INDIANAPOLIS — The NFL offseason hits another gear this week with the NFL Scouting Combine. There are three weeks to go before free agency and two months before the NFL draft, but rumors, reports and whispers will be flowing in this Midwest city this week.
The Jets arrive with plenty of questions to answer and roster holes to fill. Both general manager Joe Douglas and coach Adam Gase are scheduled to speak to the media on Tuesday afternoon.
The Jets brain trust is searching for a way to end the team’s nine-year playoff drought and stretch of four straight losing seasons. Here are some of the storylines that will surround the Jets this week:
The Joe Douglas Show
Douglas replaced Mike Maccagnan as GM last June, so even though he’s been around for a while, this will be his first combine in charge and he will be under the microscope. The Jets brought Douglas in because he is highly respected in the scouting community and he had a large amount of responsibility with the Eagles. Now, he will be running his own show.
The task is daunting for Douglas. The Jets have holes all over the roster — offensive line, wide receiver, edge rusher and cornerback are the headliners. When Douglas arrived he found a roster that had some high-end talent but no depth. Building depth will be a big part of his mission this offseason and that comes with strong drafting in the middle and late rounds.
There is no question about what the Jets’ biggest area of need is. Douglas needs to rebuild the offensive line. The Jets could have as many as four new starters in 2020. The offensive line last season was atrocious for most of the year and a direct reason why Sam Darnold and Le’Veon Bell both struggled.
The Jets could potentially use their first two draft picks on offensive linemen. At No. 11, they should be able to draft one of the top tackles. There is a group of five tackles viewed as the top tier who will be on display this week — Georgia’s Andrew Thomas, Louisville’s Mekhi Becton, Alabama’s Jedrick Wills, Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs and Houston’s Josh Jones.
In the second round, the Jets could take a center or guard. LSU’s Lloyd Cushenberry, Wisconsin’s Tyler Biadasz and Temple’s Matt Hennessy could be available.
The scouting combine is not all about future NFL players. This is also where current players who are free agents get discussed in meetings between agents and the teams. For the Jets, their biggest impending free agent is wide receiver Robby Anderson.
The Jets would like to re-sign Anderson, but are not willing to break the bank for him. This week, Anderson’s agent should get a sense of what the market is for his client and the Jets will have a better idea of whether he will be part of their future or not. Anderson’s speed is going to entice someone to spend big money on him. It won’t be surprising if he is playing somewhere else next year.
Safety Jamal Adams is not a free agent. In fact, the team has him under its control for at least two more years, possibly three if it wants to use the franchise tag in 2022. However, his contract is going to be one of the biggest stories of the offseason. Adams is eligible for an extension and he said last month at the Super Bowl he expects one.
Talks between the Jets and Adams’ agent could heat up this week, although this still feels like it could drag on for a while. Adams will actually be in Indianapolis over the weekend, serving as an analyst for the NFL Network’s coverage of the defensive back drills. Maybe he and Douglas can hammer out a contract over a shrimp cocktail at St. Elmo’s.
The Le’Veon Saga
Both Gase and Douglas will get questions about Bell’s future with the team, a topic that never seems to go away. The latest issue is an ESPN report last week citing anonymous sources that the team felt Bell gained weight and was sluggish toward the end of the season. Gase is going to have to have a better answer for the Bell questions this time than he did the day after the season.
Bell is due to make $13.5 million guaranteed this season, so any trade scenarios seem slim. Gase and Douglas need to make Bell feel wanted with their answers to the media this week.