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After Pursuit of Tyreek Hill, Jets GM Joe Douglas Remains Ready to Strike

Aligned with HC Robert Saleh, Douglas Will Stay Aggressive  


Jets general manager Joe Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh come from opposite poles -- so to speak -- on the football field. Douglas cherishes the so-called "big uglies" up front on the offensive line. Saleh is a disciple of overwhelming defensive fronts.

While the two guys don't meet at midfield for the coin toss, it's not merely a matter of heads or tails. More a matter of hoping the coin lands on its end because they each believe the essence of success in today's NFL is strength up front on offense and defense.

So who wins the discussion and whose view prevails?

"I think we all win because it all starts up front," Douglas told reporters early on Tuesday on the second day of the NFL's Annual League Meetings in Palm Beach, FL. "We go back and forth, but we see it the same way.

"It all starts up front. This game is about protecting your quarterback and getting him weapons. Then affecting the other team's quarterback and the best way is the pass rush. In my eyes, and coach believes it, too. If you want to take a $30 million receiver off the field, you hit the quarterback, and you hit him often. That's always going to be our belief, and coach and I see it the same way."

Those complementary approaches have so far played out during the free-agency period, which will inform what Douglas and the Jets do in the 2022 NFL Draft (April 28-30 in Las Vegas). To the offensive line, the Green & White has added guard Laken Tomlinson, and two tight ends in C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin. In addition, the team has re-signed linemen Dan Feeney and Conor McDermott. The additions on the defensive line include Solomon Thomas and Jacob Martin, plus the re-signing of Nathan Shepherd.

"You want to be aggressive, but you don't want to be reckless," Douglas said about free agency and potential trades. "So you don't want to get out in front of your skis. With some players in free agency, we were right there, but in the end couldn't get it done because it seemed reckless."

Douglas is preparing for his third draft along with a coaching staff that is preparing for its second season at One Jets Drive. As the learning continues, so does the anticipation and desire to excel.

At present, the Jets have the No. 4 and No. 10 selections in Round 1 and No. 35 and No. 38 in Round 2. They have needs to fill, perhaps at edge, offensive line (there's that Douglas mantra), defensive line (Saleh's wish list) and wide receiver. They've already pursued a trade that would have cost draft picks, for Kansas City's Tyreek Hill, which sends a message that the Jets are open for business, and on the same page as an organization.

"Everyone's going to be better in Year 2 than in Year 1," Douglas said. "I like to think everyone is better in the second year of job. Robert brought in an unbelievable staff of teachers, leaders and motivators. I know there's complete buy-in from our players. I feel great about the staff Robert has put together.

"This is my third offseason with the team ... there's pressure every offseason. We have four picks in the top 38 and if we do this the right way it could really be special. So we set ourselves up with free agents and with an opportunity with those top four picks. It's a huge opportunity for us."

Part of the approach, as the free-agent value of WRs reached the stratosphere, was to fill a need at tight end by signing Uzomah and Conklin.

"For us, with where we are with our young quarterback, as free agency unfolded we saw the market [for WRs] going crazy," Douglas said. "We felt a good pivot was to add some quality tight ends, maybe not the high end of the market compared to wide receiver, but guys to come in here to help our offense and our young quarterback."

Though Douglas said that he's content with the team's current crop of wide receivers, the pursuit of Hill (and others) shows he wants more options for second-year quarterback Zach Wilson.

"We feel good about this group we have and want to add to it. If there's an opportunity at the right price, we're going to strike. If the right player presents himself we're going to strike.

"I feel good about the receivers we have. Elijah [Moore] was starting to come on before his injury. [Corey] Davis was on target for 1,000 yards before his injury and we brought back Braxton [Berrios]. I feel good about this group we have and want to add to it."

He added: "When you have quality tight ends, it's a security blanket for the quarterback."

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