A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:
1. Spider Men: ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay was a fifth-string freshman quarterback at the University of Richmond in the mid-1990s when, out of the blue, he was forced into the starting lineup for one practice. He wasn't prepared and screwed up the playcalls. That didn't sit well with one of the linemen.
"He basically slaps me in the helmet and says, 'Let's go, bud. Let's go,'" McShay recalled.
That lineman was Joe Douglas.
A quarter-century later, Douglas finds himself in another position where a head-slap is needed. The Jets have been screwing up for nearly a decade and need their general manager, in his first offseason with the organization, to knock some sense into them.
McShay, who forged a lifelong friendship with his old college teammate, believes Douglas will get the job done even though it "may take a year or two to get the results you're looking for." A guest on ESPN's "Flight Deck" podcast, McShay provided insight into how he expects Douglas to attack the challenge. A few takeaways:
McShay doesn't expect wild spending in NFL free agency. He noted that Douglas was raised in the business under former Baltimore Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome, who was known as a bargain hunter. "I wouldn't guess that they're going to go out and spend a ton of money," McShay said. "But if they do spend, it's going to be on guys who are a little underrated and can provide some versatility and some veteran leadership, and probably some special teams help."
Douglas is big, big, big on intangibles. Pointing to Douglas' first season as the Philadelphia Eagles' draft czar (2017), McShay said, "It was so important to him to make sure that first draft class ... made a statement, that they brought in the right guys -- impact players, not just physical traits. More importantly, [he wanted] guys that were going to be leaders and are going to create the culture."
McShay suspects Douglas will adhere to Newsome's quantity-over-quality philosophy when it comes to the draft, which suggests he will look to trade down when possible. McShay described the mindset as, "Let's take advantage of some teams that panic on the clock."
As for what the Jets might do with the No. 11 pick, McShay's hunch is Douglas will stay close to his roots -- meaning an offensive lineman. He identified five quality prospects -- Jedrick Wills, Jr., Mekhi Becton, Tristan Wirfs, Josh Jones and Austin Jackson. After that, there's a "big, big dropoff," said McShay, adding that it's "important" for them to draft a tackle in the first two rounds. "The bottom line is, I think offensive tackle is definitely up there in terms of positions they're really trying to study to just give Sam [Darnold] a chance, a fighting chance this year," he said.
2. Thinking big (man): It's a little early for projecting which players might be available for the Jets at No. 11, but what the heck? Let's take a shot.
I think these seven players will be off the board: Three quarterbacks (Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert) and four defensive players (Chase Young, Jeff Okudah, Isaiah Simmons and Derrick Brown). If another non-offensive lineman slips into the top 10, it means the Jets will have a crack at one of the three linemen who have separated from the pack -- Wills, Becton and Wirfs.
Free agency, of course, will be a factor in the decision. If the Jets sign, say, Tennessee Titans right tackle Jack Conklin, they might be less inclined to pick Wirfs or Wills, both of whom played right tackle in college. Becton looks the part of a massive right tackle (6-foot-7, 364 pounds), but he impressed at left tackle because of his freakish athleticism. His weight has to be a concern, though. To paraphrase Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells, he could be one biscuit away from 400 pounds.
"I feel like I'm the most dominant tackle in this draft," Becton told reporters this week at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. "You wouldn't go wrong by picking me."
3. Brian's song: It's widely assumed that right guard Brian Winters will be a cap casualty, but we might want to tap the brakes on that. The Jets could be interested in keeping him at a reduced salary. He's due to make $7 million in the final year of his contract, which is steep, but he's valued by the organization. Douglas made that clear at the combine, noting Winters is the only 2019 opening-day starter still under contract. In other words, he would provide continuity amid an anticipated offensive-line overhaul.
4. Tru and consequences: The outcome of the collective bargaining agreement vote will have an impact on the Jets' salary cap -- specifically, with regard to cornerback Trumaine Johnson. A new CBA would benefit the team because they would be able to spread out Johnson's cap hit over two seasons -- $4 million this year, $8 million in 2021. The Jets can do that by designating him as a "June 1" cut. Under the existing CBA, there's no June 1 option because the agreement expires after this season. That means his cap hit would accelerate into 2020 -- a whopping $12 million charge. Johnson's release is inevitable, but the Jets could be waiting to see if they get bailed out by a new CBA. They have to make a decision by March 20, when his $11 million salary for 2020 becomes fully guaranteed.
5. Adams' timetable: The Jets did the right thing by saying they want to extend safety Jamal Adams' contract. I mean, why wouldn't they want to make him a "Jet for life"? Unless Adams is unreasonable with his demands, it's a no-brainer. He's their best homegrown talent since Darrelle Revis and, even though he doesn't intercept the football, he makes enough of an impact in his role to warrant a serious bump in pay.
Douglas came from an organization (Eagles) known for being proactive with its own players, so it seems logical he would want to lock up Adams before he reaches his walk year. That said, the Jets won't rush into anything. Remember, they have the leverage because they control Adams for two years -- three, if you count a possible franchise tag in 2022. They will try to get a deal on their terms while Adams seeks to land a record-breaking contract. This will be a compelling negotiation.
6. Deal or no deal: If the New York Giants use the franchise tag on defensive end Leonard Williams, it probably means they won't sign him any time soon -- and that would affect the Jets. Per the terms of last fall's trade, the Jets received a 2020 third-round pick and a conditional 2021 fifth-round choice that improves to the fourth round if he re-signs with the Giants before the start of the league year. If you're a Jets fan, root for a fast deal.
7. Bell curve: Defending Le'Veon Bell's poor season, Douglas pointed to Bell's 87-yard rushing game against the Ravens on Dec. 12. Douglas said, "We saw Le'Veon be Le'Veon." It was a solid performance, in part because he ran with a downhill mentality, but let's not make it out to be vintage. It took him 21 carries to get those 87 yards, a pedestrian 4.1 yards per attempt. It also doesn't disprove the theory held by some that he lost some explosiveness as the season progressed. Remember, he played the Baltimore game on 10 days' rest because he missed the previous game with an illness. Any running back would benefit from fresh legs late in a season.
Look, I understand the Jets' position. They know Bell isn't going anywhere and they want to create positive vibes for 2020, hoping to maximize his chances for success. They can help him by building a better line.
8. Ain't over 'til it's over: The prevailing sentiment is the Jets will lose wide receiver Robby Anderson in free agency, but I can tell you this: They're not going down without a fight. If they do lose him, it will hurt their team speed on offense, an area they would like to improve.
9. Injury update: Darnold (left thumb) and linebacker C.J. Mosley (groin), both of whom are recovering from surgery, are expected to be ready for the spring, according to coach Adam Gase. Wide receiver Quincy Enunwa (neck) is rehabbing at the facility, but he still hasn't been medically cleared, per Douglas.
10. The last word: "He had offers. There were different places that wanted him the last few years and he waited for the right offer. This [the Jets] is the place he wanted to go. He saw the potential. He saw the quarterback. He's obsessed with winning. I wouldn't bet against him, I can tell you that much." -- McShay on Douglas.