Saleh Says the Jets Are on the Right TrackJack Bell
The media and assorted pundits recently had a field day when quarterback Aaron Rodgers closed the door on the NFL world and descended into his "darkness retreat" to consider his options ahead of the 2023 season.
"I'm intrigued by it, to get away from cell phones, it's got some plusses," HC Robert Saleh told reporters during his morning press conference in Phoenix, AZ, on Monday morning of the NFL Owners Meetings. "I was curious. It's easy to mock something that's different, that's the trend to mock something in this day and age. But when people do things that are different, I'm fascinated to see if I can learn from it."
Rodgers, 39, emerged and announced that he wants to leave Green Bay and play for the Jets. What has emerged from his pronouncement is that Florham Park has become an NFL destination. It has opened a world of possibility as GM Joe Douglas and his staff continue to peruse the free-agent list and consider options in next month's draft.
"Two years ago when we first got there, just thinking about where we were and how far we've come, to have a guy like him want to play for us is pretty cool and shows how far we've come," Saleh told Judy Battista of NFL Network on Sunday, the first day of the NFL Owners Meetings.
While Douglas and Packers executives continue to mull multiple trade scenarios, the Jets have moved swiftly to augment the offense and defense. Recent additions include WRs Allen Lazard and Mercole Hardman; offensive linemen Trystan Colon and Wes Schweitzer; and safety Chuck Clark. In addition to those (mostly) new faces, the Jets have re-signed several of their own free agents: RB Ty Johnson, OL Adam Pankey, DL Solomon Thomas, kicker Greg Zuerlein and LB Quincy Williams. And the Green & White traded WR Elijah Moore to Cleveland for a second-round draft pick (No. 42 overall).
Saleh said that the notion of the Jets as an attractive destination extends beyond the playing field to the coaches' box with the addition of offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, who started last season as the head coach of the Denver Broncos. Hackett worked with Rodgers with the Packers and Lazard was one of Rodgers' favorite targets this past season.
"I didn't think we would get him off the couch," Saleh said of Hackett. "He could have sat on the couch and collected four years worth of salary from Denver. He's been great."
Though Saleh deflected most of the questions about Rodgers, saying the effort was being spearheaded by Douglas, he did make his sentiments crystal clear.
"Joe is working in the trenches, I will defer to him," Saleh said. "But I'm a positive thinker and I'm sure eventually they'll figure something out."
In another twist to the situation, Saleh and Green Bay HC Matt LaFleur, who go back to their days as graduate assistants at Central Michigan, aren't talking about any potential swap.
"Matt and I have been respective of the process ... we're not talking about it," Saleh said. "Family and things are what we're talking about. We've agreed not to talk about it and let the GMs deal with it."
He added: "I'm not hitting the panic button. I worry about things I have control over and focus my energy on things I do have control over. I'm confident things are going to work out. I'm an optimist and hope things go the way we want. At the same time, it's not going to eat on me."
After adding Lazard and Hardman, two more pieces at wide receiver to go with Offensive Rookie of the Year Garrett Wilson, Corey Davis and Denzel Mims, the chatter around the league is that the Jets have shown interest in the former Giant WR Odell Beckham (who is coming off a knee injury). In addition, the Cowboys' former RB Ezekiel Elliott has also been part of the conversation, at least outside 1 Jets Drive.
On Beckham, Saleh said: "The ACL is now easily fixable. He's been a fantastic receiver in the league. Again, it's something that we're always going to turn over every stone, make sure we're not missing an opportunity to add a great player. There's no guarantee it's going to happen. We're always going to study every player on the market to make sure we're not missing out."
On Elliott, Saleh said simply: "We love our running backs room."
As Douglas and Saleh prepare the organization and the players for Year 3 of their collaboration, expectations have reached a fever pitch. Especially after last season's young team sprinted to a 7-4 record before finishing the season on a disappointing six-game losing streak.
"The idea, the plan is to win multiple championships and scrub the dirt off this organization and help Joe, his staff and the players to change the narrative and the view of the organization," Saleh said. "The only way is by winning. We're on the right track, there's a lot of excitement about what we can be, and we just have to attack this offseason."