May 29, 2022

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Joe Douglas enters NFL combine with assets to turn…

3 min read
Joe Douglas enters NFL combine with assets to turn...

INDIANAPOLIS — It’s Joe Time! 

Jets general manager Joe Douglas spent his first 2 ½ years on the job cleaning up the situation he inherited. He had to fix the team’s salary cap situations after some terrible contracts were handed out by his predecessor. He had to acquire draft picks in order to restock a roster absent of much talent. That meant shipping out good players like Jamal Adams and Leonard Williams and giving up on quarterback Sam Darnold sooner than anyone could have expected. 

All of that was a buildup to the next two months. Douglas and the Jets have approximately $48 million in salary cap space, nine draft picks — four in the top 40. It is ammunition to infuse the roster with talent quickly and build around second-year quarterback Zach Wilson. 

That process begins in earnest here this week at the NFL Scouting Combine. Not only will Douglas and his staff be evaluating and interviewing draft prospects, he will also have meetings with agents where the groundwork for free agency will be laid and he’ll be in steakhouses, hallways and hotel lobbies with GMs from other teams where trade talks can percolate. 

Joe Douglas
Joe Douglas is armed with resources to infuse the Jets with new talent.
Bill Kostroun

Douglas spent the time building the assets. Now, after going 6-27 in the last two years, he has to turn those assets into players through all avenues, something he addressed at the end of the season. 

“We’re fortunate to be in this position, to have this kind of flexibility,” Douglas said then. “So, I think we’re always going to be aggressive if the right opportunity presents itself.” 

While free agency technically doesn’t begin until March 16 and conversations with agents are not supposed to start until March 14, there are always meetings here that set the table for free agency. Jets free agents such as wide receiver Braxton Berrios and defensive lineman Folorunso Fatukasi will be able to get a read of what their value would be if they hit the open market in a few weeks. That could move things along with the Jets if they don’t like what they hear. At the same time, Douglas will be meeting with agents and his staff will finalize what it believes the values for all of the free agents will be. 

While all of that is going on, the main event here is the evaluation of college players. From the outside, the attention will be on the No. 4 and 10 selections for the Jets. Will they be wowed by Notre Dame star Kyle Hamilton enough to spend the No. 4 pick on a safety? Will North Carolina State tackle Ikem Ekwonu wow them? The pass rushers will be a story here with Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux expected to be available when the Jets pick at 4. 

The Jets will get to interview the college players, evaluate their performance in drills and have their doctors examine them. One of the most intriguing prospects is LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. He had an amazing 2019 season but has been fighting injuries since. He only played in three games in 2021 after suffering a foot injury. That injury will prevent him from working out here this week. 

Kayvon Thibodeaux
Kayvon Thibodeaux
Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire

Douglas faces some interesting calls in team building this offseason. On one hand, the Jets had the worst defense in football last year and Douglas used the first four picks on offense in the 2021 draft. Does that mean he goes heavy on defense? On the other hand, he needs to give Wilson more protection and playmakers, so he could go heavy on offense again. 

“I think we want to have a balanced team moving forward,” Douglas said in January. “You can’t be a team that scores 40 points but can’t stop anybody. You don’t want to be a team that can hold teams to three points but can’t score points. So, I think we want to have a balanced team that can win in all three phases moving forward.”