Grading Joe Douglas’ Free Agent Class After One Season

The Jets had a somewhat active free agency in 2020. It was Joe Douglas’ first free agency as Jets GM and he wanted to make an impression. None of the moves he made blew you away, but they were believed to be a good collection of players that would help protect Sam Darnold and also give him some weapons to deal with. Of course, all of that turned out to be wrong as the Jets finished with a 2-14 record and many of Joe Douglas’s free-agent signings struggled mightily.

Offense

Joe Flacco

The Jets head into the offseason last year in search of a true backup quarterback. The Jets were hurt in 2019 when Sam Darnold had mono and was out for four games. They went 0-4 in those games, however, had a quality backup been there, they could’ve picked up two of those games and snuck in the playoffs. Thus, the Jets turned to former Ravens and Broncos QB, Joe Flacco in free agency and he quietly put up a good season coming off neck surgery. He went 0-4 in four games started, but threw six touchdowns and had three interceptions. He also had his best QB rating (58.0) since 2014, when he put up a 68.

Grade: B

Frank Gore

Frank Gore has been a legendary running-back throughout his sixteen-year career. The 37-year old chose to sign with the Jets in the offseason to reunite with Adam Gase. Gore played in fifteen games and had 187 rushes for 653 yards. Compared to 2019, he had 166 rushes then for 599 yards. In addition, he had 16 receptions for 89 yards, compared to 13 and 100 in 2019, respectively.

Overall, Gore was ineffective, but the main frustration among Jets fans was Adam Gase’s continued use of him. The Jets had two younger runningbacks that deserved a chance in Ty Johnson and La’Mical Perine, who combined had fewer rushes and yards for 118 and 486, respectively. Gore was able to make history in 2020, however, as he finished with exactly 16,000 yards for his prestigious career.

Grade: C-

Breshad Perriman

This move was probably the biggest mistake and most miscalculated move for Joe Douglas. The Jets went into the offseason knowing they needed to 1) protect Sam Darnold at all costs and 2) give him weapons to throw to. Robby Anderson became a free agent after the 2019 season and was reportedly interested in returning. The Jets decided to let him walk to Carolina, which turned out to be a huge mistake.

Anderson signed a two-year, $20 million contract, which has seemingly turned out to be a steal for the Panthers. Anderson was targeted for a career-high 136 times and had 95 receptions for 1096 yards, along with three touchdowns. The Jets’ main receiving addition wasn’t terrible, however, when compared to how Anderson did, it was definitely a downgrade. The Jets signed Perriman to a one-year, $8 million contract. He had 30 receptions for 505 yards and three touchdowns.

Grade: C

Chris Hogan

Chris Hogan was brought in by the Jets to give the team some depth after dealing with injuries. Hogan, 33, spent much of his early career in the AFC East with the Buffalo Bills and was solid. However, he was unable to provide a spark for the Jets as he only put up 14 catches for 118 yards in five games. He was then placed on the injured reserve before being cut in December.

Grade: D-

Offensive Blockers

Connor McGovern

The former Broncos center was signed by the Jets to a three-year, $27 million deal last offseason. McGovern turned out to be a solid pickup for the guys in green. The offensive line, which was supposed to be improved, was very inconsistent. Sam Darnold was rushed several times due to the inconsistency of the line.

McGovern was definitely a liability at first but settled in after the midway point of the season. McGovern was first in sacks allowed with six and had three penalties (T-17th) and also played in 969 snaps (19th). His overall player grade was 62.6. The Jets hope that McGovern can pick up where he left off in  2020.

Grade: B

Greg Van Roten

The former Panthers and Packers guard was signed by the Jets to a three-year deal last offseason. Van Roten played thirteen games throughout the season and missed three due to turf toe. In the games he did play, he played in 100% of the snaps with the exception of the game. Overall, Van Roten wasn’t terrible, but he was very inconsistent.

The Jets could decide to keep him for the remainder of his contract, or they can potentially upgrade at the position. Van Roten hopes to stay with his hometown team but understands the business side of the game. His overall player grade was 63.0, according to PFF, and played in 752 snaps (44th) and allowed three sacks (T-19th).

Grade: C

George Fant

George Fant was the first player that Joe Douglas signed in free agency in his first full season as General Manager. The Jets put their confidence in the undrafted 28-year old and former Seattle Seahawk. Fant started and played in 14 games for Gang Green, and played in 829 snaps, which was 2nd on the team behind Connor McGovern. It was also the first year where Fant had become an entrenched starter, which could be huge for the rest of his career.

