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Jets GM Joe Douglas: 'Free Agency Is Not Over'

After Adding ‘Youthful Veterans’ Early, Douglas Sits with Financial Flexibility Prior to the NFL Draft


It was typically steamy in Florida late last month when Jets general manager Joe Douglas was part of the organization's contingent at the NFL Annual League Meeting -- the first in-person get-together since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

"With everything that's been going on around the world the last couple years, this was the first time we've had an owners meeting in a few years," Douglas said. "For me, it's the first time at the meeting and now a draft where we've been able to bring players into the building. So is it Year 3 for me, or is it Year 1 in terms of the process and getting back to normal?"

And while Douglas might have been perspiring, there is certainly no indication -- weeks after the start of free agency and weeks before the NFL Draft -- that Douglas is operating without ice in his veins. While the pressure to win is always there, Douglas, second-year coach Robert Saleh and their staff believe they are building something special that will endure.

"Free agency is not over, there are opportunities in trades and now you're zoning in on the draft, a huge weekend at the end of April and we're sitting there with four picks in the top 38," Douglas told Eric Allen on a recent edition of "The Official Jets Podcast." "It's a pretty unique and cool situation to have four picks so high, and even after that there's a lot of meat left on the bone [with, at present, five additional picks]. We have a unique opportunity to add a lot of difference-makers to this team."

He acknowledged that one of the trades in the news involved the Jets' effort to acquire WR Tyreek Hill from Kansas City. Hill instead went to AFC East rival Miami.

"He was a guy, one of the premier playmakers in the league, and when the opportunity came up, we had a good process in place," he said. "Ultimately, it didn't work out, but at the same time our process was pure… Just being in position was important in those talks and knowing that there are going to be other opportunities in the future to get in the running."

While the Jets will have ample opportunities expand the options for second-year QB Zach Wilson and to bolster their receiving corps in the draft (a group that includes Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave/Ohio State, Drake London/USC and Jameson Williams/Alabama among others), Douglas said that he is comfortable and confident in the team's current crop of WRs.

"You've seen how the wide receivers' market has exploded," Douglas said. "It's an important position. They are dynamic playmakers, but we feel great about the receivers we have on the team. Elijah [Moore] is coming off a good rookie year. His injury was tough, losing him for those last few games. Braxton [Berrios] stepped up and became a playmaker. [Corey] Davis was on pace for 1,000 yards before his injury. And I'd be remiss to not mention a guy who's working his tail off in Denzel Mims, he'll come back ready to attack. We like the guys we have a whole lot. And if the opportunity comes again to add, we're ready to do that."

In the view of most analysts and observers, Douglas and the Jets filled several needs in free agency, obtaining young and experienced players who know how to play in big games.

"The thing we really wanted to get done ... we knew we had a young team on the field last season, and will continue to get younger," Douglas said. "Our free-agent plan was great, getting in the trenches with the staff and putting a plan in place to get our type of guys in free agency. We went out to get [TE C.J.] Uzomah, [OG Laken] Tomlinson, [CB D.J.] Reed, [S Jordan] Whitehead, guys who have played in meaningful games. They're still in their prime, youthful veterans in a way, who have played on the biggest stage. They're bringing that experience, that culture to our locker room. They're adding to the youth we already have.

"These guys are good players who have played in a lot of big games when stakes are highest. These are the guys we're looking for in terms of competing for love of the game, something that will permeate the group we have. It's exciting.

Those guys have been joined by TE Tyler Conklin, DT Solomon Thomas, DE Jacob Martin and others. And not to be discounted is that Douglas re-signed several of the Green & White's own free agents in Berrios, RB Tevin Coleman, OL Dan Feeney, QB Joe Flacco and DT Nathan Shepherd.

"We positioned ourselves to have financial flexibility and then to be able to acquire assets in the draft," Douglas said. "When the opportunity to trade or signing a free agent who fits what we want, we will go out and be aggressive. At the same time, it becomes a frenzied atmosphere. It's up to us to be aggressive, but also to not lose what we've worked so hard to gain -- and that's the financial flexibility that we have."

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