Free Agents that are worth a look by the New York Jets
Joe Douglas inherited a team with some dynamic players and some quality coaches. He also inherited a team with some glaring holes that were not adequately filled by his predecessor Mike Maccagnan; hence his removal.
I want to address some of those holes and some other players who could be of value to the Jets today and in the future. With free agency all but over there is little left on the shelves to choose from...or is that a widely held falsehood? Let’s look and see what the situation really is and what can be done about it.
The center position was criminally left untouched by Mike Maccagnan after the 2018 season even though it was a glaring weakness. The center position will be manned by 2014 UDFA Jonotthan Harrison and backed up by Jon Toth, a 2017 UDFA who has yet to play an NFL regular season snap.
It is important to protect the Jets best asset in Sam Darnold as he is the future, but it is also important for the Jets offense as a whole. Darnold struggled early as a rookie and predictably so. Around the middle of the season he suffered an injury and had to sit out a few games. While he did he gained a better perspective of how to play QB in the NFL. From Weeks 14 through 17 Darnold had a 118.5 passer rating from a clean pocket, second best during that time in all the NFL. So it is imperative to give Sam a clean pocket.
Harrison was the #31 PFF graded center in 2018, and Jet fans are frowning upon his return to the starting spot.
Should they be? He is a 28 years old and about to start his 6th season in the NFL. He played early in his career (before he was actually ready to play) for the Colts then started only 5 games the last two years before 2018. Remember Spencer Long was the starter last year and got all the first team reps in training camp and through the first half of 2018.
An offensive line takes time to develop chemistry and it is tough for a team to switch pivot men in the middle of the year. Harrison has said to have been a bright spot during OTA’s. He is not afraid to work hard for his right to play, “I’m here to work at the end of the day. Every year of my career so far, I’ve had to compete to get on the field. Whatever decision they decide to do, that’s up to them. I’m here to work, I’m here to compete and looking forward to the potential opportunity to be a part of this offensive line,” he said during the offseason.
Coach Adam Gase has liked what he has seen in Harrison so far, “He’s extremely smart. He does a great job, his energy level and just keeping the tempo going for that group, if you watch him, you can tell those guys really follow his lead. He has a very good way about him as far as setting the huddle, getting to the line of scrimmage, getting those guys ready, getting their hands in the dirt, making the call, being decisive. All those little things are very valuable at that spot and I think he’s done a good job of that.”
Sam Darnold also feels comfortable with Harrison (on and off the field) which is huge, “You want to be close to everyone that you’re working with. But, there is kind of that center-quarterback – you really want to be on the same page every single play, For us to kind of have that bond on and off the field, it’s awesome and it makes things a lot easier out there on the field.”
So who else could the Jets bring in to compete with Harrison or Toth?
There is quite frankly very little out on the market right now in the way of a bona fide starting center. The Jets could bring in John Sullivan who is 34 years old and was released by the Rams. Sullivan was an above average center as shortly as two years ago but his play slipped badly in 2018. The Jets could bring him in for a look. If he does well in drills the Jets could give him a minimal contract with incentive bonuses with an opportunity to contend for a starting job in training camp. He would have to be more than marginally better than Harrison because of the rapport that Darnold and Harrison have developed.
There is Gino Gradkowski (30) who has appeared in 7 games the last two years combined but was not all that effective when he played. Other than that you have J.J. Dielman or a Daniel Munyer who are more like developmental players you would bring in and then put on the practice squad. If they develop then they could see action later in the year if an injury occurs. The only other option is a trade which is not likely or wait until final cuts (Jets have the #3 position) to see which players shake out. Someone always does.
The cornerback position is the real weak spot on the Jets, which is not good in a passing league. Trumaine Johnson struggled last year in Gotham and is said to have struggled mightily during the 2019 OTA’s. You have to know DC Greg Williams was not pleased with that at all.
Darryl Roberts is scheduled to start as the left side CB and surprisingly had a nice year in coverage in 2018. He was the #43rd rated CB according to PFF which is not great but slightly above average. In 3 seasons Roberts has played in 43 of a possible 48 games and started 16 with 10 of those stars coming last year. The problem is Roberts came into the league a little older than most. He is starting his fifth year and =will be 29 this season so he is not really a long-term answer. Also with OC’s having some tape on him now are they going to find a weakness to exploit and use it against him.
This is a matchup league, and few players are so good they can’t be exploited. This is why players have a sophomore slump. They are not worse players, but film will reveal all sorts of tells and glitches in a players game. Roberts now has enough tape in the bank for OCs to start looking for his. Also Roberts reportedly was torched by receivers at OTAs, continually getting burned for big plays.
