Are the New York Jets the latest team taking a page from the Philadelphia Eagles/Los Angeles Rams playbook? The one that worked marvelously not only for those clubs but the Bears last season?
The Jets, like the three aforementioned clubs, traded up to select their franchise quarterback in Sam Darnold and are building around him with an offensive-minded coach (Adam Gase) and Year-2 free-agent haul that includes pass protection (Kelechi Osemele), pass catchers (Jamison Crowder and Josh Bellamy) and huge investments on defense (C.J. Mosley).
Last offseason, the Bears signed Allen Robinson and Trey Burton, drafted Roquan Smith, Anthony Miller and James Daniels and acquired via trade Khalil Mack, in addition to executing a number of smart in-house extensions in the early phase of Mitch Trubisky's rookie deal.
The Rams? They have imported one star after the next via signings and trades, from Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks to Andrew Whitworth and John Sullivan to Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, to name a few of the difference makers acquired to help make a difference for Jared Goff and Co.
The wheeling-and-dealing Eagles signed Alshon Jeffery and Chris Long and traded for Jay Ajayi, Ronald Darby and Michael Bennett, to name a few of the number of superstars tabbed to surround Carson Wentz over the past two years.
We were reserving judgment not only until we see the contract details — which are expected to be eye-popping — but to hear Gregg Williams' plan for Anhony Barr. Good thing, too, since he apparently got cold feet and re-signed in Minnesota, according to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport. Frankly, that might be a blessing in disguise.
But we know for sure the Jets paid dearly to make C.J. Mosley the new face of their defense, and if they're going to splurge, why not do it on an ultra-dependable 26-year-old leader and quarterback of their defense? No, Mosley isn't worth $17 million annually and $50 million guaranteed, but that was going to be the cost of doing business after Kwon Alexander struck gold with the Niners on Monday.
We love the additions of Crowder and Osemele, clearly designed to help Sam Darnold, after an encouraging late rookie flourish, get more comfortable with higher-percentage throws in more dependable pockets. Moreover, the Jets reportedly remain in the mix for Le'Veon Bell and Matt Paradis, two additional huge QB-friendly assets.
Still, the Jets' huge shopping spree leaves big questions, none more so than this: Are the moves enough to catalyze a second-year breakthrough for the Jets, who went 4-12 in Darnold's maiden NFL voyage? Remember, in Year 2 with their rookies the Bears went from 5-11 to 12-4 division winners; the Rams went from 4-12 to 11-5 division winners; and the Eagles, of course, went from 7-9 to 13-3 Super Bowl champions.
No, this isn't all apples to apples. For instance, Gase is a coaching retread, unlike the three rookies to whom he's being compared, and Doug Pederson was part of the decision to draft Carson Wentz, unlike the past two Coaches of the Year, Matt Nagy and Sean McVay, who inherited their franchise QBs.
But the point remains: GM Mike Maccagnan, in need of a winning season after being spared while Todd Bowles was fired in January, is taking advantage of Darnold's affordable contract by attempting to give the young QB everything he needs to flourish quickly. As recently as eight or nine years ago, throwing this kind of money around in the opening stage of free agency was basically akin to a death sentence.
We credit the Jets for recognizing this and being aggressive. It creates an interesting juxtaposition, too, from their big brothers, the Patriots, who lost their starting left tackle and top pass rusher as Gang Green was loading up.
Are we predicting the Jets will overtake the Patriots next season? We'll believe that when we see it. But they're going to be better — perhaps a lot better — and, if nothing else, at least an organization long mired in mediocrity finally appears to have a cogent plan to end that cycle.