AFC East: New York Jets
NBC studio analyst Rodney Harrison doesn't think much of the New York Jets' headline-making offseason. He believes they're doomed to a five-win or six-win season as long as Geno Smith is the quarterback.
Co-hosting NBC's "Under Center" radio show on Friday, Harrison unloaded on the Jets and their third-year quarterback. He might not be the most objective guy in the room, considering he played for the Patriots, but his comments are so strong, they're worth a mention.
“You can say whatever you want about Darrelle Revis -- and I do believe he’s the best cornerback in the league -- but Darrelle Revis has not thrown a touchdown pass," Harrison said. "He’s not your quarterback. Yes, he can shut down a No. 1 receiver, but they need a quarterback. The Jets are, all of a sudden, on a high, thinking they’re going to win a championship. You’re not going to win a championship -- you’re not even going to make the playoffs -- because you don’t have a quarterback.
"If you go into the season and you’re expecting Geno Smith to improve, it’s not going to happen," he added. "He might get a little better, but when times get tough, when adversity hits, guess what he’s going to do? He’s going to fold just like the last couple years. I don’t believe in Geno Smith. I think this is a huge mistake. Hopefully in this draft, they try to address this quarterback situation, because if they go into the season with Geno Smith, they might win five or six games.”
You get the impression he doesn't like the Jets?
Not surprisingly, Harrison supported the Patriots' decision not to re-sign Revis, saying, "Bill [Belichick], he’s not going to sell the farm for Darrelle Revis, because as good as Darrelle is, you know in a year or two maybe Darrelle is not going to be quite the same player he was this past season for the New England Patriots. So I believe that was the right move to make.”
For Harrison's full commentary on the state of the AFC East, check out Mike Reiss at ESPNBoston.com.
Former New York Jets special-teams coordinator Mike Westhoff, who retired after the 2012 season, has turned down several opportunities to return to coaching. He enjoys his job as a TV and radio analyst, but there's more to it than that.
"The job I did doesn't exist today," he said in a phone interview. "What do you want me to coach, touchbacks? Not interested."
Westhoff is right. Rules changes have turned the kicking game into Special Teams Lite. By his count, there are only eight to 10 "action" plays per game, down from 18.
Specifically, the touchback rate reached an all-time high last season (50.3 percent), watering down one of the most exciting plays in the game -- the kickoff return. Westhoff built his reputation, in part, because of his uncanny success on kickoff returns. In 2012, the kickoff was moved out to the 35-yard line to reduce head injuries -- more touchbacks, fewer collisions -- although Westhoff suspects the concussion rate under the old rule wasn't as high as feared.
Now we have a new hot-button issue: What to do with the extra point?
Frankly, the PAT is a waste of time (a 99.3-percent success rate last season), so the league is exploring ways to improve what is now a non-competitive play. The competition committee expressed optimism at the league meetings earlier this week that a new PAT format will be approved by May.
You've heard the expression, "He outkicked his coverage." These days, kickers are outkicking the rules. They're too good.
"Kicking has become easier today," said Westhoff, who coached 30 years in the NFL. "The kickers are bigger, stronger and better athletes than before. We always used to picture a little soccer guy like Matt Bahr, but that's not true today. The kids are bigger and better. If you don't have a 90 percent [success] guy, you'd better have your eyes open."
Other factors have contributed, according to Westhoff: The snaps are almost always perfect. Long-snappers no longer have to worry about an opponent lining up directly over them -- another safety-related rule change. The "get-off" time on a placement has gone from 1.33 seconds to 1.23, per Westhoff's calculations, making it harder to block a kick.
Stadium configurations, too, have helped kickers. Westhoff recalled the old days at Giants Stadium, where the notorious wind was a huge factor. That's not the case at MetLife Stadium.
"Now," he said, "it's benign."