Beyond these two there are nothing but question marks so it would behoove GM Douglas to bring in some competition to increase the talent base. There are a boatload of players available, and most are at reasonable prices given that they are unemployed six weeks before the start of training camp.
Morris Claiborne Age 29 5’ 11” 192 lbs
We all know him. He was an average at best CB in 2018 and was the #75 best CB per PFF. He has been offered a minimal contract by the Buccaneers but as of yet has not signed it, wanting more money. The Bucs are only $2.8 million under the cap so he isn’t getting any more from them.
Brent Grimes: Age 36 5’ 10” 185 lbs
A former Buc and a bit of a head case. He will probably cost the most money. He can still play when he wants to. Last year was a down year for him (#83 PFF). His wife Miko is a live wire. She once got ejected from the stadium in Miami when he played with the Dolphins.
Captain Munnerlyn: Age 31 5’ 9” 195 lbs
Munnerlyn had a down year (#84 PFF) last year after having some solid seasons before that. He has 12 INTs and 64 PD in 10 years.
Orlando Scandrick: Age 32 5’ 10” 196 lbs
He can still play. He had a good 2018 (#40 PFF) with the Chiefs last year. The 10 year vet has 9 INTs and 76 PD playing primarily from the slot although he can play outside as well. He is a scheme versatile veteran.
Coty Sensabaugh: Age 30 5’ 11” 187 lbs
Sensabaugh played well in Pittsburgh last year (#63 PFF) and took over for Artie Burns when he was benched. He is an 8 year veteran who has started 43 of 101 games in his career.
Davon House: Age 30 6’ 0” 195 lbs
He is an 8 year veteran who played mostly in sub packages in his career. His career numbers are 7 INTs and 54 PD. He was hurt last year (needed shoulder surgery) and played only 3 games. He would be another veteran option as a good stopgap player.
Sam Shields: Age 31 5’ 11” 184 lbs
Shields missed two full seasons with a concussion but came back to play a sub role for the Rams last year (PFF # 92). He has 19 INTs and 70 PD in his 8 year career and would be a solid veteran addition. From 2012 - 2016 he was the #5 rated play making CB according to PFF. 16.2% of his targets were either a INT or a PD.
David Amerson: Age 27 6’ 1” 212 lbs
A surprise cut by the rebuilding Cardinals, Amerson was the (#15 PFF) CB back in 2015 his first year with the Raiders. He was injured the past two seasons and played in only 11 of 32 games. He is still young with the highest ceiling of any of these CB’s. He has started 61 of 74 games with 9 INTs and 65 PD.
Marcus Williams: Age 28 5’ 11” 196 lbs
A player Jet fans know very well, he played only 5 games between Tampa and Chicago but is still young. He would need to be worked out before any contract offer is made. He has 10 career INTs (9 with the Jets) and 27 PD.
Howard Wilson: Age 23 6’ 1” 183 lbs
Wilson would be a gamble because he has been on IR his first two years in the NFL. He had a fractured kneecap in 2017 and needed patella tendon surgery in 2018. His Medicals would need to be checked out but he would be a shot in the dark. He was a 4th round pick of the Browns so maybe Greg Williams knows him.
Douglas has a choice of one of these or a late waiver wire pick up. It would be nice to have a player in camp to learn the defense, but many CBs play on an island so they need less team practice than any other member of the defense. That is not to say practice is not important, it is, but it is less than for other positions.
Brandon Shell is coming off a complicated ACL surgery that included MCL and PCL damage. He did participate in the OTAs but is no lock to be ready to go full bore in training camp. Plus being only 6 months removed from surgery he is not near 100% to play at the same level in 2019 as he did in 2018. He was the #56 PFF tackle in 2018 (average) and was a better pass blocker than run blocker. Kelvin Beachum on the other side was solid if unspectacular (#48 PFF) and was also a better pass blocker than run blocker. What are some of Joe Douglas’s options?
Trent Williams: Age 30 6’ 5” 318 lbs
Trent Williams is a Pro Bowl LT who is upset with the way the team in Washington handled is injury and vowed not to play there again. Last year was an average year for him (#21 PFF) because of injury. He is in good health now, and the team in Washington is not going to just give him away The Jets could trade Kelvin Beachum (30 years old) to Washington for Williams, a move that saves Washington $3.2 million on the cap for a team with only has $8.2 million in cap space remaining. It would give Washington a younger LT and not have to worry about their most vital lineman holding out. The Jets could welcome Williams and give him an extension on his contract to keep him in town for the next 5-6 years. It’s a win - win situation as no other team has a LT ready to give in exchange. If they want more compensation than Beachum we can send them Trumaine Johnson (just kidding, even though I’m not). I’m sure Joe Douglas can work something out.
