JOE DOUGLAS begins his fourth season as general manager of the New York Jets after being named to the position in June of 2019. Now in his 23rd season in the National Football League, Douglas, a three-time Super Bowl winning executive, continues to put his stamp on the organization.
The organization's vision for Douglas was not just about the ability to construct a roster. "A general manager must be more than just a talent evaluator. He must be able to build and sustain a winning culture," Vice Chairman Christopher W. Johnson said after announcing Douglas' hire. "That includes a commitment to collaboration and earning the trust of his colleagues."
Johnson's confidence in Douglas was on display as they, along with team president, Hymie Elhai, led the search for the team's new head coach. In hiring Robert Saleh, Johnson is confident that the first-year head coach will join with Douglas and Elhai to form the cohesive foundation that brings the Jets to their goal of a sustained, winning franchise.
"You better know what you're looking for and know what you're looking at."
That was advice Douglas recalled from his mentor, former Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome, and he has stayed true to his core principle that successful teams are built by people with the right level of commitment, character and competence, as Douglas looks to develop and sustain to what he characterizes as, "the best culture in sports."
Since taking the position, Douglas has shown that the search for players never stops. He has added starters and contributors in the NFL Draft and undrafted free agency, signed key free agents, both from the onset and throughout the year, and made steadying in-season moves via waiver claims and trades. Since his appointment just over two seasons ago, almost 97% of the roster was acquired or extended by him, with over 73% coming in the last two years.
For Douglas, roster construction isn't a quick fix. "Ultimately, I think when you look at successful organizations, no matter what the sport, you don't see a lot of teams that build long-term success by buying their way out of it," he said in 2020. "You see the teams, the organizations that have long-term success, they draft well, and they develop their players."
Since his hire, Douglas has improved the team's financial flexibility and added a number of draft assets, both by trading players with expiring contracts and draft-day deals. Through those deals, most notably the acquisition of two first-round picks and a third-round pick for safety Jamal Adams, as well as a second-round pick, fourth-round pick and sixth-round pick for quarterback Sam Darnold, the Jets have picked in the first two rounds of the 2021 and 2022 drafts seven times, including five first-round selections.
Entering any draft, the mission for Douglas is always the same – add difference makers that fit within the culture and scheme. Over his three drafts as the general manager (2020-22), he has done just that, using
top 40 picks on both sides of the ball, selecting cornerback Sauce Gardner (No. 4, 2022), wide receiver Garrett Wilson (No. 10, 2022), edge Jermaine Johnson (No. 26, 2022), running back Breece Hall (No. 36, 2022), quarterback Zach Wilson (No. 2, 2021), Alijah Vera-Tucker (No. 14, 2021), wide receiver Elijah Moore (No. 34, 2021) and tackle Mekhi Becton (No. 11, 2020), while showing mobility in both drafts to target key players via moving up, first with Alijah Vera-Tucker and again this year with Jermaine Johnson.
Beyond the first and second rounds, Douglas has added starters and depth throughout the draft, notably the team's leading rusher last year (2021) in fourth-round rookie running back Michael Carter as well as cornerback Bryce Hall, the first ever 17-game regular season starter for the Jets who finished sixth in the league in passes defensed in his second year (2021).
Despite the added wrinkle that his first draft as general manager (2020) was also the NFL's first ever virtual draft as a result of COVID-19 global pandemic, he showed no signs of being a rookie, despite drafting from his home, and turned eight draft picks and Leonard Williams' expiring contract into 13 players, while also adding key undrafted free agents.
As with the draft picks, matching character and talent has shown to be key when Douglas has used free agency to add to the roster. This offseason (2022), the Jets added multiple veterans with Super Bowl experience as cornerback D.J. Reed, Pro Bowl guard Laken Tomlinson, tight end C.J. Uzomah, and safety Jordan Whitehead have all played in one of the last three Super Bowls.
Among the priorities for Douglas has been remaking the offensive line and in addition to adding first-round picks in his first two drafts – Becton and Vera-Tucker – has signed three free agents, tackle George Fant and center Connor McGovern, who both graded as top 10 players at their position last season (2021) according to Pro Football Focus, and Tomlinson, who made the Pro Bowl in 2021.
Another key for Douglas in constructing the Jets has been waiver claims, using both at final cuts and the wire throughout the season to provide depth and reinforce the roster. Additionally, among his first claims (2019) were wide receiver/return specialist Braxton Berrios, a 2021 first-team All-Pro selection, and defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers, the team leader in pressures, hits and co-leader in sacks (2021) who signed a long-term extension last season. He has also added players like Quincy Williams (2021), the team's second-leading tackler in his first season with the Jets (2021) and Ty Johnson (2020) who has averaged over 4.25 yards per carry with 50 receptions since being claimed.
Throughout his time in the league, Douglas has put in the work and paid his dues, working as both a pro and college scout in Baltimore, Chicago and Philadelphia, and helping shape three different Super Bowl winning rosters. Before joining the Jets, he spent the previous three seasons as the vice president of player personnel with the Eagles. In Philadelphia, he was a key component in acquiring many of the players that helped win Super Bowl LII, including the game's MVP, quarterback Nick Foles.
Using every avenue to help improve the team, Douglas was part of a front office that acquired the players who scored all but two of the team's postseason touchdowns, including four of the five scores in the Super Bowl. A trio of 2017 unrestricted free agent signings - LeGarrette Blount, Foles and Alshon Jeffery – as well as a pair of street free agents – Patrick Robinson and Torrey Smith – all contributed scores on the team's title run. The Eagles' leading receiver in the Super Bowl, running back Corey Clement, was signed as an undrafted free agent, while the team's leading rusher in the game, running back Jay Ajayi, joined the club as a midseason trade.
Prior to joining the Eagles, Douglas spent a season as the director of college scouting for Chicago (2015).
Entering the NFL as a player personnel assistant (2000) the year Baltimore won Super Bowl XXXV, Douglas ascended within the Ravens organization, holding various posts in the organization's scouting department, serving as a national scout (2012-15), Southeast area scout (2009-11), East Coast area scout
(2008) and Northeast area scout (2003-07), helping add a number of prominent players via the draft, including the Super Bowl XLVII MVP, Flacco, as well as a number of Pro Bowl players – Ben Grubbs, C.J. Mosley, Justin Tucker and Marshal Yanda.
An All-Atlantic 10 selection, Douglas started 45 consecutive games at tackle for the University of Richmond. Following his collegiate playing career, he transitioned into a volunteer assistant coach role with the Spiders in 1999.
As an offensive and defensive lineman at Mechanicsville (VA) HS, formerly Lee-Davis, Douglas was recognized as a two-time all-state honoree.
He and his wife, Shannon, have two daughters, Addison and Leighton, and a son, Thomas.
New York Jets 2019-Present
General Manager 2019-Present
Philadelphia Eagles 2016-18
Vice President of Player Personnel 2016-18
Chicago Bears 2015
Director of College Scouting 2015
Baltimore Ravens 2000-14
National Scout 2012-14
Southeast Area Scout 2009-11
East Coast Area Scout 2008
Northeast Area Scout 2003-07
Player Personnel Assistant 2000-02
University of Richmond 1999
Volunteer Assistant Coach 1999
University of Richmond (Tackle) 1995-98