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NY Jets: Grading The First Week Of Free Agency

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

A week has now gone by since 2017 NFL free agency began at 4 pm last Thursday.  If we count the legal tampering period 10 days have passed.  Most of the big name free agents have come off the board and signings have slowed to a trickle. Time for a preliminary grade on the Jets free agent signings to date.  No doubt more signings will be made by the Jets as they shop in the bargain bin, so these grades are preliminary and subject to revision, but enough has happened so far to merit a review.

Individual Grades

Marcus Williams, second round tender, $2.5 million.  Grade: D.  Williams has shown some playmaking ability with eight interceptions the last two years. However, when he was given an opportunity to start opposite Darrelle Revis in 2017 he showed his limitations, regularly getting beaten in the passing game by opponents' second and third best receivers.  Williams at this point appears to be best suited as a dime cornerback, which is the kind of scrub role that should be fairly easily replaced.  It would have been better to either non-tender Williams or tender him at an original pick level.

Wesley Johnson, second round tender, $2.5 million. Grade: C.  Johnson played at a competent backup level in 2016 when forced into the starting lineup by an injury to Nick Mangold.  Backups should not be tendered at a second round level. However, this is somewhat mitigated by the fact that the Jets had no other decent options at center on the roster.  An original pick tender should have been enough to retain Johnson.

Ben Ijalana, 2 years, $11 million contract.  Grade: D. To my knowledge the contract details for Ijalana have still not been released, so perhaps it will look better when we see the details. Nonetheless, $5.5 million a year for a career backup lineman is excessive, and the subsequent signing of Kelvin Beachum made Ijalana largely superfluous, considering he barely beat out Brent Qvale last season at right tackle, and Brandon Shell might also be a viable right tackle option.  A team tight on cap space should not be spending $11 million on a redundancy.

Corey Lemonier, 1 year, $885,000, $40,000 guaranteed. Grade: C.  It's difficult to get too worked up one way or another about a fringe player who has bounced around the NFL with little impact for years being paid fringe player money.

Josh Martin, 2 years, 3.8 million, $1 million guaranteed. Grade: C-.  Martin is a good special teams player, worth retaining, but this seems like a little too much for a special teams ace, particularly the $1 million in guaranteed money.

Chandler Catanzaro, 1 year, terms undisclosed. Grade: Incomplete.  Catanzaro seems like a lateral move from Nick Folk. If the Jets saved some money here good for them, but at present I am not aware of the terms of this contract.

Tanner Purdum, 1 year, $900,000, $320,000 guaranteed.  Grade: C-.  I have nothing against Purdum. I love the guy.  But why would you guarantee a long snapper any money?  Why have the Jets signed  multiple alternative long snappers if they were going to stack the deck with guaranteed money?  Much as I like Purdum, long snapper is a position that should be open to competition every year, and if there is an equivalent or better alternative for less money, that guy should win the job without having dead money be the price.

Kelvin Beachum, 3 years, $24 million, $12 million guaranteed, 3rd year voidable by player if he makes the Pro Bowl in either 2017 or 2018.  Grade: B-.  Beachum has some upside, as he was a good left tackle before he got injured.  If he plays like he did in 2016 this contract will look pretty bad, as it is a two year commitment.  If he plays really well there is limited upside; if he makes the Pro Bowl Beachum can get out of the deal after two years.  I'm not crazy about the structure, but the Jets needed a left tackle and they got one who was good fairly recently for a price that doesn't break the bank.

Overall Grade

The Jets were one of the worst teams in the NFL in 2016. They have responded in 2017 by bringing back several marginal players and failing to upgrade anywhere other than arguably at left tackle.  Even there if Beachum plays at his 2016 level he will not represent an upgrade. Having gone through $15 million in cap space it is disappointing to not see more upgrading of the roster.  It is also disappointing to not have glaring deficiencies in the secondary and at quarterback addressed yet. Free agency is not over yet, and grades could change depending on what future moves are made, but for a general manager who has expressly stated he views free agency for filling holes, the Jets have not filled any holes at all yet other than arguably at left tackle. Grade: D, subject to further developments.

What about you? How would you grade the Jets moves thus far in free agency?