The Jets finally pulled the trigger and hired a general manager.

Despite interviewing seven candidates, Woody Johnson had long considered Mike Maccagnan the front-runner. Last night, he sealed the deal with the Texans' director of college scouting.

"We interviewed a number of impressive, qualified candidates, but Mike Maccagnan clearly stood out," the owner said in a statement. "Mike's attention to detail, strong personnel background and collaborative approach to evaluating players made it clear that he is the right choice.

"I want to thank Charley Casserly and Ron Wolf for their contributions during this search. Their experience, guidance and expertise have been invaluable.''

It was clear a deal was on the horizon after Maccagnan was called back for a second interview Friday, four days after he sat down with Johnson and his consultants, Casserly and Wolf. Maccagnan stayed overnight Saturday in New Jersey, but it took several days to make it official.

The delay wasn't an indication of cold feet on either side. Maccagnan's involvement in the Jets' coaching interviews this week -- most notably with Todd Bowles -- was further proof that his hiring was a fait accompli.

"Having the chance to serve as a general manager is what you work toward your entire career," Maccagnan said. "Having a supportive owner who is passionate and committed to delivering a winning team to the fans is one of the keys to building a successful organization. I am grateful to him for this opportunity.

"We have a solid foundation of players . . . There are some areas we need to address, but we're going to hire the right head coach, evaluate our personnel and work together to get the Jets back on the winning track."

Johnson, who fired John Idzik and Rex Ryan a day after the season ended, admitted he made a mistake by forcing Ryan on Idzik in January 2013. Johnson thought he could fix the Jets' problems by teaming Ryan with a new GM who could alleviate their salary-cap troubles.

Unfortunately, Idzik proved ill equipped for the job. Despite having 19 draft picks at his disposal in two years and a salary-cap surplus of more than $20 million heading into 2014, the Jets went backward -- 8-8, 4-12.

But Idzik's frugal ways have put Maccagnan and the Jets in a very favorable financial position. The NFL projects the 2015 salary cap could be from $138.6 million to $141.8 million, or even higher. That means the Jets will have roughly $40 million in cap space.

Unlike Idzik, Maccagnan, 47, has a long history as an NFL scout and a reputation as a sharp personnel man. He also has a connection to Casserly, who brought in Maccagnan as a scout in Washington, then hired him when he became GM of the expansion Texans in 2000.

Maccagnan and the new coach will report directly to Johnson, who views them as equal partners. Maccagnan will have the final say on the 53-man roster, but the coach will determine playing time. All interviews were led by Johnson, Casserly and Wolf. Johnson was present for all meetings, including second interviews. Although there was speculation that Casserly was steering the process toward Maccagnan, Wolf also endorsed the hiring.

"Mike Maccagnan is an outstanding football man, one who is highly organized, and an excellent evaluator,'' Casserly said. "He is very thorough in his preparation and will do a terrific job for the Jets."