Westhoff is a traditionalist, but he believes it's "reasonable" to move PATs to the 15-yard line, which would create a 32- or 33-yard kick. That's one of the proposals on the table. Even that distance is a gimme for some kickers, as 10 teams converted 100 percent of their field goals in the 30-39 range last season.
He'd also like to see the goal posts narrowed by a yard, raising the degree of difficulty. Westhoff, who does some consulting on the side, brought that idea to the FXFL developmental league last year. The league liked it, he said, but it simply didn't have the money to change the goal posts.
Westhoff also has proposed the idea of a kicking hash for field goal attempts, creating "a slightly smaller target from slightly wider angle. That will bring kicking percentages back to where they should be and make it a little more difficult."
That, of course, would affect third-down play calling. Teams would be hesitant to run plays outside the hashmarks, knowing they'd have a tougher field goal if the ball ends up getting pushed out to the kicking hash.
Clearly, the league has a lot to consider, starting with the PAT. It's the most nondescript play in football, yet so complex. Westhoff is certain about one thing: He's not in favor of the nine-point play proposed by the Indianapolis Colts.
"That would junk up the game," he said. "It would create a carnival-type image."
General manager Mike Maccagnan wasn't kidding when he said the New York Jets would be "very active" in free agency. Catching you up on the moves:
Free agents signed
- Darrelle Revis, CB -- Five years, $70 million ($39 million guaranteed)
- Buster Skrine, CB -- Four years, $25 million ($13 million)
- Antonio Cromartie, CB -- Four years, $32 million ($7 million)
- James Carpenter, LG -- Four years, $19.1 million ($5 million)
- Marcus Gilchrist, FS -- Four years, $22 million ($3.5 million)
- James Brewer, G/T -- One year, $825,000 ($40,000)
- Kevin Vickerson, DE -- One year, $950,000 ($60,000)
- Corey Hilliard, RT -- One year, $950,000 ($60,000)
- Stephen Bowen, DE -- One year, $950,000 ($60,000)
- Kellen Davis, TE -- N/A
- Brandon Marshall, WR -- Three years, $24.3 million ($7.5 million)
- Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB -- One year, $3.25 million (0)
Free agents re-signed
- David Harris, LB -- Three years, $21.5 million ($15 million)
- Bilal Powell, RB -- One year, $2 million ($750,000)
- Willie Colon, G -- One year, $950,000 ($65,000)
- Tanner Purdum, LS -- Two years, $1.8 million ($265,000)
Thanks to the offseason overhaul, the New York Jets' cornerbacks are tops in the league.
In payroll, that is.
By signing Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Buster Skrine, the Jets added nearly $26 million in cap charges, giving them a league-high $32.56 million for the cornerback position, according to ESPN Stats & Information. They're well ahead of the next-highest team, the Dallas Cowboys, who have $24.81 million tied up in their corners.
Most of the Jets' money is allocated to four players: Revis ($16 million cap charge), Cromartie ($7 million), Dee Milliner ($3.45 million) and Skrine ($2.75 million). In case you're wondering, 22 percent of the Jets' entire cap total is devoted to the cornerback position.
Details of Cromartie's contract emerged late Sunday and, like many deals in free agency, it's not what it seems. Yes, it's a four-year, $32 million deal, as initially reported, but it includes only $7 million in full guarantees, according to ESPN Stats & Info -- a $2 million roster bonus at signing and a guaranteed $5 million base salary for 2015. Therefore, the cap charge is $7 million.
Cromartie's cap figures over the remainder of the deal are $8 million, $8 million and $9 million. After this season, the contract has no guaranteed money or pro-rated bonuses, meaning he can be released with no cap ramifications.
The Jets invested more money in Revis ($39 million guaranteed) and Skrine ($11 million) than Cromartie, meaning Cromartie could be the odd-man out in 2016. By then, the "three-headed monster," as Cromartie called the trio, will count close to $33 million on the cap -- a bloated amount. Any decision would be based on a variety of factors -- Cromartie's performance, the team's overall cap situation and Milliner's progress.
