I know all the focus is on the scouting combine right now but free agency is right around the corner and for us Jets fans, it’s where the hope starts. It’s Joe Douglas’s first offseason and we are all here for it. The Jets have quite a lot of holes but fortunately, they also have a lot of cap space and some decent draft ammo.
Here is my offseason guide from roster cuts, to free agent targets (and target prices) to a draft plan that, as a Jets fan, I know it will put us back on track.
Let’s start with the hardest part, who is a target to be cut this offseason? Based on performance and contract situation. It’s never easy to just point and say let’s cut this player but in favor of getting the most out of this FA class, it’s a must.
Cuts: (saved money)
- Brian Winters, G (7.5 M): Offensive line has been terrible this year and we have a chance to clear out of Winters big salary entirely without any dead money, it’s a no-brainer. Winters just hasn’t performed at the level expected to his contract sheet.
- Darryl Roberts, CB (6 M): Another move to clear out money for FA in a very weak corp like our cornerbacks are right now. CB is going to be a position to be addressed both in FA and the Draft.
- Josh Bellamy, WR (2.25 M): Bellamy is a special teams guy who didn’t really contribute much as a WR or a returner. Too much money for a bottom of the roster player.
- Matthias Farley (1.2 M): Although it’s not big money we’re clearing here it gives the Jets more flexibility and they can probably resign him after the Draft (or a player of the same caliber) if they can’t address the position.
- Trumaine Johnson (3 M): One of the biggest misses of the Maccagnan era, Johnson’s contract is still going to cost the team 12 million in dead money. His play wasn’t good enough this year and he has been benched during the season. Add to that that most of the fan base wants him cut and this is probably the route the Jets go. A restructure would clear 6 million but will make him a harder cap casualty to cut in the future, and I don’t think that will happen.
If all these players are cut the Jets would clear 19.95 million and their cap will be 72.95 million to re-sign and then what’s left in free agency.
Key players to re-sign
- Brian Poole, CB: He has to be one of the biggest priorities to re-sign he has played surprisingly well at slot, and he is a young player who the Jets would be smart to build around. He also shouldn’t be that expensive, 20M-25M over 4 years sounds reasonable enough.
- Alex Lewis, OL: One of the first things Joe Douglas did when he arrived was getting Alex Lewis who ended up playing much better than I anticipated, and should be at the very least a great backup option moving forward. His price also shouldn’t be too high.
- Robby Anderson, WR: I think we should at least try to retain him, his market value according to spotrac is 12 M/year which is a little over what I would offer. The Jets have supported Anderson through his arrests and stood by him. I think a contract that’s near market value but also with a little hometown discount from Anderson’s part, I think it would look like a 43M over 4 years (10.75/year). That’s a Tyler Boyd type of contract, who I think it’s the contract they should base it off. Boyd had two 1000+yd seasons under his belt at the time of signing, something Robby hasn’t done yet.
- Lachlan Edwards, P: He is a good punter, let’s not overthink this. Punters are cheap and we shouldn’t really worry about how much it’s going there.
Free Agent Targets:
I’m going list them by position and in order of importance and priority.
The focus should be on getting someone who can make an impact and be a difference-maker. He should also be as young as possible, paying old players in FA rarely pays off, we aren’t on win NOW mode anyways.
- Yannick Ngakoue, 24: He should be the absolute priority. He is an underrated star, he’s young, he fills the biggest need. A 5-year contract north of 90M wouldn’t shock me, it’s what we should be offering.
- Dante Fowler Jr, 25: A lot has happened since Fowler got drafted 3rd overall but he was able to reinvent and prove himself in LA. Fowler is young, full of upside and is coming from a good year.
- Matthew Judon, 27: I don’t think he really hits FA, so it’s kind of a moot point. Judon played very well last year and has proved to be an effective pass-rusher.
- Shaquil Barrett, 27: Out of nowhere and gets 20 sacks. Tampa isn’t letting him get away, Bruce Arians said so himself. If luck hits, Barrett had a knack for finding the QB last year, something no Jets pass rusher has had in years.
Jadeveon Clowney is going to be so overpriced is going to be ridiculous. He is an elite run defender but we are good in that department.
We should come away from FA with one veteran corner who can play outside at a high level, so we don’t go through what happened in 2019. As always my motto is to not pay old players, let’s see who we should target.
- Byron Jones, 27: Doubtful they let him walk out of Dallas. If they do then Jones has to be one of the biggest priorities for the Jets.
- Ronald Darby, 26: he is young, with very good tape on his resume but hasn’t been as good this year where he struggled with the Eagles. He could be a steal since his price would be lower than the other FA corners.
- Bradley Roby, 27: The former Bronco had a decent prove-it year in Houston. He is in that second tier if Byron Jones either doesn’t hit FA or is not interested.
- Logan Ryan, 29: I include him here as a fail-safe if we can’t get one of the three players above. Ryan comes from a career statistic season, so he’s bound to be overpaid a bit. Given his age, a two-year contract makes sense and it doesn’t set the franchise back if this signing misses. It gives the Jets a veteran corner to hold CB1 duties until the rookies are ready.
