The Jets Will Stink, But That Doesn't Mean They Are Tanking

The Jets have gutted their team of veterans, and one exec thinks it might be the worst NFL roster in a decade. But there is value in evaluating the young players on the roster. At least it hints at a plan. Maybe.
June 7, 2017, 4:13pm
© Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets are not going to be a good football team next season. This was not news before Tuesday, and it's not really news today. But they will in all likelihood be a worse football team than we originally thought. The Jets abruptly released veteran linebacker David Harris and later announced that they would either trade or release—we're gonna go ahead and guess "release"—veteran wide receiver Eric Decker. This after purging Nick Mangold, Darrelle Revis, and Brandon Marshall.

The Jets were always going to be rebuilding this season—that is what you do when you add Josh McCown to a quarterback depth chart that includes Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg—but the timing of these most recent moves is weird, even for the Jets. Decker's eventual departure makes more sense, he's coming off hip and shoulder surgery, and the QB choices don't necessarily point to a high-flying offense that could use a veteran WR. Losing Harris, though, makes less sense. He was by all accounts, a model player—slowing down in age, sure, but a productive member, a leader on the field, and just about the best you could get off of it. Releasing him now, reportedly after contract restructuring talks broke down, seems like a shitty move, but the fungible nature of human football playing machines is always lurking in the NFL.

The eventual transactions eventually will save the Jets more than $13 million against the salary cap, which doesn't really do anything for them at this point in free agency (unless they are looking for recently available veteran linebackers and wide receivers). Unless another team has some shock releases of their own this summer, this is the team going forward. The plan is quite obviously to get younger, and the prevailing theory is that the Jets have now officially tanked the upcoming season in hopes of securing a franchise quarterback with a high pick in next year's draft.

Maybe that is the case, but forgoing a whole season for the sole purpose of a literal crapshoot seems like the kind of thing that gets you fired. The common response is "yeah, but this is the Jets," which is certainly earned, but also a historical franchise narrative imposed on a general manager and head coach who have been there for two years. If you're looking at your roster on Monday, and you know you play in the same division as the New England Patriots, you know you aren't going anywhere next year. No one even thought of this team as a Wild Card contender, so what are we even talking about here?

The answer to What Are the Jets Doing could be as simple as flipping roster construction on its head. Your plan can involve being not good without it being about tanking. By virtue of the plan you will almost surely get a good pick, but correlation and causation, etc. This time of year, teams are generally evaluating their rookies and young talent to see where they fit in among the veterans. After the March purge of Revis, Mangold, Marshall, the Jets are clearly evaluating their veterans first, to see who is worth keeping, and thus blocking a young player's development. The leash is already short, so take a look at them in OTAs and if you don't think they're going to justify the cost of keeping them at the expense of the development of younger, cheaper players, cut them loose.

This team has literally no expectations. One NFL executive thinks it might be "the worst roster I've seen in a decade." So why waste money, and more importantly NFL game time on older guys who will help you win, what, six games? Why not let every young player on your roster get accustomed to the NFL without a veteran delaying that process. That way you have something to look at when building the team going forward.

As a fan, this is a shitty, cynical way of thinking about your football team, a cynicism imposed by owners hoarding money and imposing a salary cap, but I will by God talk myself into optimism for the Jets. In fucking June, at least.