Two years later on June 7, 2021, there is a new head coach in Robert Saleh. There is an entirely new coaching staff led by coordinators Mike LaFleur and Jeff Ulbrich. There have been organizational changes, like the addition of the Sports Performance Department that tie into conditioning and nutrition. There were even two extra days of media allowed at OTAs.
There is a new franchise quarterback in Zach Wilson, a new offensive line led by Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker, and a new pass-rusher by the name of Carl Lawson. Generally speaking, there are more fresh faces on this roster than weathered ones and more youth than experience. Most of all, there is a new culture: “All gas, no break.”
Ranking Douglas’ Top 10 Moves Thus Far
Not everything Douglas has done since joining the Jets has worked out perfectly, but overall most fans and analysts are excited about the progress that the general manager has made in overhauling this franchise.
Here are his top 10 moves on the job during his first two calendar years.
Honorable Mention: Undrafted Rookie Signings
In just two offseasons, we have seen Douglas bring in an exhaustive amount of undrafted rookie prospects. Some have hit, others haven’t, but the former scout isn’t afraid to give college players an opportunity.
The best success stories so far are easily nickel cornerback Javelin Guidry and edge rusher Bryce Huff. Guidry received a 73.1 grade from Pro Football Focus in 2020 after replacing the injured Brian Poole down the stretch. Huff managed two sacks and four quarterback hits as a rotational pass-rusher, as well as 16 combined tackles (four for a loss) and one pass defended.
Notable Jets undrafted free agents in 2021 range from tight end Kenny Yeboah and cornerback Isaiah Dunn to guard Tristen Hoge and kicker Chris Naggar. The UDFA class is 12-deep in total and full of loads of promising potential.
10. Trade Return for Sam Darnold (2021)
This sort of hinges on how well Sam Darnold performs as he continues his career in Carolina, which is why it’s this low. As it stands right now, however, this was an awesome return for a player that everyone knew the Jets wanted to get rid of.
When you factor in the former third overall pick’s performance as a Jet (outlined by PFF above), a return of three draft picks was a haul for Douglas. The headliner is a 2022 second-rounder, but for now, the 2021 sixth-round pick helped the Jets GM trade up for cornerback Jason Pinnock.
After Julio Jones was traded on June 6, 2021, Twitter blew up with Jets fans boasting that Douglas’ return for Darnold was more than Atlanta’s return for Jones.
9. Drafting Mekhi Becton Over Henry Ruggs III & Jerry Jeudy (2020)
This is still to be determined long-term, but one year in it appears that Douglas made the correct decision to draft the mountain of a left tackle over the skilled playmakers Henry Ruggs III and Jerry Jeudy. The Jets needed both positions desperately before the draft, and many debated on whether the GM should go wide receiver or left tackle with his inaugural pick.
Ruggs only had 452 receiving yards with the Las Vegas Raiders as a rookie, while Jeudy ended up with 856 receiving yards in year one after a late-season push. Becton earned a solid 74.4 grade on PFF and looked like a long-term answer at tackle so long as he stays healthy.
8. Drafting Elijah Moore & Michael Carter at a Bargain Value (2021)
This is all based on a very brief period of OTAs, but it certainly appears that Douglas hit the jackpot on these two offensive weapons. Elijah Moore has been torching the competition according to Jets beat reporters, and Michael Carter is considered the favorite to win the starting running back job this season.
Moore was rated at a first-round value but fell into the second, while Carter dropped all the way to the fourth round of the 2021 draft.
7. Trading Down, Then Ending up With Denzel Mims Anyway (2020)
When Baylor star wide receiver Denzel Mims was sitting there on the board for Douglas in the second round of the 2020 draft, the entire fanbase collectively called for the pick. What did the Jets GM do though? Traded down.
Most watched the decision in agony as the Jets gained an extra third-rounder from the Seattle Seahawks to move down 11 spots. Mims was far-and-away the top receiver left at the time, and the Jets needed a wide-out bad. 11 picks later though, Mims was still there, and Douglas snagged him.
The risky decision paid off handsomely for the rookie GM as he later turned the third into three additional picks. More importantly, Jets fans realized Douglas was the real deal. If Mims had a better rookie campaign, this move would rank higher.
6. Claiming John Franklin-Myers off Waivers (2019)
Some might say this is a bit high but to me, the fact that a waiver pickup turned into the Jets’ “most underappreciated player in 2020” (according to NFL Network Analytics Expert, Cynthia Frelund) is something to be proud of for Douglas.
He was able to find value in a player that another franchise was willing to give up on. Not only that, John Franklin-Myers could actually win a starting role in 2021, which would only amplify the return on this transaction.
5. Signing Carl Lawson (2021)
It doesn’t take much to dish out big money to a free agent as a GM, which is why you don’t see too many signings on this list. What’s more important is whether or not the player lives up to the contract.
Unfortunately, most times they don’t in the NFL due to the nature of the sport, but Lawson represents more than just a large free-agent deal. The Jets have not had an impact edge rusher of Lawson’s caliber since John Abraham, so Douglas’ push to bring one in represents a change of mentality within this organization.
4. Trading up to Draft Alijah-Vera Tucker (2021)
There was a contingent of NFL fans that claimed Douglas gave up too much to get Vera-Tucker. Realistically, the return was more than fair. The Jets swapped first-round picks and threw in two thirds (while gaining a fourth back in return) to move up nine spots in the first round.
That last part is crucial in this discussion. Nine spots in the first round. Douglas didn’t even have to give up a future first or second in a leap this drastic, and in a year where scouting was more challenging due to the pandemic, a can’t-miss talent like AVT seemed more valuable to Douglas than the extra third-rounder and the later pick swap.
In the end, the Jets added an All-Pro caliber guard to protect their rookie quarterback. Jets fans certainly weren’t complaining.
3. Drafting Zach Wilson (2021)
This one has to be up here because it will probably define Douglas’ career with the Jets. When you ditch one franchise quarterback so that you can draft another, you absolutely have to hit on that pick. If you don’t and the former franchise QB has success elsewhere, you’re unlikely to keep your job beyond that.
Early reports on Wilson have been encouraging, but his rookie campaign should give us a general idea on whether or not this was a wise decision. We might even get a glimpse of the answer during Week 1, as Darnold and Wilson square off.
2. Trade Return for Jamal Adams (2020)
As much as I loved to watch Jamal Adams play, the decision to trade him was the right one. Douglas needed to rebuild this franchise at its core, and the Adams return expedited that process.
The Seahawks gave the Jets two future first-round picks and a third in the exchange, which has turned into Vera-Tucker so far. The Jets will receive another first-rounder in 2022.
1. Replacing Adam Gase With Robert Saleh (2021)
The number one move by Douglas so far has obviously been firing Adam Gase, who was hired by Christopher Johnson and Mike Maccagnan. This one is two-fold though because if he had replaced Gase with another burn-out, it would not have been much of a success.
The Saleh hire was huge for the future of this organization. Not only was he the number one coaching candidate on the market by most estimations, but he was beloved by many players around the league. With Saleh at the helm, the Jets have already lured in free agents while also changing the culture surrounding the team’s past.