Sometimes giving as much as possible to get what you want has unintended consequences.
Paging, New York Jets.
The Jets and Patriots have had a bitter rivalry that now spans decades. In recent history, the two have walked completely divergent paths. Belichick's Patriots have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy four times since the Jets did once - with Joe Namath back in 1969. Yet, their differences aren't confined just to their on-field successes and failures. It also extends to their team building philosophies.
In the past few seasons, it's safe to assume no one outside of Northern New Jersey or New York City has picked the Jets to win a Super Bowl, but there was a very recent period when it seemed like they may finally break through.
We're talking of course about the formative years of Rex Ryan as New York's head coach. In his first season, 2009, he brought his team to the AFC Championship game. He boasted to the media that the Jets were winning the Super Bowl that year. He planned the team schedule all the way through the victory parade.
They lost to Peyton Manning's Colts, but Rex came back with the same boisterous proclamations in the offseason that followed. Many in the media believed him. The Jets - Super Bowl champions?
The dream didn't come true, but for the first time in a while, it seemed plausible. Why? Because of an all-in, win now strategy. The polar opposite of the more ruthless yet calculated approach to spending money employed up in Foxborough, MA.
The Jets had a talented squad already led by players like David Harris, Darrelle Revis, Dustin Keller and Nick Mangold. They added on their core with big signings and trades. They swung a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers to grab disgruntled receier Santonio Holmes. They also traded for the much maligned but talented Braylon Edwards from Cleveland. They brought linebacker Bart Scott over from Rex Ryan's Ravens and cornerback Antonio Cromartie from the Chargers. They traded up in the draft to grab Mark Sanchez. When things were going well, they threw him a gigantic contract. With each big name signing, and big dollar spent, the Jets generated more and more buzz. They backed it up on the field too, upsetting number 1 seeded New England at home in the 2010 playoffs.
After that, the Jets had many free agents, and not enough money to keep them. For that reason, that great run lasted two years.
Now the Jets finally look poised to return to relevance. More big signings and big spending have led to even more buzz.
The biggest move in either the Jets' or Patriots' offseasons was when Darrelle Revis left New England to sign a gigantic deal and return to the Jets. The deal guaranteed him $39 million. This was a number that Belichick simply wasn't willing to touch. It would run contradictory to the famed "Patriot Way" that always preaches that no one player is bigger than the team.
A $39 million guarantee would've likely ensured that the Patriots kept Revis, but it would've made retaining their other players in the future much more difficult. Contracts loom for linebackers Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins, as well as for defensive end Chandler Jones. The procs and cons of making a deal like that are debatable, but one thing is not. That sort of spending sends a certain message to a locker room. Its a message that Jets' stud defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson has heard loud and clear.
Rich Cimini, ESPNNewYork:
“New (Jets) GM Mike Maccagnan, the beneficiary of (former Jets GM John) Idzik's frugal approach, has no choice but to spend money, per the league's minimum-spending requirement -- and he's throwing around some serious cash. The Jets have doled out about $90 million in guaranteed money, including an obscene $39 million to Darrelle Revis. So Wilkerson, loyal Jet, is wondering, 'What about me?' They still have $12 million in cap room, including Wilkerson's $6.969 million salary. In other words, there's enough space to make Wilkerson happy.”
Wilkerson so far has skipped team volunary workouts, which isn't uncommon. However, if the situation does turn contentious the Jets may be stuck scratching their heads with Mo. Mike Tannenbaum was fired as Jets GM for his reckless spending. John Idzik replaced him, and was fired for his frugality. What does Mike Maccagnan do?
Tom E. Curran, CSNNE:
So he’s a good player and an important player. But what’s interesting to me is that Wilkerson isn’t really getting jobbed that badly. For a player that hasn’t been to a Pro Bowl, that $7M he’ll pull down this season (the Jets picked up the fifth-year option on Wilkerson’s rookie deal from 2011, agreeing to pay him the average of the third-to-25th highest DT salaries) isn’t close to the NFL’s worst salary affront.
Wilkerson’s shot across the Jets’ bow is likely more about the team slapping down money for free agents at a breakneck pace while making him wait his turn.
Do you overpay to appease your own player or do you set a hardline of reasonable spending?
That's a question that both prior Jets GMs were faced with. Their new one has a formidable looking team, with a smart head coach, talented cornerback duo (Revis, Cromartie), and dangerous offensive weapons (Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker). On paper, it looks like New York may be headed back to legitimacy. How long that lasts depends on how they handle their players looking at big deals for Revis and saying "What about me?". Wilkerson's first in line.