Jets Mailbag: NY attempted to hire Nathaniel Hackett replacement over offseason

The Jets won’t ever state publicly there’s a playoff mandate. They don’t like how that sounds. However, if they don’t make the playoffs this year, there will be wholesale changes made to the organization That put a lot of pressure on Joe Douglas as he worked to add talent through free agency and the draft. That pressure transfers over to Robert Saleh now as he attempts to craft that talent into a contender.

Did Douglas do enough? Is Saleh capable of taking the Jets to the playoffs? With those questions lingering, we figured it was time for another Jets Mailbag.

Away we go.

@FunkoJets: What’s going to happen with Allen Lazard this season? Aaron Rodgers returning could be a boost for him, but it seems he is only on the roster because of his contract. Does he figure into the team’s plans?

HUGHES: The Jets added Lazard last season because of his relationship with Rodgers. They wanted him to have someone familiar to throw to. Obviously, that is not a very good reason to sign a player to a contract worth $11 million annually. The Jets, if they had to answer honestly, I believe would admit that signing Lazard was a mistake.

You could tell that early in training camp. I remember watching Lazard work and wondering when he was going to do what justified his contract. He’s not fast enough to create much separation. He’s big (6-foot-5, 227 pounds), but doesn’t play physically in attacking the ball. The Giants played the Packers last season. I remember asking a couple of their writers about Lazard, curious if he was a player who got a paycheck and then checked out. That’s not the case. Turns out the player the Jets saw last year was the exact player who played five years in Green Bay.
The only difference was that Rodgers had the ability to fit the ball into windows where only Lazard could get it.

You bring up a key word: Role. Say the Jets keep five receivers active on Sundays. Garrett Wilson, Mike Williams, Xavier Gipson and Malachi Corley are your four locks. That leaves Jason Brownlee, Lazard, Malik Taylor and Irv Charles competing for one active spot. You think Lazard is willing to run down on punts, kicks? I doubt that.

Lazard will be on the roster this year because no one wants to trade for him and the Jets can’t cut him. He’ll essentially be insurance in case something happens to the guys outside – a very costly insurance plan.

@JetsSuperBowl59: How do you feel about the drafting of the two running backs? I’m not sure they needed to do that.

HUGHES: I loved the Jets draft. I don’t say that often. I felt every pick married value and need … until Isaiah Davis. That one didn’t make sense after drafting Braelon Allen and having Israel Abanikanda on the roster.

I’m not a huge draft guy. Todd Bowles described the entire procedure perfectly when he said it’s an educated crapshoot. I’d just rather the Jets take a flier on someone who could potentially fill a need. In 2021 they drafted Michael Carter (corner) and Jason Pinnock in the fifth round. Carter is one of the game’s best nickelbacks and Pinnock is the Giants starting safety. You can find players there.

Granted, this could be a tell into what the Jets truly think about Abanikanda. Actions often speak louder than words when it comes to player evaluations.

@5858Jack: Internally, do you get the sense that the team is uneasy about Nathaniel Hackett as the fan base is?

HUGHES: This is the major “but” of the Jets offseason, in my opinion. They really don’t have many weaknesses on paper. As long as they stay healthy, they have the chance to be among the best in the NFL. Even if some of their injury-prone guys miss some time (Tyron Smith, Mike Williams), they have players behind them who can fill in (Olu Fashanu, Brownlee). This is as well-rounded, deep of a team as I can remember covering.

But then there’s Hackett. The Jets made legitimate attempts this offseason to hire someone who would, essentially, replace Hackett. Not as a new offensive coordinator, but a title above who would run the show. The Jets had enough things they needed to address this offseason without replacing areas they’re content with. That pursuit tells me, internally, there are legitimate concerns with Hackett’s ability to successfully run things.

It almost feels like the Jets are putting so much faith in Rodgers’ ability to correct Hackett’s wrongdoings. Sources spoke of many, many times last summer where Hackett called a play, then Rodgers changed it completely at the line. They figure he can do the same come the regular season.

That’s a lot to put on the plate of a player, though – even one of Rodgers’ stature. This isn’t the NBA.

If there’s one major concern heading into the Jets season it’s that: Hackett.

@D_DBloom: What free agents are left that the Jets can target?

Douglas did a radio interview on ESPN New York and addressed this pretty clearly: There isn’t much left in the budget. They’d love to add a veteran receiver, safety or additional offensive line help. There’s just not much left in terms of cash.

There are two types of finances in the NFL: Cap and cash. Cap can be manipulated. You extend guys and restructure. Essentially, convert aspects of their contracts to signing bonus, which gives them their money up front, but prorates the cap penalty over the length of the deal. You need to have someone willing to cut those checks, though.

Douglas, every offseason, begins with a budget: How much physical cash he’s able to spend. It appears as if he’s maxed that out, based off his comments. That makes luring additional signings more challenging.

This isn’t to say it won’t happen. It’s just going to take guys accepting way less, like what Tyron Smith did.

@RRatedNY: Who is your player comparison for Jordan Travis?

HUGHES: I don’t do those comparisons. I think they’re silly. I’ll tell you this, though: The Jets are over the moon to have Travis. They believed he’d be a second, early third-round pick (at worst) had he not gotten injured. He’s legitimately the perfect option to try to groom behind Rodgers and Tyrod Taylor. The ceiling of someone like Michael Pratt (Tulane) is more of a backup – think when the Jets drafted James Morgan. Taylor, multiple talent evaluators told SNY, has starting-caliber potential.

Travis needs to get healthy. He needs to improve his footwork. There’s some mental growth he needs, too. He’s a developmental project for a reason. The physical gifts are there, though, along with the work ethic to make you think he’ll improve on the former. It will be interesting to see what he looks like in 2026, 2027.

@BethpageChris: What is your favorite non-private golf course to play?

HUGHES: This is a tough one. Not sure I can pick just one. Neshanic Valley and Heron Glenn are really nice. There in that central New Jersey (yes, that’s a place) area. Further south I’m a big fan of Twisted Dune, Riverwinds and Scotland Run. Shore Gate, down near Cape May, is a tough track, but fun. Francis A Byrne was a good time, too.

Outside of New Jersey I loved Fossil Trace in Denver, Timuquana in Jacksonville, Whistling Straits in Wisconsin and Thistle Golf Club in Carolina.

It’s funny, or maybe it just shows how sick I am, but I have a Google doc of all the courses I’ve played. My first round was in 2019 – Ramblewood Country Club with my father in law. During the Giants-Cardinals game I played my 100th different course. Cool part about my job is the travel. Cool part about traveling, being a golf nerd, is the opportunity to play so many places.

Have a round I’m really excited for later this week: Bay Hill in Orlando.