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Rough offseason for Jets piling up with free agency looming

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Should Davante Adams be the Jets' top priority this offseason? (1:27)

The "Get Up" crew debate whether Davante Adams is the missing piece the Jets should be targeting this offseason. (1:27)

A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:

1. Playing defense: Almost one year ago (March 15, 2023), the Jets were the chosen ones. That day, Aaron Rodgers -- just out of the darkness -- made his humongous announcement on "The Pat McAfee Show," declaring his intention to play for the Jets. It was a franchise-altering, perception-changing moment. Suddenly, they were the cool team.

Now they're not.

A rough season was followed by a rough start to the offseason, which led to a rough week at the end of February. The Jets got shredded in separate podcasts by one of their former players (wide receiver Mecole Hardman) and a division rival (Buffalo Bills tackle Dion Dawkins), putting general manager Joe Douglas in the uncomfortable position of having to defend the organization.

"Respect has to be earned, it has to be taken," Douglas said at the combine in Indianapolis earlier this week. "There is really nothing to say. Words are meaningless. Well done is better than well said. We, obviously, have to earn people's respect."

When you're 27-56 since 2019, the league's second-worst record over that span, it's hard to muster a fiery retort.

Hardman, unhappy with his playing time, ripped the Jets' coaches ("[They were] feeding me lies"), the culture ("There's no standard there") and their post-Rodgers plan ("When Aaron goes down, it's like we don't know what to do"). Dawkins, still bothered by an in-season scuffle with defensive end Micheal Clemons, said he "hates" the Jets and called them a "bunch of dudes that just want to take pictures on Instagram."

Some Jets found Dawkins' comments amusing and ironic, considering he himself is active on Instagram. Hardman's remarks hit harder, prompting a handful of players to fire back on social media. The organization felt it did right by him, trading him back to his happy place (Kansas City Chiefs) even though he was a pain in the rear. Hardman himself admitted he openly defied his Jets coaches. In return for sending him to the eventual Super Bowl champions, the Jets got dumped on.

2. Pressure? What pressure? The combine presented the first opportunity for Douglas to comment on owner Woody Johnson, who put everyone on notice after the season. Basically, Johnson said 2024 is make-or-break for Douglas and coach Robert Saleh.

Douglas said he shares his boss' frustration. There's enormous pressure on the GM.

"The pressure is always intrinsic in this job whenever you walk in every day," Douglas said, "but I can tell you that we're not stressed."

You get the sense from talking to people around the league that the Jets are viewed as a house of cards.

"I can see why Johnson is pissed," a former GM/current personnel executive said. "I would've gotten rid of them all, but he's stuck. He's stuck with them this year. [Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett] is best friends with Rodgers. The coach, too. What are you going to do? I get why he kept them. If it had been any other scenario and they finished like that, he would've gotten rid of them all."

3. Potential stumbling block: Quarterback Zach Wilson received permission to speak to other teams about a potential trade, but a trade won't be easy because of his 2024 salary -- a $5.5 million guarantee. That's rather steep for someone who might have to compete for a backup job. As one AFC personnel director said, "The contract and the cap number have to be considered."

The Jets probably will have to eat some money to facilitate a trade. Failing that, they will simply cut him. In that case, there's no cap savings and they get stuck with an $11.2 million charge. Gulp.

4. AVT looms large: The offensive plan hinges, in large part, on two surgically repaired Achilles tendons, belonging to Rodgers and lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker.

Addressing the looming offensive line rebuild, Douglas said they're in "a really good situation" because of Vera-Tucker's flexibility. He can play every position except center, making him a special player. If this were chess, he'd be a rook, able to slide left and right across the board.

The downside is that he hasn't been given a fair chance to master one spot. That will change.

"The one thing we're going to do this year, we're not going to move AVT around," Douglas said. "We're going to have a spot for him and leave him there for the season."

Ideally, they'd like it to be guard, in part because he suffered two major injuries (torn triceps and torn Achilles) while playing right tackle. He has missed 22 games over the past two seasons. They need him healthy -- ditto, Rodgers -- to make the offensive plan work.

5. New pass-catcher for Rodgers? One of the names that surely will be linked to the Jets as the draft draws closer is Georgia tight end Brock Bowers. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. fueled the speculation by giving Bowers to the Jets in his latest mock draft.

Would they really take a tight end with the 10th overall pick? In the past 13 drafts, only two tight ends have gone in the top 10 -- Kyle Pitts (fourth, 2021) and T.J. Hockenson (eighth, 2019). For what it's worth: A year ago, the Jets considered a tight end (Michael Mayer) with the 15th pick before taking defensive end Will McDonald IV.

Knowing Douglas, he will address his offensive line needs in free agency, allowing him to draft for value over need. That said, the safe money remains on him taking a tackle at No. 10, perhaps Penn State's Olu Fashanu or Oregon State's Taliese Fuaga.

6. Eyes on a QB: Douglas made a revealing comment in an interview with SNY's Jeane Coakley. He said it "could be a very Jet-friendly draft in terms of the things we're looking for." He mentioned offensive line, wide receiver and quarterback.

Yes, quarterback. Don't be surprised if they draft a developmental prospect on Day 3. The Jets reportedly met with the top three quarterbacks at the combine. File that under "due diligence."

7. Heeere's Robert: After initially planning to skip the combine for the third straight year, Saleh called an audible and was scheduled to arrive over the weekend. He's not there to evaluate prospects; he has a couple of meetings lined up. "A couple of interesting situations could present themselves," Douglas said cryptically.

8. Stretched thin: For now, the Jets aren't hiring replacements for Rex Hogan (assistant GM) and Chad Alexander (personnel director). Being short-handed is "less than ideal," said Douglas, who is counting on his existing staff, led by senior football advisor Phil Savage, to pick up the slack.

9. Money for nothing: They already have $26 million in dead money for 2024, counting guard Laken Tomlinson's release. It could hit $40 million in the coming weeks.

10. The last word: "It would be pretty sweet. He's one of the best of all time to do it at quarterback, and it would be cool to learn under him and play under him and hopefully learn some stuff," Bowers said at the combine on what it would be like to play with Rodgers.