Although Ryan Fitzpatrick remains a free agent, Jets GM Mike Maccagnan has not changed his stance on the veteran quarterback.
"Our focus is ideally to get Ryan back in the organization and continue forward with him," Maccagnan said last week before departing for the NFL Owners Meetings in Boca Raton, FL. "At some point of time, you have to implement things if you feel you have exhausted all options of trying to get something done. But in my mind, that's not something we're focused on quite frankly right now. Right now, Ryan is a free agent and we're actively trying to facilitate a contract with him. If and when it works out or if it does or doesn't, we'll go through that process. And if we have to get to the next stage which is go into other possibilities, we'll approach that then."
During the first weekend of free agency, the Green & White entertained Robert Griffin III at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. The 26-year-old Griffin, who was the No. 2 overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, played three seasons in D.C. while completing 63.9% of his passes for 8,097 yards with 40 TD and 23 INT. Griffin also averaged 6.1 yards per carry and added eight scores on the ground.
"Robert Griffin was a player we looked at and again our focus primarily is trying to get something worked out with Ryan," Maccagnan said. "But again we're just doing our due diligence and seeing what else is out there. It was a good meeting, it was more of a 'meet and greet' type situation with him where we got a chance to interact with him a little bit sort of face-to-face. And if we decide we want to continue to follow it up, we'll pursue it down the road at some point of time."
Thus far in Maccagnan's second spring, the Jets have revamped their running back stable while the middle of their defense is undergoing a transformation as well.
The Jets created a new trifecta at the top of their RB depth chart as veterans Matt Forte and Khiry Robinson will join Bilal Powell in the offensive backfield. After eight years in Chicago, Forté should find comfort in Chan Gailey's offensive attack. Gailey likes to get his backs involved not only in the run game, but also by creating favorable matchups in the pass game as well. The 6'2", 218-pound Forté has reached the 1,000-yard mark in three of the past four seasons and he has also averaged 61 receptions throughout his career.
"When we looked at the free agency market, we knew Forté was out there and we liked him quite a bit," Maccagnan said. "We know he's a little bit older than some of the other backs, but he's still a very good back."
Powell, one of three Jets UFA backs entering the new league year, excelled late in 2015. During the Green & White's five-game win streak, Powell emerged as a critical piece while averaging five receptions per game and scoring three touchdowns. The sturdy 5'10", 204-pounder has always been solid in protection and runs well out of the shotgun formation.
Robinson joined the roster hours after another ex-Saint departed. Fresh off his first 1,000-yard season as a pro, the hard-charging Chris Ivory signed a lucrative deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars. An undrafted free agent out West Texas A&M University in 2013, the 6'0", 220-pound Robinson averaged 4.1 yards per carry and added 25 receptions in three seasons with the Saints. Robinson is a powerful runner who could help the Jets in short yardage situations.
"Losing Chris we were disappointed in, but we're happy for that he got a good offer, a good deal done from another team," Maccagnan said. "And it gave us the ability sort of redirect some of our funds to other positions, other places to make the impact of our cap situation a little better for us."
In other offensive transactions, the Jets released both TE Jeff Cumberland and WR Jeremy Kerley. Cumberland had been used primarily as an inline blocker last season and the Jets like their depth at wide receiver. Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker became one of the top tandems in football while Quincy Enunwa emerged in his second pro season and New York's AFC representative has high hopes for Devin Smith. The Jets also re-signed veteran TEs Kellen Davis & Zach Sudfeld and veteran WR Kenbrell Thompkins signed his tender.
Prior to the start of free agency, the Jets placed the franchise tag on Muhammad Wilkerson. Then after Damon "Snacks" Harrison signed a huge deal with the cross-town Giants, the Jets added a veteran DL in Steve McLendon. The 6'7", 348-pound McLendon, who played six seasons for the Steelers, has appeared in 79 career games while totaling 90 tackles and five sacks. He is a space eater who helped the Steelers finish No. 5 against the run last season while playing the nose and some defensive end in sub packages. The Jets some added depth at DE with the signing of Jarvis Jenkins. Originally a second-round pick of the Redskins in the 2011 NFL Draft, the 6'4", 315-pound Jenkins posted a career-high four sacks last season with the Bears.
"They've agreed to terms with us," Maccagnan said of McLendon and Jenkins. "Both of them, in our minds, were good value-type guys in the marketplace. That's what we sort of went in looking for. ... McLendon has experience at the nose tackle position, Jenkins has played more of all positons on the defensive line."
After starting the past three seasons alongside David Harris, Demario Davis joined the Cleveland Browns. Veteran Erin Henderson, who joined a rotation with Davis late last season, has reportedly drawn in interest from multiple suitors. The Jets also have some young players on their roster including Taiwan Jones, a standout at Michigan State who spent most of last season on the team's practice squad, and outside rusher Freddie Bishop, a recent signee who racked up 11 sacks last season for the CFL's Calgary Stampeders. Last week, the Jets hosted both WR-PR Jordan Norwood and LB Courtney Upshaw.
"There are still some good players out there and potentially some players who could help us," Maccagnan said. "But both those visits went very well. We'll see what happens as they go forward."
The Jets entered free agency with 23 free agents and 13 remain. Two of them were regulars in the lineup and Fitzpatrick has dominated the conversation outside of One Jets Drive.
"We like Ryan. We'd like very much to get Ryan back in the fold," Maccagnan said. "Like every free agency, there are two camps and you have to work through this and eventually hopefully we can find a middle ground at some point of time. We'll see."