Jets GM Joe Douglas finished the NFL trade deadline quietly after making three deals in the weeks leading up to Tuesday. After shipping out defensive lineman Steve McLendon, linebacker Avery Williamson and linebacker Jordan Willis, he was didn’t move any more players in the final fours.
With the trade deadline gone, Douglas will turn his attention to evaluating the progress the team makes in the final eight games after starting 2020 with eight straight losses.
Following the Jets’ brutal start to the season, the GM weighed in on several issues facing the organization, from the status of head coach Adam Gase and quarterback Sam Darnold, to his regrets about Robby Anderson and not giving the team enough talent during the past offseason.
Douglas stands by Adam Gase
Douglas didn’t pin the team’s struggles all on Gase, saying it’s the responsibility of everyone in the building, himself included, to turn the Jets around.
“This is not all on Adam. Again, I have to do a better job of surrounding him with better players and better weapons,” Douglas said. “We’re in this together. I’m going through and thinking of everything I can do to try to help Adam. And the goal is to get this fixed together.”
Ultimately, Gase’s long-term status with the Jets won’t be decided by Douglas. The head coach’s future will be determined by acting owner Christopher Johnson, who is a daily fixture within the organization.
But Douglas did say he believes Gase is part of the solution.
“My focus is helping Adam solve the problem and work together to do it. And so obviously, I think we’re all confident in our abilities, but I’m focused to solve these problems with Adam.”
More weapons needed around Sam Darnold
As the Jets plummeted down the NFL standings and into the driver’s seat to earn the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the possibility of the team being in position to draft Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence became a more realistic possibility.
But Douglas isn’t thinking that far ahead. He didn’t reveal any draft plans or thoughts, and he said the team is still focused on helped Darnold become the cornerstone for the franchise.
“My thoughts on Sam, are the same now as they were (in the past), that Sam’s an ultra-talented quarterback, and I just can’t say enough about his grit and his toughness,” Douglas said. “Ultimately I have to do a better job of putting talent around Sam, and we have to develop some kind of continuity within the offense moving forward.”
“I have no problem saying that he is our best quarterback and our quarterback for the future.”
While the Jets’ wide receivers and offensive line have faced extensive injuries throughout the season — the five starting offensive linemen have played just three games together, and wideouts Breshad Perriman, Jamison Crowder and Denzel Mims haven’t played a single snap together — Douglas said he didn’t do enough to put pieces around Darnold to succeed.
That leads to one of his major offseason regrets.
On letting Robby Anderson walk
The Jets declined to re-sign wide receiver Robby Anderson when he was an unrestricted free agent following the 2019 season, and Anderson instead inked a new deal with the Carolina Panthers.
Through eight games with the Panthers, Anderson has 51 catches for 688 yards and one touchdown.
“There’s thousands of decisions that come across your desk during the year. And I go back and I look at what I could have done better in that specific situation,” Douglas said of letting Anderson leave. “I thought our guys did a fantastic job of really analyzing every position group’s market value leading up to free agency last year, and I think what went wrong with us and Robby, we thought there is no way … we thought that Robby’s value was going to be even greater than he signed for in Carolina.
“And so I think that’s on me ultimately, and that’s on us moving forward to get a better handle on every player’s market value. Honestly, we would all love to see Robby here doing what he’s doing. But I tip my hat to the success he has, but obviously we don’t want to be in the business of losing good players.”
Quinnen Williams, Chris Herndon were never on the trading block
There were reports that Douglas was also shopping defensive end Quinnen Williams and tight end Chris Herndon ahead of the trade deadline, but the GM said those were false. He said the Jets had no interest in moving Williams, the No. 3 overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft. He added they didn’t make calls or receive any on Herndon.
In regards to Williams, Douglas made it clear the defensive tackle is a key part of the Jets’ future. Douglas said he had conversations with Williams and his agent to make that clear.
“Offensive and defensive line matters, it’s the foundation of what we want to be,” Douglas said. “He plays a premium position on D-line. He’s an interior pass rusher that I think’s gotten better every week, and he’s not a good person, he’s a great person. So I think the focus is to keep as many of those people around as possible.”
While Williams has looked more like the impact player the Jets expected when they drafted him, Herndon has been a massive disappointment in his third NFL season. After missing most of 2019, Herndon has just 13 catches, plus two drops and two lost fumbles in 2020.
But Douglas believes Herndon has the ability to turn things around.
“I feel like Chris has been a little snake bit since his car accident, in terms of the injury last year, the suspension, and this year just hasn’t gone the way he envisioned I’m sure,” Douglas said. “But you can say that for 51 or 52 other guys on our team as well. So, I know Chris, no one cares more than Chris, and Chris comes out to practice, gives his all every single day. And so, like, for most of our team. The practice hasn’t translated into Sundays.”
Will Jets be more aggressive in free agency in 2021?
The Jets will enter the 2021 offseason with the most cap space in the NFL. But that doesn’t necessarily mean Douglas will go on a spending spree in free agency.
Douglas pointed to the Jets’ future draft capital — nine picks in the 2021 and 2022 NFL Draft, including two first rounders in each — as the biggest asset for the team’s rebuild.
While Douglas can use the team’s cap space to improve in other ways, his focus is on long-term solutions over short-term plugs.
“Part of what we’ve done is try to put our ourselves in a better financial health moving forward. I think we’re on our way to doing that,” Douglas said. “But ultimately, I think when you look at successful organizations, no matter what the sport. You don’t see a lot of teams that build long-term success by buying their way out of it. You see the teams, the organizations that have long-term success, they draft well, and they develop their players.
“I think that’s the model moving forward. I think that’s our vision moving forward. And when we have the opportunity to strike in free agency and having that flexibility, but not none of this is going to work if we don’t draft and develop these guys, especially with the assets we have.”
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