There were a lot of terrific questions for this week's New York Jets mailbag, but we'll go with the one that takes a big-picture view of the team. I promise to answer the others on Twitter.
Should this be considered a rebuilding year due to salary cap, and a really tough schedule?— Todd Hoven (@ToddHoven) May 20, 2016
Plus the fact we don't have a QB? #jetsmail
@RichCimini: You raise valid concerns, Todd, but the answer is an emphatic no! Just in case someone misinterpreted that, let me say it again: no!
A team doesn't shift into rebuilding mode after a 10-win season. A team doesn't call it a rebuilding year when it has nine starters in the 30-and-up age category, many of whom are considered the top players on the team -- Brandon Marshall, Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold, Matt Forte, David Harris, et al. The Jets are built to win now, which is one of the reasons they need to re-sign their "now" quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick. Do you think players like Marshall and Revis want to sacrifice a couple of wins this year so they can be better in 2017? No way. The window is closing for these players.
The Jets lost some key players in free agency, namely Chris Ivory and Damon Harrison, and they opted for 30-year-old replacements, Forte and Steve McLendon, respectively. Instead of relying on the draft, the front office chose to bring in hold-the-fort players to maintain the level of play at those positions. Rebuilding teams don't do that.
What general manager Mike Maccagnan is trying to orchestrate is a half-rebuild, not a total rebuild. He's revamping the roster while attempting to stay competitive. In a sense, he wants to have his cake and eat it, too. (Knowing him, he'd probably like coffee with the cake.) There's nothing wrong with that. Instead of tearing it down in Year 1, they went for it. Even though they fell short of the playoffs, the Jets established a winning culture and regained credibility after the dark days of the Rex Ryan/John Idzik regime. Some good came out of it.
By doing so, they raised expectations for 2016.
The trick is trying to meet those expectations while getting younger, adding depth to the roster and trying to develop elite talent. Maccagnan bought and traded for top players last offseason, upgrading the talent level immensely, but many those players are in the late stages of their careers. They can squeeze another year out of that group, hoping their draft picks -- players such as Leonard Williams, Devin Smith, Lorenzo Mauldin, Darron Lee, Christian Hackenberg and Jordan Jenkins -- are ready to take over when the inevitable falloff occurs among the older players.
The last point I want to make is this: Take a look at the rest of the AFC. Do you see any dominant teams? The Denver Broncos are the defending champs, but they have a post-Peyton quarterback issue. The New England Patriots probably won't have Tom Brady for the first four games.
In other words, it would be crazy for the Jets -- or any team not named the Cleveland Browns -- to write off 2016. First of all, that rarely happens in the NFL, which isn't Major League Baseball. The Jets need to go for it. If they don't, it would be a disservice to the fans who have suffered through five straight seasons out of the playoffs.