This is the third year I have done an AGOP, and I really enjoy this competition. In these past two years, I took diametrically opposed approaches in creating my ideal Jets offseason. Two years ago, I was under the (false) assumption that Sam Darnold was going to be the future of the team. Thus, we had to spend big in free agency to supplement the team with talent on both sides of the ball. When that strategy proved poor in the 2019, I took a more reserved approach last year, where I had my primary focus on three things:
· Finding young players with upside
· Focusing on positional value when making decisions to improve the roster
· Maintaining cap flexibility and draft capital in the future
I do think that was the best strategy given the situation the team was in.
But this year I will take a third approach, given the crucial offseason the team is embarking on. The Jets are likely going to move on from Sam Darnold. It is imperative that they do not repeat the same mistake they did three years ago and surround their new QB with legitimate talent on offense (both at the skill positions and line). But at the same time, we saw the detriments of overpaying free agents like they did two years ago (Bell and Mosley come to mind). Most people in free agency are not superstars, and when they hit the open market, they usually require a salary that exceeds what they can give to the team. Finding the balance will be key this offseason, and I do not want to go too far in either direction.
In summary, in this AGOP my focus will be to revamp the offense for our new QB and hold the fort on defense. I am still going to focus on finding young players with upside (both in free agency and the draft) to be able to grow with the new young quarterback. I will be spending money, but only at the premium positions. Essentially, I do not want to be as thrifty as last year (especially on offense), but I also still want to maintain my three themes listed above.
1. Moves the Jets Have Already Made
Cuts: Henry Anderson, DL
Re-sign: Vyncint Smith, WR
Cap Room: $68,335,082
2. Additional Cuts (All Numbers coming from OTC)
Alex Lewis, LG, $5,191,667 saved: Re-signing Lewis was a mistake. The Jets gave him far too much money for someone who gave them below-average play in return. Then there was that incident that occurred last year which kept him out for the remainder of the year. Probably best to move on and they save over 5 million.
Ryan Griffin, TE, $1,848,438 saved: Griffin does not offer the Jets much. Another strange re-signing from last year. They can upgrade at tight end.
Connor McDermott, OT, $950,000 saved: ditto for McDermott for what I said about Griffin.
Josh Doctson, WR, $985,000 saved: Doctson was a bust for the Washington Football Team then opted out of the 2020 season, so he has not played in a while. I am not sure what value he brings to the Jets right now.
Braxton Berrios, WR, $850,000 saved: Berrios performed admirably as the backup slot WR last year, but we can stand to improve at in that role. In this years’ draft, there are a bunch of strong options (St. Brown, Elijah Moore, Amari Rodgers etc.). That is where we can get our Crowder replacement after he likely leaves in free agency next year.
"Trim the Fat Cuts": Tanzel Smart, Sharif Finch, Josh Malone, $2,830,000 saved: Yes, these guys were apparently on the roster.
(We can bring the rest of the current roster to training camp, but many on minimum deals or future contracts will not be on the roster day 1. I will not list them here for the sake of brevity, but the players who I think should become training-camp-cuts will not be listed on my projected final roster at the end)
Cap Room: $76,250,187
Sam Darnold to the Washington Football Team for the 2nd round pick (pick 51): I think many of you will agree with me that it is time to move on from Sam Darnold. At this point, I believe the real debate is between which QB the Jets should replace Darnold with. You presumably know all reasons for this move, so I will not rehash them here. Yes, it is clear the Jets did not surround Darnold with the best coaching staff nor talent, but I also think Darnold will not be a franchise QB for the Jets. Washington desperately needs a QB and there has been reported interest in Darnold. Frankly, getting this valuable a pick in return for Darnold is a win.
Cap Room: $76,560,287
Marcus Maye (extension), S, 4 years, $40 million, $22 million guaranteed ($9.25 million cap hit): The Jets should get this extension done before the season and not have Marcus Maye play on the tag. They do not have many draft picks they hit on in recent years in the pipeline that will second contracts. Furthermore, this contract will reduce Maye’s 2021 cap hit in a year the salary cap is projected to be the lowest in the foreseeable future. Even though Maye does not play at a premium position, he is a premium talent. He finished as the 4th safety according to PFF rankings last year and signing him annually to10 million per year is more than reasonable.