Milliner is coming off Achilles' tendon surgery. If he proves this season he can be a full-time player, it probably will make Cromartie expendable next year. Or maybe Milliner will be trade bait.
Bottom line: They will have options. The Jets aren't locked into a bunch of bloated, long-term contracts. General manager Mike Maccagnan did a nice job of following a plan that created flexibility beyond 2015.
Another contract note: In addition to an $870,000 base salary (the veterans' minimum), guard Willie Colon received a $65,000 signing bonus. He also has a chance to earn a $15,000 roster bonus. He could earn up to $950,000, but he will count only $665,000 on the cap due to the minimum-salary benefit.
The Jets have $12.4 million in cap space, per ESPN Stats & Info. That doesn't include James Brewer and Kevin Vickerson, both of whom signed one-year deals. Their rookie pool is expected to be about $6.3 million, so there should be a few million dollars in leftover space.
Vickerson, 32, was signed by the Chiefs last season after Mike DeVito -- a former Jet -- suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in the opener. He played in 15 games, participating in 162 snaps on defense. He was primarily a first-down and second-down player, playing mostly left end in the Chiefs' 3-4 front. He finished with 12 total tackles and no sacks.
Basically, Vickerson (6-foot-5, 328 pounds) will be an older version of Kenrick Ellis, who left as a free agent to sign with the New York Giants. The Jets needed some experienced depth behind Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Damon Harrison.
This will be Vickerson's fifth team. He also has played with the Denver Broncos, Tennessee Titans and Miami Dolphins. His best season was 2012, when he started 14 games for the Broncos and recorded 40 tackles and two sacks.
Turns out that Osi Umenyiora was just passing through to say hi.
His visit with the New York Jets on Wednesday, which prompted headlines of a possible return to the New York area, was simply a "social call," general manager Mike Maccagnan explained Thursday.
The former New York Giants pass-rusher was on his way to the airport and decided to stop in Florham Park to say hello to head coach Todd Bowles. They have the same agents, Tony Agnone and Rich Rosa. It wasn't a scheduled free-agent visit, according to Maccagnan, but they reported it to the league. As a result, Umenyiora's name popped up on the personnel wire.
"I didn't even know he was here," said Maccagnan, who estimated that Umenyiora was in the building for about 10 minutes.
Maccagnan said Umenyiora will be discussed internally as the team continues to look for defensive-line depth, but it sounded like he was just trying to be nice. Umenyiora, 32, was a two-time Super Bowl champion with the Giants, but he's slowing down. Besides, the Jets already have a couple of aging edge rushers, Calvin Pace and Jason Babin.
It was a fun possibility while it lasted.
Mike Maccagnan already has made one trip to Eugene, Oregon, to check out Marcus Mariota. That was Mariota's pro day, March 12. Maccagnan is planning another trip at the end of the month. This time, the New York Jets' general manager will be accompanied by coach Todd Bowles.
The Jets have scheduled a private workout for March 28.
When a team dispatches its GM and head coach for a private workout, it usually means they're very interested in a player -- or it could be an orchestrated smokescreen. You never know this time of year.
Nevertheless, the Jets are performing due diligence. So are the other quarterback-needy teams. Mariota already has worked out for the Tennessee Titans, and he reportedly has private workouts scheduled with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Diego Chargers.
Speaking to reporters Thursday, Maccagnan declined to comment on Mariota or Jameis Winston, saying he doesn't want to let other teams know what he's thinking. He acknowledged he will attend Winston's pro day March 31, but that was it.
Chances are, Winston will be picked No. 1 overall by the Bucs, but there's a chance Mariota could slip to the Jets.
