We are now just a couple of weeks away from the start of free agency. The Jets have plenty of money to spend and needs to be meet with said money. With Robert Saleh taking over as head coach, and Mike LaFleur running the offense, both defensive and offensive systems will change. This means current players won’t fit in the new systems. It also means they will look for players that specifically fit their system. The Jets have the money and a bushel of draft picks, but the 2021 season will still present a work in progress. It will take Saleh and Joe Douglas a couple of offseason to get all the exact pieces they want, but that work starts now.
Today we will go through a brief blueprint of how the Jets should attack free agency. We won’t get deep into many specific names just yet, that will come over the next two weeks when we go through position by position. But we will start with a remarkably short list of players the Jets need to re-sign, players they should cut and what positions that free agency money needs to go towards filling. Of course some of these needs will end up being filled in the draft, but we’ll worry about the draft after the first week of free agency ends.
PLAYERS THAT NEED TO BE RE-SIGNED:
Marcus Maye. That’s it. That’s the entire list.
Sure, you could add Brian Poole’s name here for consideration, but also you don’t have to. Hell, they can sign Paterson, NJ, native K’Waun Williams who was Saleh’s slot corner last season. Marcus Maye is the one player that the Jets absolutely need to re-sign. If they can’t reach a long-term deal they could place the franchise tag on him for $11,196,00, according to Overthecap.com.
PLAYERS TO BE RELEASED:
Henry Anderson ($1.3 million dead money but save $8.2 in cap space)
Alex Lewis ($1.66 million dead money but save $5.91 million)
Greg Van Roten ($250,000 dead money but save $3.4 million), though this release would probably happen after the draft assuming the Jets felt they did enough to upgrade over him both at starter and for a backup.
Maybe Jamison Crowder ($1 million dead money but save $10.3 million). Whether or not this would be a smart decision depends on what other receiver(s) they can sign in free agency.
PLAYERS TO BE TRADED:
Anyone that can be used to get Deshaun Watson except Mekhi Becton. They’re going to need a stud LT if they get Watson, plus the Texans already have their LT.
POSITIONS TO FOCUS ON UPGRADING:
QB – This isn’t so much about finding a starting quarterback, that only comes in to play with trade scenarios that still seem unlikely. There is the even more unlikely scenario of Dak Prescott becoming a free agent, in which case the Jets absolutely need to sign him. But since that’s unlikely to happen, let’s talk about the need for a backup. James Morgan won’t cut it. They’re going to need a veteran leader to help bring along the rookie quarterback they will end up drafting.
RB – Aaron Jones has to be tempting just because of his fit in the offensive system. Of course you’re correctly thinking, “don’t pay for running backs.” But remember, because of the cap situation and how many teams don’t have space, it’s possible that an Aaron Jones, Chris Carson type back are available for a more reasonable price than you’d expect. They could very well skip this position in free agency and address it in the draft, but they have options here if they want.
FB – Yes, that’s right. The Jets will need a fullback once again.
TE – You can hold out hope Chris Herndon can be salvaged in the new offense, but you absolutely can not count on it. One way or another they need to upgrade blocking ability and receiving ability from the position. Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry are the two big names, as much as they both could help expect any free agents additions to be lesser names.
WR – There are big names to be had, the Jets should try to land one of them. More likely they’ll land one of the more medium names like, Juju Smith-Schuster or Curtis Samuel.
OL – Focus all your attention inside. We know they’re set at LT with Becton and George Fant is absolutely good enough for now at RT. It wouldn’t be surprising at all to see the Jets draft a right tackle for the future, but free agent money should go strictly to the inside. Joe Thuney and Brendon Scherff top the list, Thuney will be the Jets number one target if he hits the open market.
DL – This is the exact opposite of the offensive line. They’re good on the inside, all the funds need to go to the outside. Lucky for them this is a good year to fill that specific need.
LB – Could absolutely use a pass rusher from the 4-3 OLB spot, but don’t forget that they desperately need to upgrade their coverage ability from the linebacking unit.
CB – Bryce Hall had a promising end to the 2020 season, but even if you pencil him in as one of the starters, the Jets will still need someone opposite of him, they’ll need a new slot corner if Brian Poole doesn’t return and of course some depth.
S – Ashtyn Davis had an inconsistent but promising rookie season. Safety is a very difficult position for rookies and he took some truly awful angles at times last season, but his range was impressive. There were signs he can grow into the player Douglas thought he was drafting. We’re assuming Marcus Maye returns, but they’ll need that third safety because Bradley McDougald will not be coming back.
K – Free agency or the draft, eventually they need to find a kicker they can count on consistently.