Neville Hewitt, LB, 2 years, $4 million, $1.5 million guaranteed ($2 million cap hit): Hewitt clearly does not have the athleticism to be a superstar, but he gave the Jets credible play as the Jets’ number one linebacker last year. Bringing him back on a cheap deal makes sense given the uncertainty of C.J. Mosley not having played effectively for the past two years and Blake Cashman’s injury history.
Brian Poole, CB, 3 years, $18 million, $11.5 million guaranteed ($6.333 million cap hit): Brian Poole has been the most reliable corner (albeit only a slot corner) for the Jets in the past 2 years. He played on two consecutive one year deals so now he resigns with the Jets on a multi-year deal, where the Jets can get out of it after two years if his play dips. Inking a good player in an increasingly important position is a good idea.
Frankie Luvu, EDGE, 1 year $920,000, 0 guaranteed ($920,000 cap hit): nice depth piece on the edge.
*note: contract length, amount and guarantee were inspired by PFF’s contract projections
5. Free Agents
Premium Free Agents:
Hunter Henry, TE, 4 years $48 million, $23.5 million guaranteed (11.250 million cap hit): Maybe the price hit is a little steep, but Hunter Henry is exactly the player that the Jets offense needs right now. The Jets need that big pass catching weapon over the middle of the field for this shanahan-like offense. Furthermore, it was clear last year the Jets need to do something at tight end given Herndon’s lackluster play last year. Hunter Henry is a more than credible starter at his position, getting 115 receptions in the last years. To top that off, he is a good blocker too, and Henry is only 26 years old, which fits with my focus on creating a youth movement on offense.
Joe Thuney, G, 4 years, $57 million, $35 million guaranteed ($12.5 million cap hit): I think mocking this signing is kind of chalk, but it is chalk because it makes so much sense. The Jets showed a lot of interest in Thuney last year before he was tagged, and he is one of the best guards in the game. Furthermore, the whole interior offensive line needs a big improvement. To top that off, Thuney is remarkably durable and is just 28 years old, so he has a few good years ahead of him. He is one of the few players (the other two are listed here!) I am comfortable breaking the bank for, and Thuney is probably the guy I am most comfortable breaking the bank for.
Carl Lawson, EDGE, 4 years, $55 million, $30 million guaranteed ($12.875 million cap hit): Now I am moving to the defense and I will address the edge position in free agency. It is probably the most important position in the new Saleh defense (unfortunately aligning with the Jets biggest positional need on defense too). Shaq Barrett is probably the bigger name here, but Lawson will come at a cheaper price. Arguably, Lawson will also give you equal play. Last year, Lawson got 64 pressures and 32 QB hits which was the 6th and 2nd most in the NFL, respectively. Lastly, he is only 25 years old. If they can get this deal done, I think this is no-brainer for the Jets.
Mid-Tier Free Agents:
Keelan Cole, WR, 2 years, $11 million, $5 million guaranteed ($4 million cap hit): Keelan Cole put up 55 receptions and over 642 receiving yards last year in a dismal Jags’ offense. I really like this year’s second tier of free agent wide receivers. They can come cheap, and still make a measurable improvement on the offense, so I would avoid the bigger names. I think Cole has gone under the radar and would be a great fit for the Jets.
Jason Verrett, CB, 2 years, $10 million, $5 million guaranteed ($5 million cap hit): Verrett follows Robert Saleh to NY. He has not been particularly healthy throughout the course of his career but when he was healthy, he has been good (and last year was one of those years he was good). Jets can structure this deal to get out of it next year if he flops.
Tevin Coleman, RB, 1 year, $1.75 million, $1.25 million guaranteed (1.75 million cap hit): Like Verrett, Coleman is also making the trip from San Fran to NY. Coleman provides a speed dynamic in the backfield. He is injury prone, but he will come cheap.
Tyrod Taylor, QB, 1 year, $5 million, $2.5 million guaranteed ($5 million cap hit): The Jets have not had a credible backup QB in a couple years. Taylor is a solid option.
Erik Harris, S, 2 years, $5 million, $1.75 million guaranteed ($2 million cap hit): Good safety depth. Harris had a decent year with Oakland last year. He is some insurance if Ashtyn Davis struggles.