Most significant signing: New Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan doled out more than $160 million to sign five new players, not counting the Brandon Marshall and Ryan Fitzpatrick trades, but the No. 1 prize is Darrelle Revis. It cost a fortune -- the Jets spent about 40 percent of their available cap space to bring back Revis -- but he becomes the centerpiece in a rebuilt secondary. The Jets, who allowed an AFC-high 31 touchdown passes last season, have a true No. 1 corner with elite press-man skills. This will allow new head coach Todd Bowles to play his blitz-heavy defense without having to worry about getting torched on the back end. It was a rare win against the New England Patriots, and it weakens the Super Bowl champs.
Most significant loss: The most significant casualty of the offseason has been talented wide receiver Percy Harvin, who was released in the wake of the Marshall acquisition. The Jets recognized his value as a situational receiver and kickoff returner, but they didn't see him as a premier, every-down receiver -- and he was due to get paid like one ($10.5 million). Even though he's four years older than Harvin, Marshall upgrades the position and the swap saves New York close to $3 million on this year's cap. The team hasn't lost any key free agents. The Jets have done a good job of keeping their own, starting with linebacker David Harris, whom they extended with a three-year contract.
Biggest surprise: The Jets' interest in Fitzpatrick wasn't a secret, but instead of waiting for him to be released by the Texans, they gave up a conditional seventh-round pick (2016) -- and that surprised some people around the league. This spells potential trouble for Geno Smith, who has exhausted his supply of mulligans. This will be a legitimate quarterback competition, not a repeat of last summer's Smith-Michael Vick charade. Fitzpatrick's background in new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey's offense (three years together with the Bills) gives him an early edge over Smith, who has to play catch-up. Fitzpatrick isn't the long-term answer, but he could be a bridge quarterback until Smith elevates his game or something better comes along. Did someone say Marcus Mariota?
What's next: The heavy lifting in free agency is over, but the Jets still hope to re-sign defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson to a contract extension. New York would be nuts to let him play out the final year of his contract. In terms of positional needs, the Jets are still looking to bolster their depth at running back, offensive tackle and defensive line. There's an overall lack of team speed on offense, but that will be an emphasis in the draft. They also need a young edge rusher, but that, too, could be addressed in the draft.
Such was the case Sunday morning in Boston, where Patriots owner Robert Kraft took a playful jab at the enemy to the south. Speaking at a packed St. Patrick's Day breakfast, Kraft cracked, "I must tell you, I'm not comfortable wearing green and white because it reminds me of a certain New York football team."
A couple minutes later, Kraft brought up Darrelle Revis and how "we've been taking a lot of flak about losing one of our best players." Revis, of course, left the Super Bowl champions to sign with the Jets -- a five-year, $70 million contract (talk about green).
It was hard to tell if Kraft was serious, as much of his speech was lighthearted, but he said, "The money was about the same. (Revis) was actually favoring us, coming to us a little cheaper." With tongue in cheek, he said the deal-breaker was Revis' demand that Castle Island -- located in Boston Harbor -- be re-named Revis Island. That got a lot of laughs from the crowd.
(Funny how the owners of the two teams like discussing Revis in public. When Woody Johnson did it in December, he got slapped with a tampering charge by the Patriots.)
Yep, the Patriots lost one of their best players, but they still have bragging rights. Kraft ended his speech with the ultimate exclamation point, pulling out the Lombardi Trophy, which was adorned with an Irish green knit cap.
"I'd love to play for the Jets," the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback said. "Meeting with the offense coordinator and quarterbacks coach was awesome. It was an opportunity for me to introduce myself and it seems like a great organization."
No matter. He's still expected to be a high pick in next month's draft, most likely anywhere from second to fifth. The Jets own the sixth pick.
Don't read too much into Mariota saying he'd "love" to play for the Jets. For all draft prospects, it's a fill-in-the-blank answer. Sure, I'd love to play for (insert team name).
Mariota, who picked up the Maxwell Award as college player of the year, also has been linked to the Philadelphia Eagles. Chip Kelly, who coached Mariota at Oregon, tried to douse the speculation a few days ago by claiming he won't mortgage his future by trading up from No. 20 to pick Mariota.
His former player isn't totally buying that.
