By Kristian Dyer
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This was the offseason that the New York Jets wanted from general manager John Idzik. And after two full days of free agency, it was exactly what the team needed.
After a 2013 of rebuilding, the Jets emerged this offseason with oodles of cap space (oodles being the technical term used by football accountants and cap experts) and the ability to bring in depth and top-tier talent.
But then on the first day of free agency, the Jets sat quietly while the underachievers of the NFL reached with big dollar contracts for players with uncertain potential. Sure, players on the Jets big board flew off to sign contracts for dollar amounts that they as a franchise were unwilling to match.
And of course, panic set in.
It was assumed that Idzik was getting schooled in his second offseason with the Jets. Last year marked an underwhelming assortment of deals for his team, mainly under-the-radar signings in a year marked by tight cap restraints. But this was supposed to be the year of the splash, the year of big names.
This offseason was supposed to be about the stars, about the marquee being filled with impact players. The Jets were supposed to be players coming into free agency. It was supposed to be a flurry of big names.
But then Aqib Talib, Alterraun Verner and Vontae Davis flew off the shelves. What did the Jets do? They signed kicker Nick Folk to a four-year contract, a player they had just franchise tagged weeks before. Then they lost Austin Howard to the Raiders and suddenly, it seemed as if the Jets had no plan, no future.
But Idzik sat there, like the ninja that he is, and waited patiently.
He didn’t pay attention to the hand-ringing on Twitter. He didn’t listen to the sports talk hosts griping over his quiet offseason. And he didn’t cave into pressure.
Instead, methodically he stuck to his plan and what he did was improve his team on Wednesday.
There was the contract for Breno Giacomini, a right tackle perhaps more polished then Howard, who has 31 starts over the past two seasons for the Seattle Seahawks. Then there was the deal for Eric Decker, a five-year contract competitively priced for a player coming off a career year with the Denver Broncos.
At no time did Idzik reach. At no point was there panic. Instead, he worked his board and he improved the team.
Patiently he sits in his office in Florham Park, unwilling to change his style. He is pragmatic and thoughtful and will never pay the price for being rash. He didn’t jump at the opportunity to sign Darrelle Revis to a contract, knowing that the price would mortgage his team’s ability to make further moves down the road. This team had multiple holes to fill and it didn’t need just one piece. Idzik recognized that and wouldn’t flinch.
He’s suffering in the backpages right now, but it won’t matter much come Week 1.
For that’s Idzik’s style. The Jets won’t be a team that spends now only to have buyer’s remorse later. They will pursue a path that gives them flexibility, the types of moves that left Idzik’s last team, the Seahawks, ready for an extended run of success.
It was the mindset that Jets ownership wanted when they hired Idzik last offseason. There’s substance, not sizzle to everything the franchise does moving forward. It won’t always work, but it will have a purpose. There will be a direction and a mentality for this franchise.
So all that angst over the Jets’ quiet offseason after just hours of the open market is what Idzik expected all along. And the Jets will be fine with that.
Remember that this time last year, the Jets were pegged to be the worst team in the NFL. The popular talking point was that they had the inside track on the No. 1 pick, that they were the frontrunners in the Jadeveon Clowney sweepstakes. And Rex Ryan’s Jets future wasn’t even talked about or considered. It was assumed he had no future with the team and his next stop would be Rutgers.
Instead, behind Idzik’s solid draft class and some shrewd free agent signings, the Jets finished 8-8. A team destined by the pundits to be among the worst in the league was in the playoff picture until mid-December. Idzik had the last laugh then as he embraced Ryan in the visiting locker room in Miami, celebrating an improbable season.
And Idzik will have the last laugh now. Just like the ninja that he is.
Kristian R. Dyer covers the Jets for Metro New York. He can be followed at @KristianRDyer
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