Alex Anzalone, LB, 1 year, $2 million, $1 million guaranteed ($2 million cap hit): Anzalone played admirably for the Saints last year in a reserve role. He is decent in coverage. Anzalone good insurance at linebacker given Blake Cashman’s injury history.
Cap Room: $19,113,854 (courtesy of OTC)
*note: contract length and guarantee were inspired by PFF’s contract projections
6. Draft (All picks went through TDN’s mock draft machine)
Round 1, Pick 11 Jets Select Zach Wilson, QB, BYU: The new franchise QB will be Zach Wilson. I am personally completely on the Zach Wilson train. There may be some that Justin Fields has that are better than Wilson at this point, but Wilson’s instincts are just off the chart. The best way I can describe it is that the position just comes so naturally to Wilson. It is impossible to not get excited when imagining what he can become. Additionally, if I am being somewhat predictive, this is the likeliest scenario at this point.
TRADE!!!: Jets trade 1st round pick (pick 23) for the Bills’ 2021 1st round pick (pick 30), 2021 3rd round pick (pick 93), 2022 4th round pick
Round 1, Pick 30 Jets Select Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida:
So, this may seem like a strange trade at first glance, but I think there is some logic behind this potential trade for both teams.
Firstly, in this scenario Jaycee Horn is still on the draft board. The Bills are looking to make a Super Bowl run next year, and corner is a massive need for them. There is somewhat of a drop off in corners after Horn in the draft this year, and the Bills are looking to get a day one starter. Next, you may be thinking Hmm strange that the Jets would make a draft day trade with a division rival, but Joe Douglas has shown he is not afraid of making deals with teams in the AFC East (including a day 3 trade with New England last year), so this would not be outside the realm of the possibility.
More importantly from the Jets perspective: I am really warming up to the idea of trading down a bit from 23 and accumulating even more draft capital. There are a bunch of prospects of roughly equal talent once you get past that first tier (dozen or so) of prospects. And that holds true ESPECIALLY at the Jets’ positions of need – i.e. EDGE, O-Line and as I will talk about below, Wide Receiver. Right now, the Jets could wait until day two to continue to address the EDGE and Offensive Line, since the classes there are so deep.
At 23, I would have been looking to target a wide receiver, given how free agency played out in this scenario. Right now, the Jets have Denzel Mims as the prototypical X receiver. He is the guy with a big catch radius who can win contested catches. They have Jamison Crowder in the slot. I am looking for the Jets to acquire their starting "Z" receiver. A guy who is speedy, explosive, or a technician who can win on short routes and be a big "Yards After the Catch" threat. The Jets need that Deebo Samuel, or Brandon Aiyuk player to fit in the "Shanahan offense." Rashod Bateman, Kadarius Toney, and Rondale Moore are slightly different prospects but would all be great fits on the Jets in this role. In the draft machine I ran through, they are all still on the board at 23. Additionally, I rate them all as almost equal prospects in my draft board. There is a high probability, at least one (if not all three) will still be on the board at 30.
In the scenario I ran through Bateman went before 30, but Toney and Moore were still on the board. I took Toney, simply because Moore’s injury history. That was the tiebreaker. Kadarius Toney is not quite as fast as Rondale Moore, but he is explosive and great with the ball in his hands. Additionally, he is a particularly good route runner on some of those short and intermediate routes, and he is always a threat to burn a corner deep. If Toney is taken, I am perfectly comfortable with taking Moore, since he will likely still be available.
Round 2, Pick 34 Jets Select Landon Dickerson, C, Alabama: I love this fit for the Jets. Dickerson was the best Center in college football last year, winning the Rimington Trophy. He is strong, excellent at the point of attack, and has a nasty demeanor which I think will rub off on the whole offensive line. There are injury concerns which I think do knock him down to the second round. Additionally, he is coming off of an ACL tear. But, I think at pick 34, this is a risk more than worth taking.
Round 2, Pick 51 Jets Select Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas: The buzz around Joseph Ossai seems to have cooled off a bit in recent weeks (Jayson Oweh is the big name now at edge), and Ossai has fallen to pick 51 in this mock draft machine. This may be a bit of a confusing scheme fit for the Jets, since Ossai has spent his career a bit as a tweener (between being a SAM and a 3-4 outside linebacker). But I do not think that should stop the Jets from taking a player of Ossai’s caliber. Robert Saleh has shown to be adaptive with his defenses and will figure out how to best utilize his skillset. He is a naturally gifted player with a quick first step, powerful arms, and excellent motor. He is a bit raw with his pass rush moves, but I have no doubt he can improve them.
