The Jets are hosting their first game of the season on Thursday night, and one lucky fan got to attend the game for free.
Daniel Neeleman’s father, Zach Wilson, is a huge Jets fan and decided to book a charter flight so that his son could attend his nephew’s debut.
Take a peek at what’s going on with the New York Jets:
1. Jets quarterback Zach Wilson will have a tiny cheering section in Charlotte, North Carolina, when he makes his NFL debut on Sept. 12 thanks to his airline-mogul uncle.
The Cougars are on their way, Carolina Panthers.
Wilson fans will be able to watch Saturday night’s BYU-Utah game in Provo and then make it to Bank of America Stadium for the Jets-Panthers kickoff at 1 p.m. ET, thanks to JetBlue entrepreneur David Neeleman organizing a charter aircraft from Salt Lake City to Charlotte. On Zach’s mother’s side, Neeleman looked into commercial alternatives and discovered that there isn’t an aircraft that can get to Charlotte in time for kickoff. He is familiar with the business, having established a few airlines, so he arranged for a JetBlue A321 aircraft to transport 200 passengers.
The event is dubbed “The Wilson Weekend,” and tickets range from $599 to $799. The two-week-old deal includes a hotel room in Charlotte, where visitors may unwind for a few hours before the game. There are no game tickets included in this package. “A once-in-a-lifetime weekend event to honor your favorite quarterback!” says the website.
Wilson, who guided BYU to an 11-1 record last season, is a huge celebrity in his native Utah. His pro debut is significant, but the BYU-Utah game is also significant, particularly for the Wilson family. BYU’s Josh Wilson is a linebacker. Mike, their father, was a Utah football player. Neeleman is a Utah alumnus as well.
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There will be no clashing loyalties on Sunday, Sept. 12.
Unless the game is terminated due to COVID-19 issues, there are no refunds. They believe Wilson will start on opening day (which he will) and will be unharmed throughout the preseason (fingers crossed).
2. Money matters: Wilson won’t be able to do anything until he signs his four-year, $35.2 million fully guaranteed contract. What’s the hold-up? Despite the fact that the amount of money is established by the league, agents and clubs sometimes fight over minor details like offset wording and payment schedules.
The Jets always require an offset provision, which allows the club to recover some money if the player is released before the end of the four-year deal. For contrast, quarterback Sam Darnold, who was selected third overall in the 2018 draft, had an offset in his rookie deal.
Wilson’s draft opponent, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence, just signed a one-year deal with no offset, which may help him financially if he is released before the contract ends. It may take a bit longer for a conclusion if Wilson’s representatives choose to pursue that issue. There’s no need to be concerned, however. The first practice will take place on Wednesday.
Darnold’s contract issue cost him three sessions in 2018, but the offense was still led by veteran Josh McCown. Is it really necessary for the Jets to start camp on Wednesday with James Morgan and Mike White sharing snaps?
Wilson is one of the league’s three unsigned first-round draft selections.
3. Plenty of position battles: The Jets are a young team with a lot of competitive positions. Only 11 of the 22 beginning positions are really secured, according to some estimates. Position battles abound, particularly at running back, tight end, right guard, defensive end, outside linebacker, and every other secondary position not occupied by Marcus Maye.
In 54 games with the Jets, Marcus Maye has six interceptions and four forced fumbles. Photo by Seth Wenig/Associated Press
They’re also promoting right tackle as a battle between incumbent George Fant and newly signed Morgan Moses, albeit Moses is the favorite after a strong season with the Washington Football Team. Fant ($9.8 million salary cap) may be one of the league’s most costly backups. (Did you hear “pay cut?”?)
Moses was signed to a one-year, $3.6 million deal with the Jets. A $3.1 million guarantee is included, with a $2 million signing bonus and $1.1 million in base salary. One of general manager Joe Douglas’ best signings could be this one.
4. Uncertain future: The Jets came nothing close to re-signing Maye (franchise tag) before the July 15 deadline. There was a significant pause in the talks, creating major doubts about his long-term future with the club.
The Jets essentially punted, waiting to see how Maye fits into coach Robert Saleh’s offense. They can’t talk again until after the season, according to the rules. Why would he re-sign on the verge of free agency if he had another great season? A second tag isn’t impossible, but it would almost certainly lead to acrimony between the two sides. It wouldn’t be cheap, either: $12.7 million, a 20% increase over his current price tag ($10.6 million).
The top teams are generally able to retain their finest players. That does not seem to be the situation in this instance.
5. Is it monster season yet? Defensive lineman Quinnen Williams, who is recovering from offseason foot surgery and will begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list, is one guy to keep an eye on.
Williams may have a big season under Saleh once he’s cleared to play. It’s a one-gap strategy that takes use of his strength of penetrating and shooting gaps. He’ll be a threat to opponents if he improves on his strong 2023 season. When opposition scouts discuss the Jets’ roster, the first name that comes to mind is Williams.
Because he missed the whole summer, his fitness may be a problem as he tries to catch up.
6. New sheriff: The 541st difference between Saleh and previous coach Adam Gase is that Saleh enjoys competing against outsiders. The Jets and the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles will conduct four combined workouts. In his lone non-COVID year as the Jets’ coach (2019), Gase has none.
When Carl Lawson was a freshman at Auburn, he met Rachel Dincoff. Rachel Dincoff provided this image.
7. “The United States of America!” Please excuse Carl Lawson if he seems a little preoccupied during practice on Friday. Rachel Dincoff, his lifelong lover, will be participating in the discus at the Olympic Games in Tokyo on that day.
“I’ll be sitting in my room, watching, applauding, shouting,” Lawson said on the NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” Show the other day.
Fortunately, the event will take place in the evening Eastern Standard Time, rather than during practice, due to the time difference. Although Lawson may have meetings that night, you have to think his coaches will allow him to slip out and watch the game on TV. The women’s discus final will take place on August 2 at 7 a.m. ET.
Lawson and Dincoff, who met at Auburn in 2013, have had quite the athletic year: she qualifies for the Olympics, and he signs a three-year, $45 million deal with the Jets.
8. Were you aware? The Jets have thrown the fewest touchdown passes (276) and the most interceptions (269) in the previous 15 seasons, ranking worst in Total QBR (43.7). Wilson is tasked with reversing the trend.