Jets' youth movement could put Todd Bowles in difficult position

Even though ownership has declined to saddle the coach with a playoff mandate, Todd Bowles will be toast if the Jets produce another 5-11 stinker. Ed Mulholland/Getty Images

A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:

1. New challenge for MacBowles: After two months of media silence, general manager Mike Maccagnan and coach Todd Bowles will address reporters Wednesday at the scouting combine in Indianapolis, as they do every year. Thus, this is a good time to set up one of the underlying storylines of the offseason: how the Maccagnan-Bowles partnership will be affected by the team's plunge into rebuilding mode.

Even though owner Woody Johnson said there's no playoff mandate for his top football men, let's be real: Bowles is toast if the Jets produce another 5-11 stinker. In all likelihood, he needs to demonstrate legitimate progress -- say, 8-8 or better -- to keep his job, and you wonder if he'll have enough horses to get it done after the roster tear-down is complete. The latest casualty: former Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold, who was released Saturday.

Could Bowles end up being the sacrificial lamb? He has only two years left on his contract, and coaches usually get re-upped or sacked before their lame-duck year.

The fault in Johnson's power structure is that it creates a situation in which Maccagnan and Bowles could have conflicting agendas. They don't report to each other, they each report directly to Johnson. Typically, GMs have more job security than coaches. Maccagnan might have the luxury of thinking long-term, while Bowles probably needs to win now.

This could manifest itself in free agency, but it could really show up on draft day. What if Maccagnan wants to take a quarterback with the sixth pick? Do you think Bowles wants to draft a quarterback for the next coach? No way. He wants someone who can help him win games now.

This will be a very interesting offseason.

2. Hit Man survives: The Jets already have created $29.2 million in cap room by parting ways with Mangold, Nick Folk, Breno Giacomini, Ryan Clady and Erin Henderson -- and more cuts are coming. There has been speculation about David Harris, due to make a non-guaranteed $6.5 million in the final year of his contract, but he's in no immediate danger of being released.

Even though his days as a three-down player could be over, Harris, 33, is the "glue" to the defense, as Bowles calls him. He doesn't fit the "younger/faster" trend, but every defense needs a sage quarterback who can run the show. With so many young linebackers on the team, Harris' experience is an asset. Plus, he's still a solid in-the-box linebacker.

The linebacking corps should be called "The Old Man and the Three" -- Harris, plus kids Darron Lee, Jordan Jenkins and Lorenzo Mauldin. Lee will take over the leadership role some day, but he's not ready yet.

3. Mangold's legacy: His ouster didn't come as a surprise, but it's still jarring when an all-timer gets fired. This is a cold business. Mangold played the game at a high level for 11 seasons, continuing the franchise's strong tradition at center. From the Super Bowl season (1968) to now, they've had only eight centers, including five mainstays: John Schmitt, Joe Fields, Jim Sweeney, Kevin Mawae and Mangold.

Too bad they can't pick quarterbacks the way they pick centers.

4. The last of the '10ers: With Mangold gone, only two players remain from Rex Ryan's 2010 team, which reached the AFC Championship Game: Harris and Darrelle Revis. Long snapper Tanner Purdum is a free agent. By the time free agency starts, Harris could be the last man standing.

5. Don't rule out Geno: Everyone assumes Geno Smith will leave via free agency and the Jets will import a veteran quarterback, but what if Smith is the veteran quarterback? I don't think the Jets have given up on Smith, but here's the problem: He's less than four months removed from major knee surgery and may not be ready until September or October.

Smith fueled speculation about a possible return, firing off this random/cryptic tweet:

After four turbulent seasons, I think it's best Smith and the Jets go their separate ways. He's a classic example of a player who needs a change of scenery. But what if the Jets want a low-cost quarterback with starting experience and decide Smith is the best guy for the job? They probably could get him on a one-year, prove-it contract. The financial risk would be minimal.

This is a chance for the franchise to start fresh at quarterback, and re-signing a lightning rod wouldn't be a great sell. There's also the question of scheme fit. He threw 34 interceptions in Marty Mornhinweg's West Coast system (2013-2014), and there's a good chance new coordinator John Morton will install a similar scheme.

6. Darrelle willing to deal: Interacting with fans on Instagram, Revis all but confirmed he's willing to take a pay cut to stay with the Jets, saying he doesn't deserve to be one of the 10 highest-paid cornerbacks. That's stating the obvious, but it still amounted to a noteworthy comment, considering his career-long obsession with the bottom line.

So if Revis Inc. is willing to drop out of the top 10, how much of a pay cut are we talking about? Significant.

The 10th-highest cornerback salary for 2017 is $8.5 million -- or $6.5 million less than what Revis is supposed to make. Based on that, we can assume he'd be willing to play for something in the $6 million to $8.5 million range. I mention $6 million because it's the amount of his guarantee.

That might sound like a bargain for a player of his stature, but the Jets have other factors to consider: age, declining skill and his legal issues. For the first time in their long relationship, the Jets have the leverage ... and they may not try to exercise it. He could be a goner, no matter how much of a discount he's willing to accept.

7. Keep an eye on the right: To me, one of the most interesting positions this offseason is right tackle.

Ostensibly, the position is vacant now that Giacomini is gone. How the Jets replace him could provide a glimpse into the team's overall approach to 2017. Under this regime, they've been reluctant to play inexperienced players. Ordinarily, Maccagnan's M.O. would be to sign another veteran, but maybe this time he opts for Brandon Shell, who started the final three games. That's how the good teams do it. You draft a guy, develop him and plug him in.