EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Joe Douglas learned with the Philadelphia Eagles that it's never too late to improve your roster, which explains why he's "fired up" for his first cut-down weekend as the New York Jets general manger.
"We have an opportunity to really upgrade this team," he said, looking ahead to what promises to be a frantic Saturday and Sunday.
An Eagles executive from 2016 to 2019, Douglas was involved in a handful of end-of-preseason moves that, in a small way, helped Philadelphia hoist a Lombardi Trophy. Example: Three years ago, the Eagles claimed Kamu Grugier-Hill (who?) on waivers from the New England Patriots, who drafted him in the sixth round only a few months earlier. Grugier-Hill went on to become a core special-teams player on the Eagles' 2017 Super Bowl championship team and an eventual starter at linebacker.
Talent evaluators love players such as Grugier-Hill because they prove that diamonds in the rough exist, even if they don't garner headlines. Remember that this weekend. The fans want a big, splashy addition at a position of need, but that's unrealistic. Unless the Jets jump into the Jadeveon Clowney sweepstakes -- which is unlikely -- they're not going to come out with a big-name player. Sorry, Jacksonville Jaguars star cornerback Jalen Ramsey isn't available.
Douglas can use his position -- the No. 3 waiver priority -- to address depth issues at the bottom of the roster. He also is exploring trades. He made a deal Wednesday, acquiring cornerback Nate Hairston from the Indianapolis Colts for a 2020 sixth-round pick.
Hairston provides depth and versatility (he can play inside and outside), and he will help on special teams. Did you see his open-field tackle on Kansas City Chiefs punt returner Tyreek Hill in the playoffs? Douglas' right-hand man, assistant GM Rex Hogan, is a former Colts exec with intimate knowledge of Hairston. In fact, he scouted him out of Temple in 2017.
"In the past, we were able to get pretty good players that contributed on our team, especially on special teams," Douglas said, referring to cut-down weekend.
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The fan base is fixated on the Jets' cornerback situation. So is upper management. Douglas and the scouting department have been evaluating preseason tapes from across the league and have created a target list of players they believe might shake free. Hairston will help the depth chart, but that doesn't mean the team is finished at corner. It's a premium position and, with no young prospects in the pipeline, the Jets will look to add experience.
It isn't a "Who's Who?" among corners, but some bubble players to watch are: Cyrus Jones (Baltimore Ravens), a 2016 second-round pick of the Patriots; Brandon Carr (Ravens), a well-traveled veteran; Ken Crawley (New Orleans Saints), a 2017 starter; Duke Dawson (Patriots), a 2018 second-round pick; and Darious Williams (Los Angeles Rams).
Douglas will be busy Thursday at MetLife Stadium, scouting the Eagles in their annual preseason finale against the Jets. He has intimate knowledge of the Eagles' roster -- he ran their 2019 draft -- and it would shock no one if he scoops up one of the castoffs.
Naturally, the hot name is Clowney, the franchise-tagged edge rusher who could be traded by the Houston Texans. The Jets could use the front-seven help after losing Avery Williamson for the season and Brandon Copeland to a four-game suspension, but they seem wary of Clowney. As one rival scout said, "I don't know if Clowney is Joe's cup of tea."
There are questions about his work ethic. There's also the cost ($15.9 million for 2019) and the risk (can't sign a long-term contract until after the season). Clowney also has leverage because he can't be traded until he signs his franchise tender, and he could be reluctant to sign if it means going to a team as a one-year rental.
"We are going to focus on the edge," Douglas said. "That will always be a priority for us."
He has been on the job for only three months, but Douglas is showing an aggressive side. Aside from Hairston, he coaxed center Ryan Kalil out of retirement, traded for backup guard Alex Lewis and signed tight end Ryan Griffin. None of these moves will alter the season, but he's filling holes.