"I wouldn't doubt it," Mariota said, "but Coach Kelly and the Eagles are going to do what's best for that team, and we'll see what happens."
Mariota is scheduled to meet Monday with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who own the first pick. They're thought to be leaning toward Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, the other Heisman-winning quarterback in the draft.
Some takeaways on the New York Jets' trade for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick:
1. This was another solid move by Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan, who deals a conditional seventh-round pick (2016) to the Houston Texans for a quarterback who went 6-6 last season on a 9-7 team. Fitzpatrick has been on the Jets' radar for nearly two months as they monitored the Houston QB situation. Actually, this move is similar to what the previous regime did last year by signing Michael Vick -- an over-30 player with experience in the offensive coordinator's system and a guy who can provide competition for Geno Smith. Presumably, Fitzpatrick will get a fair shot to compete for the starting job, something Vick never was afforded. The basic dynamic doesn't change, though: It's a Band-Aid. The Jets continue to hold out hope that Smith can be the answer.
3. When you're a team in transition like the Jets, it's important to have a guy in the quarterback room who can speak the language of the playbook -- besides the coach, of course. Fitzpatrick's knowledge of Gailey's system will help the offense, especially Smith. Hey, Fitzpatrick attended Harvard, so we have to assume he's a smart cookie with the ability to provide intel. Said one AFC personnel executive: "Never underestimate the ability of a veteran who knows the system that can mentor and teach the younger players and be a resource. There is a value to that."
4. Maccagnan, a former Texans executive, got an up-close look at Fitzpatrick. He won't blow you away with his arm strength, but he can direct an offense and get out of trouble if pressured. He was benched after nine games last season and returned to the Texans' lineup when Ryan Mallett was injured, leading to the game of his life -- a six-touchdown pass gem against the Tennessee Titans. His bugaboo is turnovers -- 101 career interceptions and 54 fumbles (24 lost). He finished the season on injured reserve with a broken leg. Obviously, he'll have to pass a physical for the trade to be finalized.
5. Why trade a draft pick when he probably would've been released? The answer is money. Fitzpatrick is due to make $3.25 million, relatively cheap in today's market. It would've cost the Jets another $1 million or so if they had signed him as a free agent. Plus, we're only talking about a pick in next year's draft, which could increase to a sixth-rounder based on playing time.
6. A question on everybody's mind: Does this preclude the Jets from drafting Marcus Mariota? No, but as I've been saying for a few weeks, I don't think Maccagnan and Todd Bowles are staying up at night, dreaming of Mariota. If Mariota falls to No. 6, the Jets would entertain trade offers. Fitzpatrick provides insurance and flexibility.
Some takeaways on the front-page news that cornerback Darrelle Revis is returning to the New York Jets:
1. This might be the Jets' biggest free-agent signing. Ever. It's certainly the most expensive -- $70 million over five years, including $39 million guaranteed, according to a source. It sends a loud message: These aren't your John Idzik Jets. New general manager Mike Maccagnan just made himself a popular fellow in New York.
3. With one blockbuster signing, the Jets accomplished two things: They addressed their No. 1 need and weakened their No. 1 rival. No doubt, they will get criticized for overpaying for an almost-30-year-old cornerback, but it's highly unusual for a generational talent to hit free agency. You could argue there are only two in this year's market -- Revis and Ndamukong Suh. When you can grab a guy like that and not blow up your cap situation, you do it.
4. Yes, it's an obscene amount of money, but, hey, they had an estimated $45 million in cap space (including the release of Percy Harvin) before any free-agent signings. With no franchise quarterback, the Jets don't have to budget for a nine-figure contract anytime soon. In a sense, Revis becomes their franchise quarterback. He definitely becomes the face of the franchise, adding box-office appeal to a team that lacks star power. The only way it backfires is if Revis hits the wall in the next two or three seasons.
