Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan addressed the media Friday and shed some light on the team’s free agency process.
The Jets wasted no time in locking up starting RG Brian Winters and later re-signed Ben Ijalana to the offensive line, who started 13 games last season playing both RT and LT. The team also brought back last season’s leading tackler on special teams, OLB Josh Martin, who is excited to take on more of a leadership role on Brant Boyer’s unit.
“We’re very happy to keep Brian in the fold,” Maccagnan said. “Ben Ijalana was another player that has come on and played well for us. We feel good about him going forward so it’s good to keep some of those guys intact along with Josh Martin, who has done a very good job not only as a backup linebacker, but a special teams player.”
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With the releases of Ryan Clady and Breno Giacomini, the Green & White needed to solidify the tackle position. The Jets added a blind-side protector in the 6’3”, 316-pound Kelvin Beachum, who nearly became part of the organization last year.
“Kelvin was a player that we liked a year ago prior to his injury,” Maccagnan said. “He obviously came back, played for Jacksonville and did some good things there. I do think he’s a player that will continue to ascend as he gets further away from his injury. I think a lot of the time when players come off injuries, especially knees, they come back to their form.”
The sixth overall pick of the 2012 draft was productive for the Cowboys during his five years in Dallas, but Morris Claiborne has struggled to stay on the field at times. In eight games last season, Claiborne allowed a 63.0 passer rating and limited opposing receivers to a 51.9% catch rate, which ranked 9th and 11th amongst CBs.
“A lot of players have injuries,” Maccagnan said. “Morris has an injury history, but we did bring him in for a physical before we signed him. I have a lot of faith in our trainers and doctors. We’ve done a good job in the past of having players come here, perform and stay on the field.
“We’re excited about Morris from an ability standpoint. When he’s played, he’s played at a fairly high level and he fits very well with us from a schematic standpoint. With every player there’s a risk, but we felt good about the opportunity for him to come in here and be a part of this organization.”
Entering free agency, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg were the only two quarterbacks on the roster. Maccagnan said all options were on the table and it was widely expected a veteran presence would be added to the mix. While many names were linked to the club, Maccagnan & Co. pulled the trigger on McCown, who spent some of the 2012 season in Chicago with Jets QBs coach Jeremy Bates.
“As we went through, we talked to a lot of different quarterbacks in pro free agency market,” Maccagnan said. “Josh was a player who we liked through the process. We have some history with him with people in our building, so we know what his strengths are. In terms of an intangible standpoint, we think he’s a very good veteran from a character and leadership standpoint to add to our group. We still think he has the ability to play and perform on the field from a talent standpoint so when it was all said and done, we felt very good about adding him to the mix.”
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Both Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles have stressed the importance of competition at each position. Ross Martin, a final cut from last season, was the only kicker on the roster following the release of Nick Folk. Chandler Catanzaro was successful early in his career for the Cardinals, connecting on a combined 89.1% of his field goals attempts over his first two years. The Clemson product’s numbers slipped in 2016 as he hit on 75% of his attempts.
“We felt good about adding [Catanzaro] to the organization,” Maccagnan said. “It was sad to see Nick go, but we felt good about [Catanzaro’s] ability to bounce back and potentially get back on track with his career in terms of how he played early in his career.”