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Can the 2020 Jets emulate the 2008 Jets in free agency?

Carolina Panthers v New York Jets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Heading into the 2020 offseason, it’s clear that the Jets have some very obvious needs and need an injection of talent. In that respect, they are in a similar position to where they were after the 2007 season. That year, the Jets went on a spending spree which helped transform the team into a postseason contender for the next few seasons. That’s what Joe Douglas will be aiming to do this year.

Within the crop of players the Jets acquired in 2008 you can immediately begin to see some similarities with likely 2020 targets, as the current team has many of the same deficiencies.

Let’s look at each of the main additions they made that year:

Alan Faneca

The soon-to-be Hall of Fame guard was nearing the end of his career but the Jets knew this move would provide them with a major upgrade over the mess they had at left guard in 2007 following Pete Kendall’s departure. Adrien Clarke started 14 games, although he was splitting reps for the second half of the year. Faneca replaced Clarke and became the focal point of a running game that saw Thomas Jones lead the AFC in rushing in 2008 and finish third in the NFL in 2009.

The 2020 Jets are also rumored to be targeting some top interior linemen. While Brandon Scherff was just franchised, they’ve been linked with a big-money move for Joe Thuney. They’ll need other offensive line reinforcements for Thuney to have a Faneca-like impact, but he’s younger so his contributions could cover a longer period.

Damien Woody

At the time, the move the Jets made for Woody was an incredible long-shot and it’s still surprising how well it worked out for the Jets. Woody had been an interior lineman for his whole career and turned 30 during the 2007 season. At the end of the season, Detroit tried him at right tackle for the last five games and he held up quite well. Even so, the big money the Jets gave him constituted a huge risk.

Amazingly, it worked out, as Woody was outstanding and, between them, he and Faneca transformed the Jets offensive line from one of the worst in the league to one of the best. That the Jets had to take a risk like this speaks to how desperate they were to upgrade from Anthony Clement but also to the lack of viable options on the market.

Once again, the modern-day Jets find themselves in the market for a tackle. The difference this time is that there are multiple options out there, with many options who are considerably younger than Woody was when the Jets made that move.

The Jets may well look to add two new tackles this offseason with one potentially coming in the draft. For veteran options, they could swing for the fences with Trent Williams, look at a more reasonably-priced option like Halapoulivaati Vaitai or maybe even consider a player like Ricky Wagner, who was just released by Woody’s old team in Detroit.

Calvin Pace

The 2008 Jets were still struggling to find an adequate replacement for John Abraham, who they had traded away in the 2006 offseason. Of course, the Jets arguably still haven’t filled that spot and once again find themselves in the market for a pass rusher.

Pace gave the a presence off the edge, having signed a big money deal after beginning his career with Arizona. He was coming off a 6.5 sack season with the Cardinals. As it turned out, Pace ended up being more of an edge setter than a pass rushing monster, although he generated 46 sacks in eight seasons as a Jet, including 10 in 2013.

It doesn’t seem like the Jets will be able to land Jadeveon Clowney or any of the other top-end edge rushers this offseason, but they could score a significant upgrade to their pass rush if they bring in someone like Markus Golden or Robert Quinn.

Kris Jenkins

Jenkins, a defensive tackle, is the one major 2008 free agency addition who doesn’t play a position where the 2020 Jets have a major need.

In 2008, Jenkins had a monster year, but then suffered a season ending injury early in the 2009 season and another one even earlier in the 2010 season. In that case, the incumbent defensive tackles, primarily Sione Po’uha and Mike Devito, stepped up in his absence, much like Folorunso Fatukasi and Nathan Shepherd did when the Jets traded Leonard Williams last season.

The Jets aren’t going to sign a big money defensive tackle because they already have Quinnen Williams who they are hoping will become that kind of player. His rookie season was slow to get going last year as he dealt with the effects of a high-ankle sprain for the first half of the season. In the second half, he showed some flashes but the Jets will hope he makes more of a leap in his second season. That would essentially give them the kind of upgrade Jenkins brought to that 2008 team.


Of course, the two teams’ situations are not identical. The 2020 team (hopefully) already has its long-term quarterback in place, while the 2008 team had Darrelle Revis about to ascend to super-stardom. Then again, the current Jets have their own all-pro defensive back, although they do need a corner or two. The main thing the 2020 team lacks is the building blocks on the offensive line that Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson brought to that 2008 team but maybe they’ll come via the draft.

After a solid free agency period, the 2008 offseason got somewhat derailed when the Jets drafted Vernon Gholston and then made the last-minute decision to trade for Brett Favre. Hopefully history won’t repeat itself in 2020.

Obviously that team had its own deficiencies, many of which were addressed the following season when Rex Ryan took over. Ultimately, though, that offseason placed them on the right path. We’ll see if Douglas can achieve something similar.