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Jets Mailbag: What will Joe Douglas prioritize in 2024 NFL Draft, free agency?

This is a very important offseason for the Jets. As Woody Johnson told reporters at the NFL Honors in Las Vegas: He’s not happy with 2023, and expecting quite a bit more in 2024.

So what’s to come over the next few months as Joe Douglas prepares for the NFL Draft and free agency? Could Brock Bowers be an option in the first round? Will Bryce Huff return? How does he fix the offensive line?

We answered all that and more in this week’s mailbag.

@Bklyn929: Is there a chance the Jets select Brock Bowers if he is still on the board at No. 10?

I could see this happening. Absolutely. The Jets need someone to take the attention away from Garrett Wilson. There’s no reason a creative offensive mind couldn’t figure out a way to use the tight end position as that player. Travis Kelce did it for Tyreek Hill. George Kittle does it for Deebo Samuel. Rob Gronkowski was that player for No. 1 guy for the Patriots for years.

Personally, I love the idea of pairing Bowers with Jeremy Ruckert, too. If there’s a weakness to Bowers’ game it’s that he’s a little undersized and not a great run blocker. Both of those are Ruckert’s strengths.

I still see the Jets prioritizing an offensive lineman over Bowers, though. There’s just no guarantee Joe Alt (Notre Dame) or Olu Fashanu (Penn State) are there. Would Douglas want Taliese Fuaga (Oregon State), or a player he has a higher grade on in Bowers? We’ll see.

@NewEraNYJets: What are the chances the Jets take a quarterback in the draft? If so, what round?

High. Likely in the middle rounds. Think about what Douglas and Robert Saleh said failed Zach Wilson: They never afforded him the opportunity to watch and learn. They have a chance to right some wrongs in this class. Aaron Rodgers is committed to the Jets for both 2024 and 2025, assuming this next season isn’t a disaster that leads to everyone getting fired. The Jets can draft someone, have them sit behind Rodgers for those two years, and learn. This player won’t be the No. 2 quarterback, but a developmental No. 3. Jordan Travis (Florida State) makes sense for the role.

@TomSeaverRules: Do the Jets kick the tires on a trade for Sam Howell?

I love the idea of this, assuming he’s available. The Commanders could easily keep him as the backup. It’s not like this is a Sam Darnold, Justin Fields situation. If available, though, I’d prioritize him over anyone else.

Howell proved this year he can play. There are flaws to his game, but none where the season is lost if he has to play. He’s also cheaper. Howell would have a cap hit under $1 million each of the next two years — that matters to Woody Johnson and the Jets. There are those in the Jets building who believe he can play, too. Maybe two years learning behind Rodgers really unlocks his potential and he ends up being his replacement. He did throw for 3,946 yards and 21 touchdowns on a terrible Commanders team.

The key will simply be compensation. The Jets should do this if all it takes is a pick on the third day of the draft. Howell is just as good of an insurance policy as Gardner Minshew or Jacoby Brissett.

New York Jets wide receiver Garrett Wilson (17) reacts during the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at MetLife Stadium.

@KevCoke6: Is there a fear Garrett Wilson demands a trade?

Yes. We live in a day and age where many athletes treat this for what it is — a job. They want to win. They’re hyper competitive. When the game is over, though, they move on and focus on other things. They don’t take it to heart like fans do.

That is not the case with Wilson. This guy wants to win more than any player I have ever covered. He treats every loss like an indictment on his character and ability. You love guys like this. Seriously. A team of 53 would create a dynasty. There was a game this year where I legitimately thought he might tear up when reflecting what’s gone wrong. The way he talked on baggie day was an accurate reflection of where he stands: What’s so easy for others shouldn’t be so hard for the Jets. Frustration is at a boiling point.

Johnson, Douglas and Saleh should absolutely be concerned about what another year of losing will do to Wilson. Granted, they do hold the cards. They’ll certainly pick up his fifth-year option and could franchise tag him twice more. This coming season will only be the third of Wilson’s career. His only course of action would be to ask for a trade — the Jets don’t have to grant it.

Still, you don’t want your best players wanting out. You get the sense Wilson is dangerously close to having enough of this.

@JetsWayPodcast: How interested would the Jets be if David Bakhtiari becomes available?

They’ll explore it. He’s a dominant offensive lineman when healthy. That’s the key, though: health. He needs to be healthy. It’s hard to not only guarantee that he’s healthy right now, but will be throughout a season. Bakhtiari is 32 and hasn’t played a full season since 2020. He’s missed 38 games the last three years. The Jets have enough durability issues up front. Can they really afford another risk?

@MPMoran19: Odds of the Jets retaining Bryce Huff?

It seems wildly unlikely. If they wanted to do that, they should have signed him in season. They never so much as made a contract offer. Huff, as he should, is now focused on making as much money as possible on the free-agent market. He said himself there will be no hometown discount. The Jets, who have already invested so much on the defensive line, aren’t in a position to match the deal I believe he’s going to see in free agency. Also: Paying Huff that much means he needs to be on the field on a borderline full-time basis. That means taking Jermaine Johnson or Will McDonald, two first round picks, off the field.

This Huff situation is understandably frustrating — largely because it was avoidable. The team never should have drafted McDonald. That was clear on draft night. This team is far more well-rounded heading into 2024 had they selected a receiver (Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Zay Flowers, Jordan Addison), then paid Huff.

McDonald might very well develop into a great player, but the Jets already had a homegrown, great player in Huff. They didn’t need McDonald. They needed a receiver. Now, they’re heading into 2024 looking for a wideout and hoping McDonald develops into what Huff is.