Would Jets draft a QB at No. 10? Reading between lines of what team brass said

ORLANDO, Fla. — Monday was Robert Saleh’s first time sitting in front of reporters since the end of a disappointing 2023 Jets season, emerging from his self-imposed media hibernation with a full-grown beard and a measured tone. After a loud start to the offseason — it doesn’t get much louder than your quarterback possibly angling for a vice presidential run — the Jets head coach is yearning for something a little quieter.

Last year, especially once they actually acquired Aaron Rodgers from the Packers, Saleh boasted about the Jets being Super Bowl contenders. There were more cameras and attention than ever at Jets training camp, and not just HBO’s for “Hard Knocks.” Even if Saleh wants it to, the attention won’t die down this year either, even if HBO won’t be there to chronicle their training camp journey.

Expectations are high, and pressure is even higher. Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas are firmly on the hot seat, and their offseason moves — adding talented but injury-prone players like wide receiver Mike Williams and left tackle Tyron Smith on one-year deals — portray a team that’s all in on finally finishing a season with a winning record and an appearance in the playoffs.

That’s the focus.

“The reality is winning offseasons doesn’t matter,” Saleh said. “You’ve got to win football games. No matter how much excitement there is around the organization, no matter how much excitement there is around free agency or the draft, none of it matters. We just got to keep our heads down, find ways to get better, have a great offseason and when we get to the season try to find ways to put W’s in the win column.”

No more excuses.

Just win.

“I like to win games, like a lot of other owners,” said owner Woody Johnson. “We’re in it to win games for the players and the fans. We want to win games. We’re trying to put a team together. We made some really good progress to put a team together to make that happen.”

Saleh, Douglas and Johnson, who rarely speaks to the media, had plenty to say about the state of the Jets, the moves they’ve made this offseason — and the moves they still might make.

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So let’s sort through some of the most notable quotes — and what they actually mean, reading between the lines.

Adding another QB — even in the first round

What Robert Saleh said: “We’ve got full confidence in Aaron and obviously Tyrod (Taylor) and we’re gonna add another quarterback to the room, obviously. We’ve gotta come to camp with three or four guys. That room is not necessarily done. I’m not worried or concerned.”

What Joe Douglas said: “The draft is going to present a lot of interesting possibilities (at No. 10). We’re exploring that. We’ve got coaches and scouts on the road working out different positions. We’ll talk about the draft process when it comes to that room. … I’m not going to get into whether we’re going to take a quarterback at 10 or not. I left the door open in terms of — we’ve got a lot of flexibility if there’s a player that we feel helps the Jets we have the flexibility to do that. So we’re thinking not only for this year but for the future, too. Ultimately we want to do what’s best for the 2024 Jets.”

Reading between the lines

This feels like more smoke than fire — at least in terms of the idea that the Jets would actually draft a quarterback in the first round. Logically, there is an argument to be made that it wouldn’t be the worst idea if a quarterback fell to them at No. 10 whom Douglas felt was worthy of that draft slot. The Jets, after all, have the oldest quarterbacks room in the NFL with a 40-year-old Rodgers (turning 41 in December) and a 34-year-old Tyrod Taylor (turning 35 in August).

Zach Wilson is on the roster and only 24, but neither Douglas nor Saleh gave the impression that he’s part of their future — even if Johnson seemed more open to that idea.



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The wind seems to be blowing in the direction of as many as four quarterbacks getting drafted before the Jets pick anyway — Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, Jayden Daniels and J.J. McCarthy — but if any of them fell to No. 10, perhaps it would be a consideration. The Jets have been doing homework on this quarterback class and perhaps would consider the next wave of quarterback talent in this class (Bo Nix, Michael Penix and the like), but that seems unlikely to happen in the first round — and they don’t own a second-round pick.

At minimum, expect the Jets to add a young quarterback this offseason in some fashion.

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Would the Jets really keep Zach Wilson if they fail to trade him this offseason? (Rich Storry / Getty Images)

Trading Zach Wilson — but probably not cutting him

What Joe Douglas said: “There’s been a lot of good discussions with his agent, there’s been some discussions with teams regarding a trade. But I’ve got no news to report. There’s nothing close to being done. … I would say there’s been conversations, but nothing is close.”

What Woody Johnson said: “I feel badly about Zach in some ways because last year would’ve been great, it would be the first time he can sit back and watch a master (Rodgers) at work. He’s never had that. He’s been in the fire from Day 1. I think that’s what he needs. He needs to be in a place where he can observe for a while. He’s got the skill, he can do everything. There’s a reason we drafted him at No. 2 overall. I have confidence he’ll get there at some point. … If we don’t trade him, we’re going to keep him. So that’s possible he could do it here. It’s probably better from his standpoint if he changes faces and gets to a new place and he can wipe the slate clean in that way. I think that would be better for him.”

Reading between the lines

The short answer — Wilson is still a Jet because there hasn’t been much interest in him on the trade market, especially as other teams have filled up their depth charts with other quarterbacks, including from Wilson’s draft class (Mac Jones and Justin Fields were both traded).

Johnson’s responses Monday were in stark contrast to his comments a couple of months ago when he said the Jets didn’t have a backup last season — perceived as a harsh critique of Wilson by many. He pulled back on that Monday and also denied a Pro Football Talk report that the Jets had received trade offers for Wilson but Johnson nixed those deals.

