Jets must avoid making this costly mistake again in the offseason

If the New York Jets are to avoid another disappointing 7-10 season in 2024, they must focus on acing the offseason, not indulging their star quarterback.

The Jets gave Aaron Rodgers a warm welcome to the Big Apple last year, signing several of the quarterback’s close friends to generous deals. After the four-time MVP suffered a torn Achilles four snaps into the season, however, his posse of former Packers teammates struggled mightily without him.

Wide receivers Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb, as well as tackle Billy Turner, hardly lived up to expectations following Rodgers’ season-ending injury. The wideouts combined for only 28 catches and 350 yards receiving and Turner started in just two games.

Similar to last offseason, the pool of 2024 free agents is expected to include several former Packers and friends of Rodgers.

On Wednesday, the Chiefs announced they were releasing wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, a move that clears $12M in cap space. The 29-year-old spent the first four seasons of his career with the Packers, during which he reeled in 13 touchdown passes thrown by Rodgers.

Offensive tackle David Bakhtiari, one of Rodgers’ closest friends, is also likely to hit free agency. By releasing the All-Pro lineman, the Packers would save $21.5 million in cap space. 

Running back AJ Dillon — a favorite of Packers fans and Rodgers — will also be an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

While the three aforementioned players have clear ties to Rodgers, they are hardly the best fit for the Jets.

Despite making several big plays for the Chiefs on their Super Bowl run, Valdes-Scantling failed to solidify himself as a reliable target for much of the season. The speedster wideout had only 21 receptions on 42 targets and three drops — the most costly of which came on a muffed Hail Mary pass against the Eagles in Week 11. His catch percentage (50) would rank third worst among players with at least 45 targets, slightly edging Lazard, who finished last in the NFL (46.94).  

Bakhtiari, meanwhile, has struggled to stay healthy since suffering a torn ACL in practice on Dec. 31, 2020. Over the past three seasons, the 32-year-old has played in just 13 games, failing to make it past Week 1 in 2023.

Dillon had a career-worst season in the final year of his rookie contract, scoring only two touchdowns on 18 carries within the 10-yard line. Of 41 running backs with at least 125 rushing attempts in 2023, he ranked 38th in yards per carry (3.4).

The Jets must decide whether making Rodgers happy takes precedence over building the most talented roster. The latter makes more sense.

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