FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — “In a perfect world,” Mike Maccagnan said, he would keep his roster intact.
Unfortunately for the Jets’ general manager, real life is far from ideal, and retaining every player is a luxury that NFL teams can’t often afford.
In his first sit-down with the beat writers since November, Maccagnan repeatedly said Thursday that he wants to keep quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, Pro Bowl defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson and standout nose tackle Damon Harrison, who are impending free agents. With the trio, and a core of talented players such as Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker and Chris Ivory, the Jets finished 10-6 — a vast improvement on their 4-12 finish in 2014.
Now the question is: Can the Jets retain their coveted free agents without breaking the bank?
Re-signing Fitzpatrick is one of their top priorities, but the 33-year-old quarterback could be seeking as much as $10 million annually after posting the best numbers of his career, including a franchise-record 31 touchdown passes. Maccagnan said he’d love to have Fitzpatrick back “based on how he played this year,” but he noted that finances will dictate the outcome. “I would simply leave it at: We’ll see how this thing works out.”
He also expressed confidence in backup quarterbacks Geno Smith and Bryce Petty. After pointing out that Smith is “under contract,” Maccagnan complimented his progress.
Wilkerson has had his sights set on a long-term contract extension since 2014. But after recording a career- and team-high 12 sacks, he faces an uncertain future. According to Maccagnan, Wilkerson will need about six months to recover from surgery on his fractured right fibula. And though he said, “Absolutely . . . We would very much like to have Muhammad back in the organization,” Maccagnan said the Jets could “potentially” place the franchise tag on Wilkerson.
Harrison, their best run-stuffer, also is seeking a big payday. So how do the Jets plan to keep their defensive line together?
“In a perfect world, we would like very much to have Damon back in the organization,” Maccagnan said. “Hypothetically or philosophically, it’s not impossible.”
Although they lost in Week 17 and failed to make the playoffs, the Jets will look to build off their success. “We’re happy with the progress we made,” Maccagnan said of his team, which started 4-1 before a midseason slide dropped them to 5-5. “You’re hoping to be a team that competes for the playoffs and we came one game short, and that was disappointing. I felt good that we got closer to maybe being a team that could go in there and compete for a playoff spot every year.”
Marshall, Revis not in Pro Bowl. Marshall won’t play in the Pro Bowl on Jan. 31, a source told Newsday. He set franchise records with 109 catches and 1,502 receiving yards and tied for the league lead with 14 touchdowns . . . Cornerback Darrelle Revis also won’t make the trip to Honolulu. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Chargers’ Jason Verrett will replace Revis, who was an alternate, because of shoulder soreness.