Last spring, the Jets brought in a potential pair of future Hall of Famers in CB Darrelle Revis and WR Brandon Marshall via free agency and trade respectively. But after capturing 10 games in 2015, the Green & White head into this offseason wanting to retain as many of their own players as they can.
"Once you decide who you want to sign and aggressively do that, I think more than anything that's job one for the Jets right now is retain as many quality free agents as they can," said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock. "And because they now are a good football team, they don't have to go out and make any splashes. You can get some mid-level to low-level free agents to fill in spots and then continue to build through the draft."
Named Executive of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America, Maccagnan was very active in his first free agency/trading period. In addition to Revis and Marshall, he acquired a number of key contributors including QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, LG James Carpenter, S Marcus Gilchrist, CBs Buster Skrine & Antonio Cromartie and he also re-signed ILB David Harris and RB Bilal Powell.
"What I saw with Mike and Todd I think is that you're starting to get a feel for what a New York Jet looks like. You know what he looks like, (what) he smells like, (what) he walks like," Mayock said. "So regardless of whether it's free agency or the draft, I think the two of them are on the same page. They did a great job last year especially in free agency. They plugged a lot of holes, they got some things done, they turned the thing around. The most important thing in that building is to build that foundation going forward."
Maccagnan, whose focus this offseason will first be on the Jets with expiring contracts, wants to augment his roster in free agency and build through the draft. USC product Leonard Williams (D1, No. 6) became a fixture on the defensive line in 2015 while former Louisville standout Lorenzo Mauldin (D3, No. 82) carved out a role as a situational pass rusher and hopes to be a three-down defender in 2016. Quarterback Bryce Petty (D4, No. 103) had the opportunity to learn behind Fitzpatrick and wideout Devin Smith (D2, No. 37) has the vertical speed that could open things up even more for an improved Jets offense.
"Mike's a mushroom. He's got his head down and he wants to watch tape," Mayock said of Maccagnan. "He's good with people and again I use the term foundation. It's a process and I thought the process started was really from an encouraging standpoint. He sets the tone on the personnel side. Of course Todd sets it on the football side and I think the marriage between their philosophy is true."
While improved in 2015, the Jets fell short of their goal of making the playoffs and competing for a championship. With some roster tinkering this spring, the Green & White could set themselves up for their first postseason berth since 2010.
"It goes back to continuing to make great decisions with personnel," Mayock said. "From my experience in this league, you need good quarterback play to get in the playoffs, you need great defenses. So right now, again I think they have to re-sign the quarterback, I think they have to continue to get better on defense, they have some offensive linemen who are growing old together. So even though it's a really good offensive line, they're getting older. So it's just a matter of continuing to replenish, get younger, get better. I'm excited about this Jets' future."