It is a rite of NFL March Madness, exasperated fan bases pulling their hair out because their team sits on its hands while a competitor goes hog wild with a frenzied free-agent spending spree.
And so there was the poor Jet fan on Monday afternoon, watching Bill BeliCHECK diving headfirst into the free-agent waters — Jonnu Smith, Matthew Judon, Davon Godchaux, Jalen Mills, Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor, Henry Anderson — so desperately you would have thought he was fueled by Tom Brady leaving him and winning a seventh Super Bowl without him or something.
Every time BeliCHECK struck, it became harder for the Jet fan to forget that Le’Veon Bell proved to be a classic cautionary tale about the risks inherent in free agency … that patience can be a virtue when the home rush begins.
Now Jets GM Joe Douglas doesn’t seem like a man who might feel compelled to go swimming in any shark-infested waters just because BeliCHECK did, more like a man who had done his homework, who knew whom he wanted and at the price he wanted them.
And suddenly, it was Joe Time, the $69 million burning a hole in his pocket.
With all his draft capital, with his philosophy of building through the draft, Douglas didn’t have to be as desperate as BeliCheck appeared to be, and he wasn’t.
He was opportunistic and prudent, and added three young emerging players with upside, none of them over 26 years old.
Three players whose reward outweighs the risk.
Free agency is always a “buyer beware” proposition, and it can be a matter of luck, but these are by no means gambles by Douglas.
WR Corey Davis ( 3 years, $37.5 million, $27 million guaranteed), the fifth pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, right in front of Jamal Adams, comes off a career year (65-984-5 TDs) with Ryan Tannehill in Tennessee. At worst, he is a No. 2 receiver and complement to Denzel Mims. At best, he develops into the Go To Guy for whomever is the Jets quarterback.
DE Carl Lawson (3 years, $45 million, $30 million guaranteed) gives new Jets HC Robert Saleh an edge rusher. He is not John Abraham or Joe Klecko or Mark Gastineau, maybe more like Jeff Lageman, who recorded 10 sacks once and 8.5 sacks another time. Lawson recorded 8.5 sacks as a rookie in 2017, and had 32 quarterback hits a year ago. The Bengals wanted to keep him.
LB Jarrad Davis, drafted 16 picks after Corey Davis, showed flashes with the Lions, but was plagued by an ankle injury in 2019 and was on the field for fewer than 30 percent of the snaps last season. But he has proven to be an effective blitzer (6 sacks in 2018) and can prove himself under Saleh on a one-year prove-it deal worth up to $7 million.
Lawson comes cheaper than Judon (4 years, $56 million, $32 million guaranteed) and is three years younger. Judon recorded 34.5 sacks in 76 games. Lawson recorded 20 sacks in 51 games.
Belichick upgraded his speed with WR Nelson Agholor (2 years, $26 million) and landed a versatile wideout for Cam Newton in Kendrick Bourne (3 years, $22.5 million).
Corey Davis is a better receiver than both of them.
“You look at his size, his play strength, his toughness. He’s willing to play in high-traffic areas,” Titans wide receivers coach Rob Moore said last September.
Douglas learned at the feet of former Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome, who was the best in the business. Douglas waited in the weeds until he could wait no more for Lawson after Judon, Yannick Ngakoue and Bud Dupree were off the market. Patience is not a virtue if you like a guy enough and you run the risk of being left without a seat in the game of musical edge rushers.
A long way to go for the Jets. But a good start. The early angst for the Jet fan should give way to a Jump for Joy in Jetville. A Jump for Joe.