Some things never change at this time of year in the NFL. For the Jets and general manager Joe Douglas, one of those rocks is the importance of the draft in building and maintaining your team.
"I feel the draft is always the core of consistently good football teams," Douglas said at his end-of-season news conference earlier this week.
But two conditions for the Jets may be reshaping that rock into a little different kind of foundation as the Jets build and grow into 2022.
One is the Jets' "flexibility," which includes a surplus of top draft picks. The Jets have nine selections overall, with the NFL confirming their first-round selections of fourth and 10th overall (with No. 10 from Seattle as part of the Jamal Adams trade) and with their two second-round picks shaping up as Nos. 35 and 38 (with No. 38 from Carolina as part of the Sam Darnold deal).
That word also includes anticipated salary-cap space. Douglas did not put a dollar amount on the Jets' cap room and the number is not official yet. But websites that monitor the cap around the NFL peg the team to be solidly in the top 10 among teams with the greatest cap room heading into free agency beginning in March. During Sunday's Jets-Bills telecast, CBS said the Jets would have the league's fourth-most space under the cap at $60.9 million.
Flexibility is a key element not only to signing unrestricted free agents but also to acquiring players via trades.
"I think we're always going to be aggressive if the right opportunity presents itself," Douglas said. "The good thing is that I think moving forward, we can be in just about any discussion when it comes to player trades."
Yet because most NFL player trades involve draft picks, Douglas was asked if his build-through-the-draft philosophy was changing.
"I think you're constantly evolving," he said, "and there's some core philosophies that don't change but you have to be open to seeing how things are done and maybe adopting certain principles.
"And so, where we are with the assets we have now, we have great flexibility to be aggressive in a lot of different avenues. Those are going to be vital conversations that Coach [Robert Saleh] and I have, along with Christopher [Johnson] and Woody [Johnson], and so, we're excited about this offseason, we're excited about attacking free agency, about attacking the draft, about attacking the combine."
The other condition has been the Jets' recent performance, and Douglas is quite aware of that and of the Jets 4-13 record for their just concluded first season under Saleh and their 6-27 mark in the past two campaigns. And that also seems to be informing his thinking heading into this offseason.
"Look, there needs to be improvement. I think everybody knows that," he said. "We need to be better than four wins, we need to be better than six wins in two years, there's no question about that. So the impetus is on us bringing in the right type of people and winning games, closing games out in the fourth quarter.
"The consistently good teams through the years, they have a core of drafted players and then they supplement through free agency. But again, we're sitting here, and we have a lot of flexibility moving forward. So that's the main thing — improving the win-loss record."