Just down the hall here on the second floor of the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, the Jets pro personnel staff continues to prepare for free agency. After improving their win total by 6 games in 2015, the Green & White would like to take the next step in 2016 by earning a playoff berth and competing for a championship.
"We're still a work in progress. In a perfect world, we'd like to keep all our players moving forward," GM Mike Maccagnan told season ticket holders last week. "But now we're in the evaluation process. We've sort of done our internal self-scout. Now we're putting our board together for pro free agency and we actually include our own players in those stacks. We grade every player by position that is a pro free agent from top to bottom. We build a pro free agency board just like we build our draft board. And then we sit down and try to figure out fair market value for our players and you figure out an area you'd like to get the contract done at."
Some of the prominent Jets who have expiring contracts include QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, RBs Chris Ivory & Bilal Powell, DE Muhammad Wilkerson & NT Damon "Snacks" Harrison. The 2016 League Year and Free Agency period begin at 4:oo p.m. NY time on March 15.
"You actually have to set a limit on how high you will go with that contract because again you try to put all these pieces together like a puzzle to give you the best opportunity to be successful on the field," Maccagnan said. "Our goal - in a very general way right now - is to kind of figure out our offseason free agency strategy. We have a good idea of what we're doing. We're still finalizing it, but it's really knowing what we want to achieve which is keep as many as our free agents on the team as possible. But we always have to be prepared if they go elsewhere in free agency because other teams will pay them more than we would pay them per se. But the key is obviously trying to make sure we make decisions to help us to go to the next level going forward."
Echoing head coach Todd Bowles, Maccagnan expressed his desire to increase the speed on the Jets' roster.
"In terms of team needs, pass rusher would be one," he said. "Maybe a speed edge, finesse-type pass rusher that can really challenge the corner… And then on the offensive side, we obviously want to make the tight end position more competitive. We always could use more speed on the outside. We have a good offensive line. At the end of the day, we just want to continue to add some young players in the draft to kind of stockpile that position for the future."
And there are various ways the Jets can approach their roster tinkering in the offseason. Last year, Maccagnan was aggressive on the trade and free agency fronts while acquiring the likes of Brandon Marshall and Ryan Fitzpatrick in swaps while using the open market to rebuild his secondary and also re-signing key vets like David Harris and Powell. Fitzpatrick, who set a career-high with 3,905 passing yards along with establishing a franchise record with 31 TDs, has stated his desire to remain with New York's AFC representative.
"We're going to try to approach this thing to hopefully make ourselves a better team by keeping most of our own players, maybe augmenting some of that in free agency if the opportunity arises and we have the ability to do that, and then in the long term really through the draft," Maccagnan said. "I think the draft is the key to long-term sustainability of building a team that is competitive and can sustain it over time."
In addition to winning more in 2016, Maccagnan wants to add youth to the program while maintaining a solid locker room.
"It's a bit tricky quite frankly. It's not an easy thing to do, but we're trying to balance out winning now with our veteran group of players but also sort of instill a culture and chemistry of our team so that the young players kind of grow up in that," he said. "And then at some point of time when the veterans step aside – the younger players are ready to take their spots and not only perform ability wise at a high level but also from an intangible standpoint continue on hopefully the good chemistry we kind of built that our team experienced at the end of this season."