By Kristian Dyer
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Pull out the forceps and begin measuring Mike Maccagnan’s cranium for Canton. Oh and clear a spot in that almost empty trophy case at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center for another Lombardi Trophy.
Maccagnan didn’t just take six players over this past weekend.
He drafted hope for a franchise forever hopeless.
It was that good of a draft for the first-year general manager that fans of this team have actually started to believe that this thing can be turned around, that a franchise known as a joke can become a become a serious contender.
After an offseason where the Jets landed the biggest free agent on the open market in Darrelle Revis and by many accounts the top player in the draft, Leonard Williams, the green and white faithful don’t seem quite so despondent anymore.
If anything, they are now “spondent,” if that’s even a word. Whatever is the opposite of despondent, that’s what these Jets fans are.
By any measure, Maccagnan has had the best offseason of any general manager this team has had since the Jets drafted Joe Namath in 1965. He completely reworked the secondary, signing the aforementioned Revis, along with Antonio Cromartie and Buster Skrine, and traded for Brandon Marshall in an effort to add more know-how to the receiving corps. He also re-signed important pieces such as linebacker David Harris, defensive end Leger Douzable, running back Bilal Powell and defensive tackle Damon Harrison.
Then there was the draft. He used the first of his six picks on Williams, a former star defensive end at USC that many experts called the best overall talent available.
Oh, and it appears the Jets still have cap space to re-sign defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, their best young player.
It can all still fall apart, because it always seems to for this team, but right now the Jets have a team that on paper that offers the kind of blend that could one day develop into a championship contender. There are established stars in Revis, Cromartie. Wilkerson and Marshall to market to a fan base that suffered through a combined 12-20 record over the previous two years, without much in the way of star power on either side of the ball.
Now the Jets have some names and younger players in key positions that could at the very least make them a contender of sorts for a few years.
Maccagnan has been shrewd and bold. His best-player-available approach landed him Williams, who inexplicably was around at No. 6
He could afford to take Petty in the fourth round because he brought in Ryan Fitzpatrick this offseason to compete with Geno Smith, meaning he already had two quarterbacks on the roster with starting experience. That affords Petty a year or two (or three) to develop and learn an NFL system.
That sensation Jets fans are feeling right now is hope, something they are not accustomed to. For too many years this team took shortcuts in its pursuit of success, signing aging veterans who were in New York to collect a last paycheck and then retire with another team’s jersey on their backs. Years of bad draft picks and reaches, of character concerns and unfulfilled talent had left even the most loyal of fans dejected and lustily casting their eyes across town at the Giants.
But now they can emerge from the shadows with hope. There is nothing to gloat about yet, no victories to celebrate, but there is hope.
That is, in a way, a victory of sorts for Jets fans. Even hope has been hard to find around these parts in recent years.
Maccagnan has delivered on his promises. He landed the big free agents, the marquee names to put on billboards while steadying the ship after a rocky two years under their old general manager. Today is bright for Jets fans, but tomorrow is as well.
Now, if we can only figure out where to put that bust in Canton…
Follow Kristian on Twitter at @KristianRDyer