The start of free agency began yesterday, though reported deals will not become official until Wednesday. There was a good amount of action yesterday, with many top free-agents coming off the board. However, there are many quality free-agents remaining. The Jets are also expected to continue to be busy as they still have multiple needs remaining.
Free Agents Signed on Day One
The Jets made three moves on the first day in free agency, overshadowed by the busy rivals in New England. The Jets got better on both sides of the ball as they signed defensive end Carl Lawson, wide receiver Corey Davis, and linebacker Jarrad Davis. All three will be 26 years old by the time the season begins. Kudos to Joe Douglas for understanding that those pushing/past 30 years old is not the right way to build a team. So far, so good, for Douglas and company on day one.
Jarrad Davis was the first domino to fall for the Jets. He received a one-year deal worth $7 million, though the cap hit is $5.5 million with the rest being an incentive bonus. The Jets were in desperate need of a linebacker, a very thin position for them. Davis could slot in at middle linebacker if the Jets decide to move C.J Mosely.
He could also move to the outside on the 4-3 front, which is what Saleh likely wants to bring to NY. Davis was used poorly in Detroit, playing in only 29% of their snaps last year, but Saleh and the Jets have big plans for him. He is a team player with a strong worth ethic who had a lot of interest as the Jets were able to snag him.
Jets Upgrade On Both Sides Of The Ball
The Jets’ second signing was wide-receiver Corey Davis. This was another position of a desperate need for the Jets. They have been very thin at the wide receiver position for several years now. After losing Robby Anderson to the Panthers a year ago, the Jets needed to find their #1 receiver. Jamison Crowder and Denzel Mims are good secondary and tertiary options, but Davis was a good move for #1. He had a career year in 2020 for Tennessee as he put up 65 receptions for 984 years and five touchdowns. The Jets rewarded him with a three-year, $37.5 million contract, with $27 million guaranteed.
The Jets’ final signing on day one was former Bengals’ DE Carl Lawson. The team lost out on other free-agent edge rushers such as Shaquil Barrett, Matt Judon, Bud Dupree, and Yannick Ngakoue. They locked Lawson up to a three-year, $45 million contract, which makes him the highest-paid player on the team. The Jets were in desperate need of a pass-rushing presence at the defensive end. Lawson fits the bill, having had twenty sacks in four years, 38 pressures at RDE/ROLB, and the third-fastest get-off rate (.73) behind T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree. Lawson is a smart add to Saleh’s scheme.
Jets Remaining Needs
The Jets were able to sure up some positions of need yesterday, but there’s still much work to do. They are still in need of a guard, cornerback, running back, and could use more help at edge-rush and linebacker. The Jets were interested in G Joe Thuney, the former Patriot, however, he signed with Kansas City. The Jets reportedly didn’t want to commit to five years, and there’s no fault not in turning down guarding the best QB in football.
The experiment with Pierre Desir failed miserably, and while Brian Poole and Bless Austin were ok, the Jets could certainly use some upgrades and improved depth. Two cornerbacks who the Jets could have interest in would be Richard Sherman and K’Waun Williams. Sherman had some very positive things to say about the Jets hiring of Robert Saleh. His relationship with Saleh bodes well for a potential reunion in NY.
Also, K’Waun Williams is another former 49er who broke out in 2019 with two interceptions, four forced fumbles, 51 combined tackles, and two sacks. Williams was an important member of Saleh’s secondary, who would welcome a return with him in NY.
Potential Options at Runningback
The Jets could also use some help at the running back position. While the pickup of Ty Johnson proved to be nice for NY, the Jets need to improve their depth and quality at the position. The Jets struggled in the run game at times under Gase and will look to improve with Saleh and co. 2020 draft pick La’Mical Perine had 64 rushes for 232 yards, and Ty Johnson had 54 rushes for 254 yards.
The overreliance on Frank Gore, who led the team with 187 rushes and 654 yards, was evident. The Jets will be looking in a new direction and Jamaal Williams or Kenyan Drake would be wise pickups for the Jets. Drake rushed 239 times for 955 yards and had ten touchdowns. Williams had 119 rushes for 505 yards and two touchdowns.
Potential Options at Offensive Line
After failing to sign Thuney and Linsley, the Jets are in a tougher position to upgrade their offensive line. They seem to like Connor McGovern at center, however, they should try and improve at guard. There are few quality options available, however, one is Oday Aboushi.
Aboushi is a former Jets draft pick in 2013, who had himself a career year in Detroit. He posted an overall PFF mark of 71.9, which would put him in the 85th percentile among qualified guards. He also had the sixth-best percentage on pressures yielded by his pass protection snaps (just 2.6%).
Another option is Germain Ifedi, who succeeded in returning to guard after struggling at tackle for Seattle. He started at right guard for the first ten games of the Bears’ season and posted a 64.8 PFF mark, which ranked 33rd out of 86 qualified guards.
One option where the Jets could add at center is recently-released Pro-Bowl center, Rodney Hudson. Although Hudson is 32, he ranks as the #1 center with a 93.6 pass-blocking grade since 2015. The Jets could use that veteran presence at every important position for an incoming rookie quarterback. The Jets would be wise to try and upgrade this position, and Hudson is now a perfect fit.
Potential Edge-Rush Options
The Jets could also use another rusher to complement the acquisition of Lawson. They could look at another player under Saleh’s Niners in Kerry Hyder. The soon-to-be 30-year old had his best season under Saleh and stepped in nicely after injuries to Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas. He averaged 45.1 snaps overall 16 games in 2020 and was tied for 14th among edge rushers with 55 pressures, and tied for sixth with 22 run stops.
Jadaveon Clowney is another potential option for NY. He only played in eight games last season due to a contract holdout. As a result, he struggled compared to previous years and did not record a single sack. Despite that, his PFF rank of 74.9 was in the 85th percentile as a pass rusher and run defender. He was also in the 69th percentile in both pressure rate and run stop rate. The Jets could get Clowney on a bargain deal due to his limited play last season and help strengthen the Jets pass rush.
Jets Potential Options At Tight End
Furthermore, the tight end position is another one where the Jets could upgrade. The Jets still have Chris Herndon and Ryan Griffin, but a veteran tight-end would help round out the team and the Jets scheme. The Jets could look at Gerald Everett, who would be a good fit under new OC Mike LaFleur’s scheme. He ranked fourth in yards after catch per reception with 5.9, one spot ahead of Jonnu Smith, who just received a big payday from New England.
He was also tied for fifth among tight ends with nine broken tackles after the catch, while Smith ranked 24th with three. While the Jets will look to sure up other positions of need first, tight end is an area where they could use a veteran presence such as Everett. He would fit well under LaFleur and give the Jets the necessary depth at the position.
Jets Could Finish Offseason With Depth
Lastly, the Jets could use depth spread around the field, as we saw with the Jarrad Davis signing. Another linebacker is possibly in the cards for a Jets. One area where it is unlikely the Jets make another move of note is at the wide receiver position. However, it’s possible they bring in a JuJu Smith Schuster-type player to further strengthen the wide receiving corps.
All in all, the Jets have a good amount of work to do before they call this year’s free agency a wrap. There are multiple positions where the Jets can improve, and also positions where they can strengthen their depth. The Jets know that they don’t have to spend all their available cap to fill needs, as they also have many draft picks. It seems the Jets will use a combination of both to improve a team that only won two games last season. And after a day of free agency has concluded, so far so good for Joe Douglas and company.