<
>

Analyzing GM's state-of-the-Jets, including Geno Smith's cloudy future

Geno Smith's future with the Jets is cloudy at best. AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- In a better-late-than-never, season-ending session with reporters, New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan gave a state-of-the-team update on Thursday. Most of the 30-minute sitdown focused on the upcoming offseason. Some thoughts and observations:

1. The Geno Smith clock is ticking: Reading between the lines, which is necessary with the always-measured Maccagnan, I came away with the impression Smith is far from entrenched in the team's 2016 plans. He's under contract, but we know that doesn't mean anything. Maccagnan said some nice things about Smith, going so far as to overstate his mediocre performance against the Oakland Raiders, but he stopped short of committing a roster spot.

Maccagnan said he wants "to see how Geno and Bryce [Petty] progress in the offseason, and go from there -- and that's assuming we're able to re-sign Ryan [Fitzpatrick]."

Translation: Smith will be expendable if Petty, entering his second year, is able to show he can be trusted as the No. 2.

The second-year GM seemed a bit uncomfortable when presented with this scenario: If Fitzpatrick bolts in free agency, how would you feel about Smith as your starter?

"Uh, I would say right now it would be interesting, you know," he said. "That's a question more to see how he does in the offseason."

Prediction: Smith's status will be an issue for the next few months because, heaven knows, the Jets won't provide any clarity.

2. Maccagnan is confident he can re-sign Fitzpatrick: Reiterating what Todd Bowles said at the end of the season, Maccagnan said he'd "like very much to get him back, obviously, based on the way he played this year." The Jets want Fitzpatrick, and his value is greater to them than any other team. I'd be surprised if he's not signed before the start of free agency.

3. Muhammad Wilkerson will get the franchise tag: No, Maccagnan didn't come out and say it, but he strongly suggested it will happen if they can't agree on a long-term contract. The new twist in the story is Wilkerson's surgically repaired broken leg, which will require a six-month rehab, according to the Jets. Maccagnan downplayed the injury as being a potential factor in negotiations, but we'll see. The Jets have been dragging their feet for several months, and the injury could provide a built-in excuse to buy more time with the tag.

Wilkerson won't be happy, of course. No player wants the restriction of the franchise tag. They might not see him in the flesh until training camp.

4. The Jets are hungry for "Snacks," but ...: Bowles has made it clear he wants to re-sign talented nose tackle Damon Harrison, who, like Wilkerson, is headed to free agency. Maccagnan echoed that sentiment, saying, "In a perfect world, we'd like to have Damon back in the organization."

Thing is, the perfect world happened last offseason, when Maccagnan stepped into the ideal salary-cap situation -- endless riches to spend. It's an imperfect world now, meaning there will be serious cap restrictions. Maccagnan claimed "it's not impossible" to keep the talented defensive line together but didn't sound confident. If he can retain Harrison and Wilkerson, along with Fitzpatrick, it'll be a winning offseason.

5. Bowles and Maccagnan are opposites: For Bowles, it was all about making the playoffs. That was the measuring stick for the season. Maccagnan said it was "disappointing" to fall short in the final game, but he didn't convey disappointment. He said he's "happy with the progress we've made," adding, "I kind of felt good that we started to become closer to being a team that could go in there and compete for a playoff spot every year." Maccagnan is the big-picture guy, and maybe his approach complements the win-now Bowles, but competing for a playoff spot won't cut it anymore. They should've made it this year. The honeymoon is over.