The most interesting part of Johnson’s comments was the assertion that the Jets would not cut Wilson if they can’t trade him. In reality, that’s what Johnson should’ve said — because why would any team want to trade for him if they knew the Jets might cut him anyway? It’s also notable that the Jets would incur a $11 million dead cap hit and zero cap savings by cutting Wilson, which likely isn’t something that would make Johnson very happy. Trading Wilson would save $5.4 million. The issue: Any acquiring team would have to pay Wilson that money, which has been a sticking point.

As for the possibility of keeping Wilson, Douglas said the Jets “haven’t given that much thought.”



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Staff changes and Nathaniel Hackett

What Robert Saleh said: “I know (Hackett) will be (better). When you lose, you’re a loser. I suck, Joe D sucks, we all suck. It goes with the territory. The best thing we can do is put our heads down. We gotta go to work. All the feel-good stuff of the offseason doesn’t matter. We gotta win football games and when we win games the narrative will change.”

(On looking into adding another offensive assistant): “We have our staff. I’ve always had three guys in that (quarterbacks) room … So I was just looking, you’re always looking to add the third person. I felt like (Todd) Downing and Hackett would be enough.

Reading between the lines

Saleh looked into adding a veteran offensive coach to his staff this offseason to assist in the play-calling operation but ultimately didn’t hire anyone new for that role. Saleh likely had a hard time finding someone notable to sign on for that job and ultimately settled on running it back with Hackett and passing game coordinator Todd Downing. Saleh did make a couple of staff changes, hiring a new running backs coach (Tony Dews) and wide receivers coach (Shawn Jefferson).

Hackett struggled in his first season as the Jets’ offensive coordinator, failing to adequately adjust when Rodgers was injured. The Jets had one of the least productive offenses in the league — a familiar tale around Florham Park — but now Saleh is hoping Hackett can simply do a better job with a better quarterback situation.



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Fixing the offensive line

What Joe Douglas said: “I think a primary objective of the offseason was fortifying the offensive line. I think that was goal one. I feel good about what we were able to accomplish there and a few other objectives leading into the offseason. But still a lot ahead.”

“I think this is an unbelievable O-line class, an unbelievable class at a few positions. Where we are now we have great flexibility to go in any direction we see is best for us moving forward. It opens the door to a lot of possibilities.”

Reading between the lines

Douglas and Saleh were effusive in their praise for new left tackle Tyron Smith, left guard John Simpson and right tackle Morgan Moses — while also acknowledging the injury risks that come with bringing in Smith (37 games missed over the last four years) and Moses, who recently had pectoral surgery.

Saleh emphasized his belief in second-year offensive tackle Carter Warren and he’ll be a key backup this year, but the Jets clearly haven’t (or shouldn’t) rule out drafting a tackle in the first round either.

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The Jets are excited about wide receiver Mike Williams, but he might not be ready for the start of training camp. (Kohjiro Kinno / Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

Mike Williams and the need for another WR

What Joe Douglas said: “Mike’s rehabbing the knee (ACL) injury …I would say he’s not going to be ready for the start of training camp. But, again, there’s a lot of time. So we’ll see how the rehab progresses, there’s a lot of checkpoints to hit, but we do feel confident that he’s going to be ready for the year.”

What Robert Saleh said: “Guys like (Jason) Brownlee and (Xavier) Gipson got a lot of playing time last year. I’m expecting them to take a jump, expecting them to work their tails off this offseason … expecting Lazard to come back a lot stronger. From a receiver room standpoint, I’m not going to say it’s not done.”

Reading between the lines

Williams is five months removed from ACL surgery and Saleh said to expect him to be on a similar timeline to running back Breece Hall last year. Hall missed the start of training camp before eventually getting activated and working his way back into team drills. The Jets won’t rush it with Williams — and the injury is why they were able to sign him to an incentive-laden one-year deal.

But this also shines a light on the Jets’ need for another wide receiver — Gipson, Brownlee and/or Lazard should not be relied upon to be the No. 2 wide receiver if Williams isn’t ready to go to start camp. There are still options in free agency, but this is considered a loaded draft class at the position.

Saleh also said the Jets are in “constant talks” with Corey Davis and that “our door is always going to be open for him.” Davis left the team in training camp but plans to make a comeback this year.



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Extra points

• Douglas said the Jets had an “outstanding” visit with free agent defensive end Jadeveon Clowney last week but that there’s “no news to report” on if he’ll be signing with them anytime soon. They are clearly interested.

• Saleh and Douglas expressed sadness about losing defensive end Bryce Huff in free agency, but Saleh is optimistic that 2023 first-round pick Will McDonald can help fill the void. “He’s got speed, he’s got a counter move inside, but when he learns to run through somebody’s face, he’s going to become a pass rusher that nobody will be able to block.”

• Saleh, Johnson and Douglas didn’t have much interest in discussing Rodgers’ reported consideration as a vice presidential candidate. “I don’t remember when I heard it, but we’re kind of (focused on) football,” Johnson said. “It’s just football, football, football.”

• Saleh expects Rodgers to be available to practice with the team in the spring for OTAs coming off Achilles surgery.

(Top photo of Robert Saleh: Phelan M. Ebenhack / Associated Press)

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