After the Senior Bowl and last week's NFL Scouting Combine, now comes the start of free agency on March 16 (the legal tampering period begins on March 14 at 4 p.m.) and then the NFL Draft at the end of April.
General manager Joe Douglas has been nothing but assiduous the past two years as he's navigated the challenging shoals of free agency. He has been careful to not overpay and has wisely signed several free agents to one-year contracts (LB Jarrad Davis, WR Keelan Cole and OL Morgan Moses, for example), basically offering an opportunity to prove their value.
Now, with almost $50 million under the league's salary cap, the Jets have the opportunity to go big, go smaller to fill a great number of needs, all the while setting themselves up for the draft. With nine total picks, two each in Round 1 and Round 2, this offseason could play a pivotal role in the transformation of the organization.
A Young Group ... and It's New York
Robert Saleh, to the surprise of no one, is a champion of the young and developing players on his team. He's also embraced the energy and opportunity in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area.
"We have a young group, we're moving in the right direction and we have an exciting young quarterback that I think people will recognize is going to be a heck of a football player," Saleh said recently. "From a free-agent standpoint, that's the selling point. You have an opportunity to come out here, make a difference and you're in the greatest city in America. You're in New York where all eyes are on you and you have a chance to do something special. When you do something special, it's pretty cool. I think the New York brand kind of speaks for itself and it's our job to answer any questions they may have and really showcase all the youth and experience we have here.
"I think Mike LaFleur did a really nice job as an offensive coordinator and he's a really attractive coordinator for players to get the ball if you're on offense. Defensively, there are ways for us to get better and there's a lot of opportunities for us here on all three levels. It's kind of an easy sell to be honest with you."
Joe D: 'We're Ready to Strike'
Before Douglas, Saleh and their staffs can laser-focus on the draft, the money available under the NFL's salary cap puts the Jets in a strong position, with flexibility to sign free agents.
"We're going to get this team better any avenue we can," Douglas said. "If the right opportunity presents itself ... we're ready to strike."
According to Overthecap.com, the Jets have the third-most flexibility with $48 million under the cap, a number that could increase if the team decides not to retain additional players.
"We have a lot of work to do," Douglas said. "The work that we've done last year, the work that we've done leading up to this offseason there's been a lot of trust. I'm just excited to get this thing going. I can't wait for the start of the league year."
In January Douglas said: "I think you're constantly evolving. There are some core philosophies that don't change, but you have to be open to seeing how things are done and maybe adopting certain principles. Where we are now with the assets we have now, we have great flexibility to be aggressive in a lot of different avenues."
More recently, Douglas provided his general views on free agency.
"There's a lot of different avenues, a lot of different tools to improve your roster," he said. "Free agency is one of those tools, and so I think we have a good opportunity. We have assets that we've acquired, we have financial flexibility, so again, there's a lot of conversations that need to be had in the next coming days and weeks before this kicks off."
Take a look at the Jets players slated to become unrestricted or restricted free agents when the NFL's free agency period begins on March 16.
Saleh: 'It's All About Us'
Saleh has been emphatic about the need for a free agent, any free agent, to fit in with the team's developing culture, and schemes on offense and defense.
"As far as our philosophies in what we look for from a character standpoint, an athlete and how they fit in our scheme, it's about us," he said in a conference call with Jets season-ticket holders. "As we go into gameday, it's about us. We focus on us, and the belief is that if you focus on you and make it about you and you do everything to maximize who you are, then you'll make the great ones look normal and you'll embarrass the bad ones. That's just where we are from a mentality standpoint and what we're trying to develop here."
During last week's Combine, Saleh stayed back in New Jersey where he and his staff discussed free agents and the draft. That while Douglas and some of his staff made the trip to Indianapolis.
"We wrapped up free-agent discussions with the scouts, and I feel really good about the plan," Saleh said. "Joe and I continue to have conversations. He's [went to Indianapolis] to get what GMs get what he can out of the Combine, which is visiting with agents. At the same time, we feel really good where we're at and will have more discussions about where we go. I thought that [OC] Mike [LaFleur] and Brick [DC Jeff Ulbrich] and [special teams coordinator] Brant [Boyer] did a good job discussing what they need. But it still comes down to the draft.
"Every offseason is very, very important, hitting on players, selecting the right people in free agency, making the right picks in the draft and continuing to develop. We continue to be focused on making sound decisions for this organization."