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Changed Landscape Awaits the Jets

NFL Scouting Combine Commences in Indianapolis on Feb. 29; Continuing 2024 Offseason Process


Each NFL offseason is unique. While the Jets needed a lead actor heading into the 2023 campaign, they'll likely focus on the supporting cast in 2024.

Last year at this point, the Jets had set forth on their hunt for a veteran quarterback. After a 7-10 season that ended with CB Sauce Gardner and WR Garrett Wilson capturing Defensive Rookie of the Year and Offensive Rookie of the Year honors respectively, GM Joe Douglas headed to the NFL Scouting Combine in late February and spoke of the journey at hand.

"Obviously we're going to be exploring the veteran quarterback market this offseason and we're going to look at every available option," he said.

In Indianapolis, pundits wondered about the possibilities of free agent Derek Carr and Jimmy Garropolo, who had an expiring contract, or even the prospects of striking a deal with the Green Bay Packers for Aaron Rodgers. On March 15, Rodgers declared his intention to play and play with the Jets on the "Pat McAfee Show." And on April 26, the trade paperwork was finalized, and the hunt was over. In addition to Rodgers, the Jets acquired the Packers' first-round pick (No. 15 overall) and a fifth-round pick (No. 170) in the draft in exchange for three 2023 picks— Nos. 13 (Round 1), 42 (Round 2) and 207 (Round 6) — and a conditional second-round pick in 2024 that would have become a first-round pick if Rodgers played 65 percent of the plays.

But Rodgers appeared in just four snaps before sustaining an Achilles tear against the Bills in Week 1. After nearly doubling their win total in 2022 (4 to 7), the Jets finished 7-10 for a second consecutive season. On the day he met with players for exit interviews, Douglas talked about the urgency ahead of 2024.

"We need to win," he said.

The Jets will again head to the Combine next week on a different expedition. No stranger to the postseason, Rodgers insisted in January the Jets were "close" while touting the "great foundational pieces" to build around. Entering a season where he'll turn 41 in December, Rodgers has talked about playing beyond just one year. His healthy return immediately makes the Jets better, but Douglas and his staff have some interesting decisions ahead this spring beginning with free agency.

"They are going to be able to attract veterans that might take a one-year deal to chase a ring or go somewhere where they think they can be a final piece for a team," said NBC Sports' Connor Rogers. "The Jets did this last year. Al Woods and Quinton Jefferson were great one-year-deal signings. Unfortunately, Al Woods got hurt and I think you saw the run defense change when he got hurt. So, I think you go down that avenue with players that are in their 30s, they are only signed to one-year deals, but they are still guys in a rotational role that play 30% to 60% of the snaps and are very impactful. Having Aaron Rodgers, that is what attracts guys. And Robert Saleh's scheme is very friendly towards players, especially defensive linemen. You have got to maximize your competitive advantages and that is one of the advantages the Jets have. Do they call Calais Campbell again? A guy they tried to get last year, who was great for the Falcons. Those are the players who don't break the bank and don't hurt your long-term financials as well."

The Jets have one of the NFL's best defenses and Bryce Huff, who broke out in 2023 with a team-leading 10 sacks, will draw multiple suitors if he hits the market. In addition to Woods and Jefferson, fellow DT Solomon Thomas also has an expiring contract. It's a similar situation at safety with Jordan Whitehead, Chuck Clark and Ashtyn Davis potentially becoming free agents. On offense, the Jets will emphasize the line in front of Rodgers and adding to the skills group that features two young stars in Wilson and RB Breece Hall.

"The Jets need to solidify and fortify that offensive line," said NFL Network's Mike Garofolo. "That is the most important missing word? thing? for sure and it has been a work in progress for years. They could be big spenders or active draft-wise to get themselves some big-ticket wide receivers to complement Garrett Wilson and this receiving corps. Allen Lazard was brought in to be that guy. Could they bring in someone else to help serve that role? I see the Jets being in the market for one of those guys. There are enough pieces across the board to feel good about it."

The Jets O-linemen with expiring contracts include tackles Mehki Becton, Duane Brown and Billy Turner in addition to C Connor McGovern. K Greg Zeurlein, P Thomas Morstead and special teams phenom Justin Hardee also could become free agents. The Jets don't have a ton of cap space, but there are ways to create flexibility.

A year after adding a veteran starting QB, Douglas figures to add a veteran backup to the mix this offseason. He said that a backup acquisition was a "high probability" as insurance behind Rodgers. But with Rodgers on the roster, the Jets will embark on a very different offseason than last year on multiple levels.

"I think the attention will be a little bit more muted," Garofolo said. "But I think it will be — not just from the Jets or Rodgers standpoint but from the media standpoint — it will be talked about, and this team will be in the spotlight but not like it was last year where it just dominated headlines."

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