season.”
To Contend or Not To Contend?
There’s no question the Jets are vastly improved from where they were a year ago.
The quarterback situation has been reset. Several talented offensive pieces have upgraded what was an overall dull unit with veteran wideout Corey Davis, rookie guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, and Ole Miss stud Elijah Moore.
While the defensive side of the ball didn’t get nearly the same attention this offseason, it’s still a unit overflowing with potential.
One of the few major moves the Jets made on that side of the ball was investing at EDGE rusher to the tune of $45 million with the addition of Carl Lawson. In theory, Lawson should evolve in this 4-3 scheme led by Saleh which should open up things up for everyone else on the defense, including Quinnen Williams.
Although there are several questions left unanswered heading into the 2021 campaign.
The Jets are choosing to risk it to potentially get the biscuit at several key positions which could ultimately decide how good this team is going to be next year.
The Jets opted against drafting one on the first two days of the 2021 NFL draft. They also avoided signing anyone of note in that department on the open market.
Seems like Saleh is cool rolling with the young cats like Bryce Hall, Bless Austin, Javelin Guidry, and a slew of young draft picks. If it works out, the team saved a ton of money and they’re developing guys for the future. If it fails? The Jets could get lit up like a Christmas tree this Fall.
Center, Right Guard
You can’t say the Jets aren’t stubborn.
Despite some terrible film on Connor McGovern, Greg Van Roten, and Alex Lewis the team seems certain they’ll improve in this new scheme. Again, if they’re right they solved multiple roster holes with their belief and development.
If they’re wrong on this decision, this will reap far worse consequences than simply getting beat deep on defense. Their rookie quarterback, Zach Wilson out of BYU, will be staring up at the stars lying on his back from the pounding he took.
The Other Factor Is Beyond the Jets’ Control. What About the Rest of the AFC East?
While the Jets improved without a shadow of a doubt, you could also argue several other teams in the division also got a lot better.
The Buffalo Bills essentially retained the entirety of their roster that took them to the AFC Championship game last season.
While the New England Patriots pulled a move out of left field by spending an NFL league-high $156.9 million in guaranteed dollars during free agency.
Also, don’t forget about the Miami Dolphins who were one of the most improved NFL teams from 2019 to 2020. Not many people had the Dolphins pegged as a double-digit regular season team heading into this past season. Yet they went from 5-11 to 10-6.
That should serve as motivation for the green and white heading into 2021. The Dolphins used free agency and the draft to increase the talent level of the team. They played a last-place schedule and took full advantage of it.
The Jets will have that same opportunity this season, let’s see what they do with it.