The team signed Fant to a three-year deal worth around $30 million when bonuses are factored in. However, due to the nature of the contract, it was essentially played out as a one-year deal to allow Fant to prove his worth. The Jets liked what they saw and Fant is excited to be apart of the turnaround led by Joe Douglas.

Linebacker Depth

Jordan Jenkins

Jordan Jenkins had a career-year in 2019. He had eight sacks, which was preceded by seven in the year before. As a result, many were not expecting the Jets to retain Jenkins. Instead, Jenkins returned on a team-friendly one-year, $5 million deal. Unfortunately for the Jets, he was unable to keep the pace he had in 2018 and 2019.

Due to a combination of injuries and underperformance, Jenkins only had two sacks, his lowest number since his rookie year. That was down from the 15 sacks he put up in his previous two years combined. Jenkins became the longest-tenured Jet after the trade of Steve McClendon to the Buccaneers. It now seems that the 2016 draft pick has played his last games with the Jets and the club will move on.

Grade: D+

Neville Hewitt

Neville Hewitt was another familiar face brought back by Joe Douglas. Hewitt was originally signed by the Dolphins in 2015 and came to the Jets in 2017. When C.J. Mosley got hurt last season, Neville Hewitt stepped up and has yet to relinquish his starting role. He started all sixteen games for the Jets in 2020 and led the Jets in tackles by a significant margin.

He had 134 total tackles, with 91 being solo, and had 43 assists. In addition, he had four quarterback hits to go along with two sacks. Hewitt is a restricted free agent this year and it’s unclear whether the Jets intend to bring him back to the fold.

Grade: B

Patrick Onwuasor

Patrick Onwuasor was brought in by Joe Douglas due to the Ravens’ connection with Joe Douglas. Onwuasor had played in at least 14 games in his previous three seasons, however, only played in one game for the Jets and had just eight snaps. His injury-riddled season destroyed hopes for a bounceback season.

Grade: F

Secondary

Brian Poole

Brian Poole was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Atlanta Falcons and came to the Jets following the 2018 season. Poole has established himself as one of the best slot-cornerbacks in the NFL and has been a leader on the Jets secondary. Injuries prevented him from playing a full season but in the games, he did play, he did really well.

In nine games, he had 44 tackles, two QB hits, two interceptions, and seven pass deflections. His overall player rating of 77.1 placed him at 11th among all cornerbacks. The Jets will have a big decision to make in whether they will bring him back or not for the short or long-term.

Grade: B+

Arthur Maulet

Arthur Maulet was coming off a relatively solid 2019 season with the Jets. In 2020, he proved to be a huge depth piece, who stepped up in the face of injuries and helped them in numerous situations, including at safety. One of his best games of the year was in Los Angeles where he teamed up with Marcus Maye to shut down the Rams and get the Jets their first victory of the year. Overall, he had 17 solo tackles (T-95th), 32 targets (T-44th), 1 interception (T-37th), and allowed 21 receptions (T-44th). His player grade was a shade under 50.0 t 49.7.

Grade: D

Pierre Desir

The Jets decided to take a shot on former Colts cornerback Pierre Desir. Unfortunately for the Jets, he didn’t amount to much and was eventually released. Jets third-round draft pick in 2020, Bryce Hall, got healthy and then took Desir’s spot. Desir had been one of the team’s leaders in defensive snaps at 47 at the time of his released and also had three interceptions.

However, he also allowed 76.5% of the passes thrown his way, to be caught. That was the third-highest in the league for defensive backs, who had at least 40 passes thrown their way. Opposing quarterbacks targeting Desir had a 110.3 passer rating and allowed four touchdowns. Desir emerged as a legitimate starter after a strong 2018 season in Indianapolis but has fallen off since.

Grade: D-

Conclusion

The Jets’ offseason in 2020 turned out to be quantity over quality, which was evidenced by the team’s struggles on both offense and defense. Joe Douglas has a lot of cap space yet again, currently over $70 million and it will rise with further cuts. The Jets should prove to be very active in free agency, looking to upgrade everywhere they can.

They will look at upgrading the current offensive-line, a capable tight-end, at least two wide-receivers, an involved running back, a top-of-the-line pass rusher, a new linebacking core, and more help on the defensive backfield. The good thing for the Jets is that they have a lot of cap space and draft capital to basically do anything they want. They have a lot of choices and ways they can go.

Thus, it’s no question that the Jets will be busy this offseason. It’s just a matter of how they upgrade (with respect to free agency and draft), what positions they will prioritize, and of course, who they will choose. Keep an eye on the Jets this offseason, Joe Douglas and co. will be very busy.

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