If Khalil Mack becomes available, Jets should be interested
RICHMOND, Va. — A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:
1. Macc and Mack: General manager Mike Maccagnan got his quarterback. Now he needs to find someone to get to the opponent’s quarterback.
While the addition of Sam Darnold filled a big hole in the Jets’ rebuilding puzzle, it will never be complete until they add a formidable pass-rusher on the edge. My advice to Maccagnan: Call the Oakland Raiders.
In case you haven’t heard, the Raiders and star pass-rusher Khalil Mack are locked in a contract dispute. Mack, due to make $13.8 million in the the final year of his contract, is holding out of training camp, reportedly seeking at least $20 million per year. There’s no evidence to suggest the Raiders have put him on the trading block, but that doesn’t mean the Jets can’t place a phone call.
Will they? I wouldn’t be surprised if they do. The Jets have a proactive front office (see: the trade up for Darnold) and they’re always looking for ways to improve the roster. No matter what Todd Bowles says publicly, the organization recognizes that outside linebacker is their biggest need. Jordan Jenkins is a competent first- and second-down player against the run, but there’s no one who can rush from the edge. Their current leading sacker at the position is David Bass (3.5 sacks last season), and he might not make the team. It’s hard to run a 3-4 defense without a “rush” linebacker.
Mack, the 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, would elevate the Jets’ defense to another level. He’s had 36.5 sacks over the last three seasons and he’s still only 27 years old, which means he still has a few prime years left.
What are the chances he will get traded? It’s unlikely. Two NFL executives told me the Raiders would be dumb to trade Mack, whom they can control for three years — this year, plus two franchise tags. If they put him on the block, they’d demand at least a first-round pick. This is one of those two-pronged situations because any team that wants Mack would have agree to trade compensation with the Raiders and negotiate a long-term contract with the player — and it’s not easy to pull that off.
The Jets have $16 million in cap room this year and a league-high $82 million next year, according to overthecap.com. So, yes, they could absorb a huge contract, especially with only one potentially big deal on the horizon (Leonard Williams). The draft-pick compensation might be tough for them to swallow, considering they’re already without a second-round choice in 2019 (the Darnold trade), but my take is this: Would you find a better pass-rusher than Mack in next year’s draft? Probably not.
Maccagnan told ESPN New York radio that upgrading the pass rush is “an area we’re focused on,” saying he will explore possible trades and waiver-wire pickups throughout the preseason. Forget the waiver wire; if a player like Mack becomes available, you pounce.
Make the call, Mike.
2. Marked man: The Jets flew to Richmond, Virginia, after Friday night’s preseason opener and will hold joint practices with the Washington Redskins starting Sunday. The teams will cap the week Thursday night with a game at FedEx Field.
The Jets haven’t conducted a joint practice since 2005, when they met the New York Giants in Albany, New York. That was a memorable day, marked by several fights and a shouting match between Jets defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson and Giants coach Tom Coughlin. In 1988, they scrimmaged the Redskins at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. I’ll never forget the sight of Mark Gastineau’s actress girlfriend, Brigitte Neilsen, emerging from a white stretch limo that had driven up to the Jets’ sideline in the middle of the scrimmage. Ah, yes, good times.
These Jets-Redskins sessions also could get chippy because Redskins linebacker Zach Brown put a target on Terrelle Pryor in June, saying the defense will “have it out” for their former teammate. Let’s just say Pryor wasn’t Mr. Popularity on the 2017 Redskins. They believed he was coddled by the coaching staff and was too much of a showman in practice.
For the most part, Pryor has laughed off the trash talk, although he did deliver one salvo.
“If they take dirty shots, I’m sure we’ll handle that accordingly,” he said last week.
Pryor versus Josh Norman should be a fun watch.
3. Goal in Richmond: Coach Todd Bowles said the focus in the joint practices will be on the young players, seeing how they react to different competition and new schematic looks.
“You get tired of going up against the same offensive and defensive schemes, and they’re a very good football team and they have a lot of things they do well,” Bowles said. “It will be a good test for some of the guys that won’t play a lot in the game next Thursday.”
4. The other rookie: Darnold has been grabbing all the headlines, but the Jets do have other rookies in camp, you know. One of them — tight end Chris Herndon — has a chance to be an immediate contributor. Sorry, I don’t have a stat on this (you’re shocked, I know), but he has to be among their leading receivers in practice. He dropped to the fourth round because of a late-season knee injury at Miami.
Former tight end Anthony Becht, who has attended a few practices in his role as the new color analyst on the Jets’ preseason telecasts, said Herndon has the ability to play both tight-end spots — in-line (the Y position) and flex (F). In other words, he can block and catch.
“He can be productive in both roles,” said Becht, who suspects Herndon would’ve been a second-round pick if it hadn’t been for the knee injury. “To me, that’s the key in the NFL now. You have to be able to do everything at every position.
“The kid’s a good player. He’s very explosive. I think he’s a playmaker in the passing game. He can do all those things and, unlike a lot of the tight ends coming out, he can be an in-line blocker, too. When you can get a little bit of both and yet you’re still predominantly a pass-catching tight end, that’s key.”
Herndon sat out Friday night because of “a couple of bruises” from practice, according to a tight-lipped Bowles. This bears watching.
5. No “Madden” love: The folks who create the player ratings for the Madden video game evidently don’t expect much from Darnold this season. Here’s how they ranked the rookie quarterbacks:
For what it’s worth, I think the Jets’ top three was Darnold, Rosen and Mayfield.
6. Sad stories: The recent passing of coach Tony Sparano triggered thoughts of his one season with the Jets, 2012, when he served as offensive coordinator for Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow & Co. A quick review of the roster uncovered this chilling fact:
Three members of that team are dead: Running back Joe McKnight was murdered in 2016, tight end Konrad Reuland died of a brain aneurysm in 2016 and Sparano died of heart disease at age 56.
7. The last word: “David Harris: Married with kids. Couldn’t hang out with him. Can’t relate. Demario (Davis): Married with kids. Couldn’t hang out with him. Can’t relate. Avery, he’s 26 and young. Not married. I’m like, ‘Man, I’m not married, either. Let’s hang out.” — linebacker Darron Lee on how he’s developing chemistry with Avery Williamson, compared to previous middle linebackers.
August 12, 2018 at 07:00AM