For three offseasons, New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan has been saying his objective is to build through the draft. This time, he really means it.
How do we know that? Take a look at the Jets' free-agent activity and you'll see a team patching holes with cheap one-year contracts, laying the groundwork to find long-term replacements in the draft.
After dumping the likes of Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold and Brandon Marshall, the Jets began free agency with approximately $40 million in salary-cap room. Financially speaking, they resisted the urge to make a big splash, settling for one medium splash (OT Kelvin Beachum) and six small ones.
Of the seven additions, one was a street free agent (QB Josh McCown) and three were non-tendered restricted free agents (K Chandler Catanzaro, OL Jonotthan Harrison and DT Mike Pennel). This is the definition of bargain hunting.
All told, the Jets doled out a modest $20.3 million in guarantees for the seven newbies, who are eating up only $19.5 million in cap room.
"I think our approach was always to go in there and try to augment what we’re doing to the roster in terms of talent," said Maccagnan, explaining this year's strategy in free agency. "Long term, we’ve always stated this is to build through the college draft process, but I think we were very prudent in our approach and tried to find good value and good investments. We didn’t want to mortgage the future with a lot of players. We targeted certain types of players and felt good about adding those players, and this is a continual process building this thing going forward."
The Jets can always add players in post-draft free agency, although there's not much wiggle room with only $9.07 million in cap room, according to NFLPA records. Of that amount, close to $5 million likely will go to signing the draft picks. They still have the option of using their post-June 1 release. If they do that with injured safety Marcus Gilchrist, they'd create an additional $6 million.
When studying the graphic below, chew on this: In 2015, Revis signed a free-agent contract that included a $39 million guarantee, slightly more than the total value of these seven contracts. My, how times have changed.