5. Schematically, Revis is an ideal fit in coach Todd Bowles' system. Much like his predecessor, Rex Ryan, Bowles puts his corners in man-to-man situations with little or no help. Under Bowles, the Arizona Cardinals blitzed more than any team last season. He will bring that attacking mentality to the Jets, but it wouldn't have been possible with the holdover personnel. With Dee Milliner recovering from Achilles' tendon surgery (he might not be ready until early summer), they had no healthy, starting-caliber corners. Unlike Idzik, Maccagnan is giving his coach the players Bowles needs to operate.
6. That crash you just heard was the sound of Ryan throwing a lamp against a wall inside his office at One Bills Drive. If the Jets had met Revis' demands two years ago, or even last year when he was on the market, Ryan might still have a job in New York.
In a media tour Tuesday, timed nicely with the start of free agency, former New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie said he has narrowed his choices to the Jets, Arizona Cardinals (his team last year) and the Dallas Cowboys.
Yes, the Jets are showing interest in Cromartie and his old running mate, Darrelle Revis. As much as he'd enjoy a reunion, Cromartie doesn't think it's financially feasible for the Jets to afford him and Revis.
"At the end of the day, you can't pay two corners," Cromartie said on ESPN's "First Take." "You got one guy [Revis] that's probably looking for $16 million, another one is looking a bit higher than everyone is expecting him to get. How can you pay two guys at that level?
"You can say either/or. I do consider him the best corner in the NFL. For myself, I feel like I'm one of the best also. So yes, putting us together, like it was from 2010-12, would be great. But is it financially logical? And does any organization want to put that much money into a secondary?"
Judging from Cromartie's comments, he's looking for a lot more than the $3.5 million he made last season on a one-year contract with the Cards. He played well, so he wants a raise. You have to figure he's seeking something similar to Cary Williams' reported deal with the Seattle Seahawks -- three years, $18 million. Williams and Cromartie are at similar stages of their stage -- both are 30 years old -- although Cromartie is a better player, in my opinion.
In 2011, Brandon Marshall was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Since then, he has become a spokesman for mental health. He also has cleaned up his act off the field.
But the gifted wide receiver has a long history of bad behavior. Marshall has been suspended twice and arrested five times since 2004, including three times for domestic-violence issues. The New York Jets will be his fourth team. He's a football nomad who wears out his welcome.
The Jets haven't commented on Marshall because Friday's trade can't become official until the start of the league year on Tuesday at 4 p.m.
A look back at Marshall's transgressions, starting last season with the Chicago Bears:
- 2014: He traveled to New York every Tuesday (the team's day off) for Showtime's "Inside the NFL" show, raising questions about his commitment to football. He angered teammates with a locker-room tirade after a loss to the Miami Dolphins. He challenged a Detroit Lions fan to a fight in a Twitter exchange. Marshall got into an altercation with an assistant coach for not wearing the proper practice uniform and it nearly escalated to blows. He ripped quarterback Jay Cutler on the radio, saying, "I can understand that as far as as a businessman; I would have buyer’s remorse, too" -- a reference to Cutler's contract and the now-infamous quote from Bears' offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer.
- March 2012: Two days before his trade to the Bears, Marshall was accused of hitting a woman in the face at a New York club, the New York Post reported. No charged were filed because of lack of evidence.
- April 2011: Marshall was stabbed near his stomach by his wife, who was charged with battery with a deadly weapon.
- August 2009: He was suspended by the Denver Broncos for the final two games of the preseason for conduct detrimental to the team. He reportedly didn't report on time to a physical-therapy session. An angry Marshall once lashed out at practice by swatting away footballs instead of catching them.
- March 2009: He was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct after an alleged fight with his fiancee. The charges were dropped the next day.
- August 2008: The NFL suspended him three games for violating the league's personal-conduct policy. He appealed and the suspension was reduced to one game and a $52,000 fine.
- March 2008: Marshall was arrested on a misdemeanor battery charge. His girlfriend filed an affidavit claiming Marshall struck her in the mouth and left eye. A jury found him not guilty.
