NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Ask any Jets fan what the team’s biggest weakness is heading into the start of the 2018 regular season and they’ll answer without hesitation.
The Jets, who have not made the playoffs since 2010, have finished near the bottom of the league in sacks in each of the last two seasons. It hasn’t helped matters that both Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson turned into busts and are no longer with the team, and that the current in-house options head coach Todd Bowles was hoping to use have yet to really grab anyone’s attention.
But according to a pair of reports in the Daily News, general manager Mike Maccagnan has been proactive about the problem, reaching out across the league in his quest to find an edge rusher to play with budding star Leonard Williams. Maccagnan has spoken to the Oakland Raiders about holdout defensive end Khalil Mack, who is arguably the best player at his position in the NFL, and the Jacksonville Jaguars about super-talented Dante Fowler Jr.
As far as Mack is concerned, the Raiders have yet to declare him on the block. It’s hard to blame them. Mack has 40.5 sacks in 64 career games — he has never missed a game as a pro — and is in the final year of his rookie contract that would pay him $13.8 million. However, he’s not in camp because he wants a new deal, one that would reportedly pay him quarterback money.
The Jets are likely willing to pay a substantial price to get a talent like Mack and have cap space to sign him to a big contract, but there’s no guarantee the 27-year-old former No. 5 overall pick would put pen to paper. Also, if Oakland ever does shop him, suitors would be lined up for miles.
Fowler is a potentially intriguing option because he has all the talent in the world. However, he also has an injury history, has gotten into his fair share of trouble off the field and was recently suspended for a week by the team after fighting with a teammate in practice. There’s no telling the Jaguars’ mindset right now, but it’s important to note that they have not yet picked up Fowler’s $14.2 million option for 2019.
So with the regular season opener two weeks away, the Jets are still a work in progress. Despite having a promising quarterback situation for the first time in ages, some decent skill position talent and a secondary that, on paper anyway, could be among the league’s best, the difference between them being a middling team or a playoff contender in 2018 will likely rest on how much pressure they generate in the pocket.
Maccagnan’s job is far from done.