A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:
1. Coach's message: The offseason program begins Monday under dramatically different circumstances than a year ago -- i.e. no dark clouds. The Ryan Fitzpatrick contract mess was a huge distraction last winter/spring/summer, disrupting team chemistry and creating a bad vibe for the season. Now coach Todd Bowles gets a chance to reboot in what figures to be a make-or-break year for him. When he meets with the team, he will stress the importance of competition at every position, saying there are no guarantees for anyone. He probably could include himself in that category.
"I know, starting April 17, the tone will be set," cornerback Buster Skrine said recently. "I know Coach Bowles. When he says something, he means it. The tone will be set on April 17, and we'll probably be one of the most organized teams in the league."
It'll be quieter than a year ago, that's for sure. The Fitzpatrick situation became bigger than the team and, yes, Bowles probably wishes he did a better job of containing it. The buttoned-down coach left a few undone last year, but I expect that to change.
One thing that has changed is the media access to players. Unlike past years, the free-agent additions weren't made available when they signed. Reporters also won't have the opportunity to speak with selected players on Day 1 of the offseason program, as they've done in the past. The first media availability won't be for another couple of weeks. While it's unclear if this is a directive from Bowles, it sends a message: The team wants to eliminate potential distractions in the early, team-building stages of the offseason.
2. Goodbye to old money: Starting Monday, a different team dynamic will begin to form. It'll be a younger, hungrier team than last year, albeit less talented. The Jets parted ways with six of their nine highest-paid players from last season. Interestingly, only one of them -- Brandon Marshall -- has landed with another team. The other five are looking for jobs -- Fitzpatrick, Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold, Ryan Clady and Breno Giacomini.
Mangold, Clady and Giacomini are coming off injuries, an obvious factor. Fitzpatrick is healthy, but he hasn't been linked to any teams. As for Revis, he's a mystery man to some teams. They're trying to figure out if his heart's still in it.
3. Sheldon vs. Mo: There doesn't appear to be much interest in Sheldon Richardson. The Jets lost a potential trade partner the other day, when the Indianapolis Colts signed Johnathan Hankins. There are a few teams still in the market for an interior defensive lineman (the Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders come to mind), but Richardson's salary (a guaranteed $8.1 million in 2017) is scaring teams away. Teams are reluctant to sign him long-term because he's coming off a down year and he's had two suspensions, so any trade would be a one-year rental for the final year of his contract. Who wants to give up a premium pick for that? No one.
Also worth noting is the Jets were conspicuously quiet in free agency on the defensive line. If they moved Richardson, they wouldn't have any experienced backups behind Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson. I still wouldn't rule out a draft-day trade, but the clock is ticking.
If Richardson remains with the team, they'd have decisions to make on him and Wilkerson after the 2017 season. Richardson will be a free agent and Wilkerson has a $16.75 million salary that becomes guaranteed in early March. Why not set up a competition? Best player in '17 gets the money.
4. The joy of six: In 11 days, the Jets will be on the clock with the sixth pick. What will they do? I think general manager Mike Maccagnan is hoping for a repeat of 2015, when Williams -- arguably the best player in the draft -- tumbled into his lap at No. 6. Defensive end Myles Garrett, the presumptive No. 1, won't fall to the Jets, but a few intriguing players could be available -- Jamal Adams, Leonard Fournette and O.J. Howard.
Their respective positions, safety, running back and tight end, usually don't warrant top-10 picks, but there are exceptions to every rule. I also believe safety Malik Hooker is in the mix and perhaps quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Cornerback Marshon Lattimore has been linked to the Jets in mock drafts, but he could be slipping. The draft is deep with corners and they can find a good one in the second or third round, one without a history of hamstring issues.
5. Pink slip on wedding day: Backup linebacker Julian Stanford was released on Friday, which happened to be his wedding day. A cruel move by the Jets? No, not at all. Because of procedural rules pertaining to players that finished the season on injured reserve, the Jets were required to release him by April 15. They like Stanford and their plan is to re-sign him -- and he knows that.
Yes, the NFL is a cold business, but not that cold.
6. To QB or not to QB? That is the big question surrounding the Jets, who have worked out and/or met with seemingly every draft-eligible quarterback. Several draft experts have said it would be a blunder to pick a quarterback at No. 6, the latest opinion coming from the NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah.
"A big mistake," he said on a conference call with reporters. " Three reasons: Number one, you're basically admitting you made a big mistake taking a quarterback in the second round last year. You identify a wasted second-round pick last year. You cost yourself an opportunity to get a great player at another position at six this year, and you probably take yourself out of the quarterback market next year. ... When you look at what could be available, I think it's going to be a much better group next year than we have this year."
Jeremiah's colleague, Bucky Brooks, offered the opposite view.
"If you've seen that [Christian] Hackenberg doesn't appear to show signs of being a quarterback that has starting qualities, then I think you have to jump back in," he said. "The reality of the situation with Maccagnan and Bowles, they may be on kind of the hot seat in terms of being able to extend their stay in New York. So if any of these young quarterbacks exhibits any of the qualities that you look for in the passing game you're changing to, which is a West Coast offense, I think you have to pull the trigger."
It's a fascinating debate, isn't it?
7. Did you know? Since the merger in 1970, the Jets have drafted five tight ends in the first round, more than any team in the league. And here they are, heading into another draft, desperate for a pass-catching tight end. Since 2010, their tight ends have produced a league-low 357 receptions. Crazy, huh?
Oh, in case you're wondering, the Fab Five: Dustin Keller (2008), Anthony Becht (2000), Kyle Brady (1995), Johnny Mitchell (1992) and Jerome Barkum (1972).
8. An amazing legacy: Do yourself a favor and read this incredible story about the late Konrad Reuland, a former Jets tight end. Reuland, who died last Dec. 12 of a brain aneurysm, donated his organs and his heart ended up inside the chest of baseball Hall of Famer Rod Carew.