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Big Name Non-QB Free Agents the Jets Should be Wary Of

AFC Championship - Jacksonville Jaguars v New England Patriots Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

After months of heated debate, there’s less than two hours to go until the opening of the legal tampering period. For the Jets, flush with the most cap space in the league and quite nearly the most holes, this is primed to be a pivotal few days for the future of the franchise.

Before things get rolling, here are a few quick thoughts on big-name free agents the Jets should be cautious with.

Trumaine Johnson, CB

Johnson, 28, is set to earn possibly the biggest cornerback contract in free agency after playing on the franchise tag for the Rams last year. With their big need at cornerback, tremendous cap room, and a connection in former Rams DB coach Dennard Wilson, the Jets could figure to be in the mix for him. At 6’2, he has the size coaches love in cornerbacks. Todd Bowles is especially known to favor big corners. Here is a look at Johnson’s intriguing measurables:

He’s parlayed those tools in a solid career shadowing opposing top receivers, but in my view he isn’t quite an elite player. You can see his slight athletic deficiencies on the chart above, and to me that shows up on tape. Quick #1s can burn him. PFF pegged him for the 5th most yards allowed at cornerback this year, and graded him as their 68th-ranked player at the position.

Johnson is a good fit and a solid player, but at his age with his spotty resume of production will likely be overpaid if he is made a top 10 to 15 earner at the position.

Malcolm Butler, CB

Butler, also 28, figures to spearhead the cornerback market. The Jets have already been linked to him in a few rumors floating around the Internet.

Like Johnson, I think Butler’s name and notoriety drives his price up more than his game does. He graded as PFF’s 51st ranked corner. From watching him, I’m not sure he’s a guy I’d feel comfortable spending big money on to shadow opposing #1s. He also doesn’t have the size that Todd Bowles covets, and we know that the Patriots have always run a well executed bend-but-don’t-break defense. His Super Bowl benching isn’t promising either.

Both Butler and Johnson would be major upgrades for this team, and likely provide solid play overall, but I’m not sure you are getting tremendous value by making either one of these players one of the most expensive players at their position into their 30s.

Dion Lewis, RB

The Jets have been connected to Lewis in pre-free agency rumors. My inclusion of Lewis on this list is less about him as a player, but more about the value of the running back position.

Lewis is by all means a very solid back who I think will succeed outside of New England. He is extremely shifty and adept at making people miss, while providing value as a receiver. His career yards per carry mark of 4.8 is very strong, and he has never fallen below 4.4 in as season. Those are great signs.

However, Lewis is going to turn 28 this season at a position dominated by youth. Only 2 of the top 11 and 3 of the top 14 rushers in the league in 2017 were aged 28 or older.

Running back is a position that has trended increasingly younger and has seen an incredible spike in production out of rookies in recent years, especially in the middle rounds. Alvin Kamara, Kareem Hunt, Jay Ajayi, Derrick Henry, Le’Veon Bell, Jordan Howard, and Devonta Freeman are just a few examples of good to great 26-and-under running backs who were selected after the first round. This year in particular figures to be a deep year for running backs in the draft. I’d love to see the Jets bypass the running back market and invest in a young ball carrier in the second or third round (Sony Michel is my personal favorite.)

Ultimately, all three of these players are above average contributors who would be substantial upgrades for the Jets in the short term, but that masks the fact that long-term they probably aren’t the greatest ways to make use of cap space. Team building comes down to allocation of resources, and the Jets are certainly still in a rebuilding stage. How much production are you getting per dollar? Players like the ones listed here are likely to cash out in a relatively weak free agent market. Though they do figure to be short-term upgrades, are their contracts going to be ones you would look back on positively in three years? Think 2015. The Jets have holes they need to fill, and the space to do it. That doesn’t mean they need to pay more than market value for players whose probabilities of being big-time positive contributors past 2018 are in doubt.

Who are you avoiding if you’re the Jets?


Which of these three free agents would you most want the Jets to steer clear of?

This poll is closed

  • 33%
    Trumaine Johnson
    (353 votes)
  • 33%
    Malcolm Butler
    (346 votes)
  • 32%
    Dion Lewis
    (340 votes)
1039 votes total Vote Now