- October 2007: He was charged with drunk driving. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.
- March 2007: Marshall was arrested and charged with suspicion of domestic violence. The charges were eventually dismissed after he attended anger-management counseling.
- January 2007: Marshall was present at a nightclub in Denver where Denver Broncos teammate Darrent Williams was fatally shot while leaving the club in a limo.
- October 2004: While attending Central Florida, he was arrested and charged with assault on a law enforcement officer, refusal to obey, disorderly conduct and resisting an officer.
And another thing: He wants to win now.
On Friday, the New York Jets' general manager pulled off a low-risk trade for a talented, yet volatile wide receiver -- Brandon Marshall. Sound familiar? Maccagnan's predecessor, John Idzik, made a similar deal last October for Percy Harvin, but it was a too-little, too-late move born of desperation.
Marshall is a less expensive, more talented version of Harvin, but he's also four years older. He'll be 31 in a couple of weeks, and it's certainly fair to wonder why a rebuilding team -- with a big question at quarterback, no less -- is willing to pay $7.7 million this year for a receiver on the wrong side of 30.
Why? Because Maccagnan apparently isn't content to ride out his honeymoon in the far-right lane. He's in the passing lane, trying to make up ground in the AFC East. It's why he re-signed linebacker David Harris, hardly a young pup at 31, for a whopping $15 million in guarantees. It's why he'll go into free agency Tuesday determined to pursue a certain almost-30 cornerback who has his own Island address.
The Marshall trade took onions because we all know he can be everything from a diva (being kind) to a major headache, especially for his quarterbacks. On his worst days, he can make Santonio Holmes seem like a boy scout. In Chicago, Marshall clashed with Jay Cutler, criticizing him publicly toward the end of last season. That came after Cutler reportedly didn't bother to visit Marshall in the hospital after he suffered rib and lung injuries.
Nice chemistry, huh? A player with Marshall's talent doesn't get traded three times unless there are some serious issues above the shoulders. He's an immensely talented "me" guy, but the beauty of the trade is the Jets can cut bait after a year with no salary-cap ramifications. All it cost them was a fifth-round draft pick.
Clearly, Maccagnan is leaning on new coach Todd Bowles, because Bowles is the Marshall expert at One Jets Drive. He and Marshall spent two seasons together with the Miami Dolphins, 2010 and 2011, so we have to assume Bowles knows the good, the bad and the ugly. Maybe he can find a way to keep him in line. Marshall also will have his former Dolphins' position coach, Karl Dorrell, so he'll be surrounded by familiar faces. That should help. The coach-player dynamic is the key to the entire trade.
"The true test will be when adversity strikes, considering the quarterback [situation]," said an AFC personnel executive, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
"He's a talented guy who has been traded to three teams and never finished a contract," the executive said of Marshall. "All that said, he's better than what the Jets had. But it's all the other stuff that will come with it and will test a new regime. The fact that the quarterback situation is unsettled, it'll be interesting to see how that plays out."
Ah, yes, the quarterback situation. Bad play at quarterback can ruin everything. The most aggressive GM in the league can't create a franchise quarterback out of thin air, so it looks like Maccagnan will be stuck with Geno Smith or a second-rate veteran from the free-agent market. Maybe he's banking on an improved supporting cast helping Smith grow as a player. The rising tide lifts all boats, as the saying goes, but not if one of the boats has a leak.
For now, Marshall gives the Jets a legitimate No. 1 receiver. His numbers declined last season because of injuries, but he was the NFL's second-leading receiver in catches and yards from 2007 to 2013. Eric Decker, miscast last season as a No. 1, will feel more comfortable as No. 2 and will see less coverage. Harvin probably will be released, saving them $10.5 million on this year's cap.
The Jets' passing offense was 32nd last season, and they just added a five-time Pro Bowl receiver. They got older, but they got better. Unlike his predecessor, Maccagnan isn't conceding today for tomorrow.