It’s going to be a priority in the Draft and it’s also that has to be addressed in FA. The key to a winning football team it’s tied to offensive line play.
- Joe Thuney, 27: Thuney is very good and he’s been underpaid with the Patriots for a while now. Chances are, he is hitting FA and if he does the Jets need to be all over him.
- Brandon Scherff, 28: I doubt the Redskins are dumb enough to let Scherff walk. He would really be an ideal target for the Jets who are in a real need of quality linemen.
- Jack Conklin, 25: The only tackle on the list, Conklin had a great rookie year. That was followed by some letdown years where he struggled with some injuries but bounced back quite nicely this year. He is still very young and would fill a hole at RT for the Jets. They don’t have to overpay their own free agents and don’t have to rely on rookies starting on both sides.
When I thought about this article, Greg Robinson came to mind but after his weed incident, he is a no-go.
We shouldn’t have much money left after that. I think that we should look at receivers in the Draft given it’s one of the best in recent memory in terms of depth and talent. There will be starters on day 2, some may even be had on day 3.
NFL Draft Strategy
The Jets have enough picks early to leave with some good contributors and fill their biggest needs.
#11: OT is the plan and the odds of not taking one are slim.
- Offensive Tackle: I can’t stress this enough, if one of the big 4 (Andrew Thomas, Jedrick Wills, Mekhi Becton, or Tristan Wirfs) is here, we should take them without a second thought.
- Trade Down: If somehow 4 tackles went in the top 10, chances are there is still a very good QB on the board (Chase Young and Jeffrey Okudah are going top 10 no matter what). We should listen to trade, and if its interesting enough trade down to the mid 1st round.
- Wide Receiver: If the offer isn’t good enough, or there isn’t any. Then the Jets will have to pick their WR1, either Ceedee Lamb (Oklahoma), Jerry Jeudy (Alabama) or Henry Ruggs(Alabama).
#48: If some blue-chip players don’t fall, like the ones I will mention, then it’s WR here.
- Offensive Tackle: Only if it wasn’t picked one in round 1. Austin Jackson, Lucas Niang, Prince Tega Wanogho and maybe even Josh Jones could be had here.
- Interior Offensive Line: If Cesar Ruiz or Lloyd Cushenberry fall to this pick, we should take them without hesitation. They are really good, and our line would really benefit from their presence.
- Wide Receiver: If all else fails and none of them are here then we should just take the best receiver on the board.
#68: Great corners can still be had in this pick
- Cornerback: This is the right moment to go for a corner, with a lot of choices of similar talent. Cameron Dantzler (Miss St), A.J Terrell (Clemson), Bryce Hall (UVA), Jaylon Johnson (Utah), Troy Pride Jr (ND) could all be home-runs here.
#79: A lot of talent left at both the WR and EDGE positions.
- Wide Receiver: If a receiver hasn’t been picked yet then now is the time. Potential players being available such as Denzel Mims, Van Jefferson (Florida), Michael Pittman Jr (USC).
- EDGE: If we already had picked a receiver at some point before this pick. The EDGE talent available at this pick is very good and could land us some steals. Players such as Bradlee Anae (Utah), Jonathan Greenard (Florida) and Darell Taylor (Tennessee) are all players that could contribute early.
#110: Either get an IOL while there are still good players on the board or go EDGE.
Interior Offensive Line: If one hasn’t been picked in round 2 then here we have quality options. Players such as Ben Bredeson (Michigan), Tyler Biadasz (Wisconsin), Netane Muti (Fresno State), Damien Lewis (LSU). They can’t ignore this position any further.
EDGE: Only if an IOL player had been picked in round 2 and EDGE hasn’t been addressed yet. EDGE is where the team should be looking at here. With players like Kenny Willekes (Michigan State), Alton Robinson (Syracuse), Khalid Kareem (ND) or Jabari Zuniga (Florida) all still possibly available, it’s a good time to pick an EDGE player.
#140: Time to double-dip.
- Interior Offensive Line: Only if a player drops a little bit more than expected. I like the value of Shane Lemieux (Oregon), Logan Sternberg (Kentucky) and Solomon Kindley (Georgia) here, but there is a real chance no of them are here though.
- Wide Receiver: If none of these IOL are available then there still good talent at WR. I’m talking about KJ Hill (Ohio St), Isaiah Hodgins (Oregon St), Anthony Gandy-Golden (Liberty), Devin Duvernay (Texas) or Tyler Johnson (Minnesota).
#171: Great value for corners and good runningbacks can be still found.
- Cornerback: A lot of great corners are still projected to be around this pick. With one drafted early and another one in FA, this pick can be a guy that needs a little development but has a huge ceiling. Players I would targe here are Lamar Jackson (Nebraska), AJ Green (Oklahoma St), Levonta Taylor (FSU) and Lavert Hill (Michigan). I would be happy with either of them.
- Runningbacks: If none of these corners are available somehow, players like Darryngton Evans (App St), AJ Dillon (Boston College) and Antonio Gibson (Memphis).
#202: Just take the best player available
And that would be all, the Jets need to be active in FA and be smart in the Draft. I think we could come out of this offseason with a great team if we follow this and are lucky to have some dominoes fall our way.