Jets' Maccagnan turns focus to offseason, free agents
DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
Jan. 14, 2016
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Mike Maccagnan hasn't had much time to judge his performance in his first year as the New York Jets' general manager.
There are too many other things to do — such as focus on next season.
"I probably won't catch my breath until after the draft," Maccagnan said Thursday while meeting with reporters for the first time since November.
The Jets went 10-6 in Todd Bowles' first season as coach, but missed the playoffs after losing the regular-season finale at Buffalo.
"We're happy with the progress we made," Maccagnan said. "I think in a perfect world, you're hoping to be a team that competes for the playoffs and we came one game short, and that was disappointing."
New York started 4-1, but then hit a tough stretch in which it lost four of five to sit at .500.
Then, things turned around, with the Jets winning five straight to put themselves right back into the postseason picture. Huge seasons from Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, Chris Ivory and Muhammad Wilkerson were all contributors.
But now comes the hard part: Trying to build off that and actually reach the playoffs next season.
"One nice thing about our season, I thought, was watching the team kind of come together in the locker room, and that's some of the stuff — those intangible things — that are hard to judge," Maccagnan said.
"I thought at the end of the season, we came together and did some nice things and statistically, we did good things, but I felt good that we got closer to maybe being a team that could go in there and compete for a playoff spot every year."
Here are some things to know from Maccagnan's state-of-the-franchise sit-down as the offseason begins:
MO'S MONEY: Wilkerson is scheduled to be a free agent this offseason, and has been looking for a long-term extension with the team. He broke his right fibula against the Bills, and Maccagnan said the recovery time is about six months.
The GM doesn't think the injury will not affect negotiations with Wilkerson, who had a career-high 12 sacks this season. Maccagnan did acknowledge that the Jets would like Wilkerson back, and "absolutely" could use the franchise tag on him — or any of the team's other free agents.
WILL FITZ STILL FIT?: Fitzpatrick is coming off a career season in which he set the franchise record with 31 touchdown passes. During the Jets' five-game winning streak, he threw for 13 TDs and just one interception. But in the game against Buffalo, Fitzpatrick was intercepted in each of New York's final three possessions.
Still, Fitzpatrick established himself as a leader after taking over the starting job when Geno Smith had his jaw broken by a punch from Ikemefuna Enemkpali in August.
He could command somewhere around $10 million a year, but Bowles has already said Fitzpatrick will go into next season as the starter — if he returns.
"We'd like very much to get him back, obviously based on how he played this year," Maccagnan said. "But I don't really want to get into the speculation aspect of it. I would simply leave it at: We'll see how this thing works out."
THE "OTHER" QBs: Maccagnan said Bryce Petty made "a lot of progress" in his rookie season after being drafted in the fourth round out of Baylor. He added that the Jets are "very excited" about having another offseason to work with him.
Smith played in just one game this season, leading to speculation that the team could potentially cut ties with the 2013 second-rounder. Maccagnan said "he's under contract" and liked how Smith handled the training camp incident and progressed during the season. The GM added that the team will see how Petty and Smith continue to develop in the offseason, without committing to any scenario.
D-LINE SHUFFLE?: Nose tackle Damon Harrison is considered one of the league's best run stuffers and is in line for a big payday in free agency.
"In a perfect world," Maccagnan said, "we would like very much to have Damon back in the organization."
With Wilkerson and Harrison scheduled to be free agents, Maccagnan acknowledged that the salary cap could be a factor in keeping the line together. But, he added: "Hypothetically or philosophically, it's not impossible."
FREE AGENCY: The Jets won't have as much cap space as they did last offseason, when Maccagnan went on a spending spree to bring in the likes of Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Buster Skrine, James Carpenter and Marcus Gilchrist, and trade for Fitzpatrick and Marshall.
But they'll be somewhere in the middle of the pack, and that should be enough to "target players," which Maccagnan said will be the approach. He added that the goal is to try to keep as much of the team in place as possible while making it more competitive — and setting up "the longer-term sustainability."
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