Free agents available are few but among them are:
Donald Penn: Age 36 6’ 4” 315 lbs
Penn was selected to the Pro-Bowl in 2016 and 2017 but was hurt and only played 4 games last year. He graded out in 2016 as the 12th best tackle out of 76 per PFF. He has experience as a LT as well as RT so he gives you some swing tackle versatility even though he might be best on the right side now. If he is ok physically he would be great protection if either OT goes down or if Shell is not ready to start the year.
Joe Barksdale: Age 31 6’ 5” 326 lbs
He is a right tackle only candidate and would need to be checked out medically after only playing 10 games last year. He was an average tackle only #57 PFF tackle last year while playing injured with a knee problem some of the time. He has fought depression through the years and will need to be checked by a couple of medical professionals to clear him.
Ryan Schraeder: Age 31 6’ 7” 305 lbs
Schraeder is another right tackle only player who was cut due to a high salary and declining production.He ranked #55 out of 61 tackles who played more than 600 snaps on offense. Before this past season he was a solid starter so Joe would need to decide whether the 2018 decline was an anomaly or a trend.
With Marcus Maye coming off a lost season due to injury it may be wise to address the position for insurance. There are a few good choices out there if Joe decides to take that course of action.
Eric Berry Age 30 6’ 0” 212 lbs
Berry is a 5 time Pro Bowler and 3 time 1st team All Pro player. He is the one guy available who could accelerate the growth of Jamal Adams. If truly healthy, Berry would cost a few dollars but be well worth it in terms of education and the style of play the Jets would have. The Jets would have two leaders to mold a young secondary in need of guidance. This would be an exuberant move that would tell the whole team, “We expect to win and win now.” Berry would gain the respect of the team as soon as he entered the locker room. He is a Hall of Fame caliber player, and you don’t get the chance to bring one of those onto your team when they still have something left in the tank very often.
It is a move that would announce Joe Douglas is on the job and expects, no demands production right away. It would set a tone for the entire organization that the old Jets are gone. There is a new sheriff in town, and this is a new era of Jets football. You only get one chance to make a first impression so make it a loud cannon shot across the bow of every ship in the NFL.
I sincerely hope Joe Douglas is calling the agent of Eric Berry right now. I know the Cowboys want him, but they have cap problems. The Jets could give Berry the type of contract he deserves. It would give the Jets the best safety duo in the NFL, better than San Diego, and the ramifications of such a move would certainly be heard up in Foxborough.
Johnathan Cyprien: Age 29 6’ 1” 211 lbs
He is a excellent strong safety who was lost in 2018 with an ACL tear in training camp. He is healthy now and making the rounds as a veteran player who can start or play in subpackages and be a leader on defense. He is not on the level of an Eric Berry, but he has started every game he has played in the NFL (70) and is a great box safety who can cover TEs.
Tre Boston: Age 27 6’ 1” 205 lbs
Boston is a free safety who has started 44 of the 72 games he has played with 11 INTs and 27 PD. He could start or play in sub packages and upgrades our safety room over Brandon Bryant or Rontez Miles.
Other players we could bring in
Don Sims TE: Age 28 6’ 4” 268 lbs
Another slightly used 6 year veteran who has caught 66% of his targets. He was playing with the likes of Ryan Tannehill, and Mitchell Trubisky so he must have caught nearly every catchable ball. A big target with a little speed, he is another replacement for Eric Tomlinson who you could look at in camp. He could be a nice complement to Herndon and even start if Herndon is suspended the first couple of games.
Zach Vigil ILB: Age 28 6’ 2” 238 lbs
He is an effort signing, a hustle guy who can be a valuable backup and a special teams maven. This signing is for Riverside as Vigil is from Utah State where he was a tackling machine. He is the type of high energy, team first guy who is a positive voice in the locker room. His spot on the team lets everyone know the importance of special teams. He is a decent backup SAM LB so he is not a wasted roster space as a special teams ace.
This is just to highlight some of the moves that Joe can make to turn around a team that has floundered for too long. (Call me, Joe, if you need help.) A culture change needs to be made along with some key new pieces to the team.
I’m sure many of you thought there is little Joe can do at this point in the year to change the team for the better. I have just shown you that there is plenty that can be done if the right man deems he wants to. Of course Joe knows better than me, but I wanted to let you know the next six weeks could be exciting for us all.
Only time will tell...
Let me know what you think.