MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:
1. Money pit: Maybe general manager Mike Maccagnan should stick to the "Moneyball" approach to building the roster. When he spends really big, the bang doesn't match the buck.
Muhammad Wilkerson's decline has cast an unflattering light on the team's most recent mega-contracts, Wilkerson and Darrelle Revis. Maccagnan is 0-for-2. Consider:
The Jets paid Revis a total of $39 million for two underwhelming seasons and cut him. Actually, the meter still is running, as he's collecting the final $6 million of his $39 million haul.
By the end of this season, Wilkerson will have made $37 million for 2016 and 2017. Unless he takes a pay cut, he, too, will get released because there's no way the Jets will re-up for next year. His $16.75 million salary becomes guaranteed if he's on the roster on the third day of the 2018 league year (March).
Total bill: $76 million for unfulfilled expectations and a lot of agita.
Fortunately (or unfortunately), the Jets won't have any top-of-the-market free agents to re-sign after the season (Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Morris Claiborne are their top guys), but they have the ammo to spend lavishly on other teams' free agents. They will have at least $80 million in cap room.
Maccagnan has orchestrated several nice low- to mid-level moves to make the roster competitive. That seems to be his wheelhouse.
2. Happy birthday/anniversary: Wilkerson turns 28 on Sunday, which conjures up an unpleasant memory. A year ago, he was a no-show for a walk-through practice on his 27th birthday, missing out on a birthday cake that was waiting for him at the team facility. (Team officials were furious the cake story got leaked to the media.) The no-show, combined with other instances of tardiness, resulted in a one-quarter benching in -- wait for it -- Miami.
Just a hunch, but I don't think there will be any cake before or after they play the Dolphins. The big question is whether Wilkerson will play. He's questionable with toe and shoulder injuries.
3. Dubious distinction: The Jets wasted two timeouts last week in the third quarter, continuing a troubling trend. They have called seven timeouts in the first and third quarters (including one lost challenge in the first quarter), the most of any team in the league, per ESPN Stats & Information. The only other team above five is the Houston Texans (six), who have a rookie quarterback.
Offensive coordinator John Morton blamed last week on a "communication" issue, saying they placed a "big emphasis" on it in practice. He wouldn't get into specifics, but he said the problem is fixed. He did make one illuminating comment: When he makes his play calls from the coaches' booth, they go directly to quarterback Josh McCown in the huddle. Previously, it was thought that quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates relayed plays from the sideline. Without a middleman, there's absolutely no excuse for burning timeouts.
4. Mess in Miami: The Jets are returning to the scene of a 2016 special-teams disaster -- Kenyan Drake's game-winning, 96-yard kickoff return. You may recall it came on a re-kick, following an offsides penalty on Antonio Allen. That only added to the Jets' misery. Special teams coordinator Brant Boyer admitted the touchdown was "certainly on my mind" as he prepared for the trip to Miami.
Interestingly, only five of the 11 players on that kickoff remain on the team -- Juston Burris, Jordan Jenkins, Rontez Miles, Charone Peake (injured reserve) and Buster Skrine. Five of the other six currently are out of the league, which probably explains the dramatic improvement on special teams.
The Jets are ranked second in ESPN's special-teams efficiency, with a 72.5 rating out of 100. The only team ahead of them is the Oakland Raiders (76.8). The Jets were a mess last season, but they tightened up their coverage teams and have avoided calamitous plays. Punter Lac Edwards is significantly better than last year, and kicker Chandler Catanzaro is an upgrade over Nick Folk.
"I want to get after Cutler," he said. "There's definitely opportunities. We see him holding onto the ball. We see him, when a lot of pressure gets on him up front, his passes aren't that great. Even if we aren't able to get sacks, as long as we're getting pressure in his face, hitting him, he's going to be uncomfortable. And then that's when he'll start throwing bad passes. ... He does get flustered. He will let go of the ball when he gets some pressure in his face. That's when he throws interceptions."
Williams has only one sack in his last 15 games. I think his preseason wrist injury is more troublesome than the team is letting on, and I wouldn't be surprised if he has surgery after the season.
6. All ears: New chairman/CEO Christopher Johnson met on Thursday with several of his veteran players to discuss social issues and player protests, as Newsday reported. In fact, Johnson also met with them the previous week. To his credit, the acting owner is taking a hands-on approach as the league and its players attempt to address this major issue. Johnson has stood with the players during the national anthem in the last four games, locking arms with them.
7. Did you know? Maybe it's fitting the Jets and Dolphins meet this week because 30 years ago (Oct. 18, 1987) they shared a moment of infamy -- the final replacement game of the three-week players' strike. It was one of the worst games ever, and I'm not exaggerating.
Rosters were comprised of NFL wannabes and veterans who crossed the picket line. In other words, you had Average Joes (truck drivers, etc. who played college ball) lining up alongside legitimate NFL players. That day, the Jets and Dolphins combined for 11 turnovers. Not that anyone cared then, or now, but the Jets won in overtime, 37-31, with veteran Pat Ryan at quarterback.
Miami's quarterback, Kyle Mackey, threw five interceptions. Somehow, he must have made an impression on the Jets, who signed him two years later.
8. Party on and on and ...: At halftime, the Dolphins will celebrate the 45th anniversary of their undefeated 1972 team. Legendary coach Don Shula will be in attendance, and I'm sure he doesn't mind it's happening with the Jets in the building. He loathes everything about the Jets. In an interview a few years ago, he told me, "I don't talk to Jets fans in South Florida or New York or in the United States."