Round 3, Pick 66 Jets Select Michael Carter, RB, North Carolina: Michael Carter is another piece that contributes to my goal of completely revamping the Jets offense to make it younger and more explosive. He was the 2nd piece in the Tar Heels’ two-headed-monster-rushing-attack. Carter, just for himself had excellent production at 1,512 yards from scrimmage and 11 total TDs in his senior season. He is a dynamic rusher, with great speed and acceleration. Additionally, he has great vision and will thrive in making the right decisions in the Jets’ new zone rushing attack. Carter will also be helpful in the Jets’ passing game, adding yet another new weapon for Zach Wilson. Watching Carter will be quite a welcome difference from having to watch Frank Gore for most snaps last year.
Round 3, Pick 86 Jets Select Amari Rodgers, WR, Clemson: This may be a bit early for Rodgers and if you asked me a month ago whether I would want the Jets to pick him in the third round I would have scoffed. But the more I think about it, the more I like this fit. Crowder will probably be gone next year, and the Jets need a slot receiver to replace him. Arguably, Rodgers may be the best slot receiver in the class, and he was certainly Trevor Lawrence’s favorite target last year at Clemson. The way I see it is that no one trait really pops out at me with Rodgers, but he is just very solid at every aspect of the game. He has a good burst, good hands, great with the ball in his hands, has great physicality, and is a good athlete who just seems to get always get separation through his talent even though he really is not a "route technician." He has shown improvement and has the potential to grow into a solid starter.
Round 3, Pick, 93 Jets Select Brady Christensen, OT, BYU: Now that we have Zach Wilson, lets give him his college blindside protector. Christensen is an incredibly polished player, and he is a very good mover. He is quick off the snap and is refined in his kick steps. I think his functional strength will limit his ceiling to some extent, but I think he has a high enough floor to be a sturdy starter. Even out of the gate, I think Christensen can challenge George Fant for the starting right tackle job.
Round 4, Pick 107 Jets Select Israel Mukuamu, CB, South Carolina: The Jets have so many needs, so the corner position has not been prioritized compared to other positions in this AGOP, but I would be very happy taking Mukuamu in the fourth round. He is a big, strong, and athletic corner with excellent ball skills. He doesn’t have the quickest twitch, but I think he would be a very solid depth piece on this team, who could develop into a contributor someday. He is an especially good scheme fit for the Jets as well.
Round 5, Pick 146 Jets Select Richard LeCounte III, S, Georgia: This is a "Best Player Available" pick for me. LeCounte is an instinctive, rangy safety who is comfortable in the middle of the field as a "free safety." He is not the most athletic nor the fastest, but he has enough skills in his toolkit to be a starter someday. Additionally, I think LeCounte can be a hedge if Ashtyn Davis busts.
Round 5, Pick 154 Jets Select Tre’ McKitty, TE, Georgia: Back-to-back Bulldogs (Though McKitty really mostly played for FSU before transferring). McKitty is a fairly athletic and versatile tight end. He played a lot of H-back in college and was a decent blocker. I think a player like him can replace Trevon Wesco’s role as the "blocking tight end." But frankly McKitty is a better blocker and has much better hands than Wesco. In this AGOP, Wesco will be cut in training camp.
Round 6, Pick 185 Jets Select Jose Borregales, K, Miami: At this point, there is not much talent left in the draft. I am not a huge Sam Ficken fan, and the Jets took a punter in the 6th round last year. Why not take a guy who hit 20/22 FGs last year and fill the kicker need? In this AGOP Sam Ficken will be cut in training camp as well.
7. Roster Projection (starters in bold, rookies in italics)
QB: Zach Wilson, Tyrod Taylor, James Morgan
RB: Michael Carter, Tevin Coleman, La’Mical Perine, Ty Johnson
WR: Denzel Mims, Kadarius Toney, Keelan Cole, Vyncint Smith
Slot WR: Jamison Crowder, Amari Rodgers
TE: Hunter Henry, Chris Herndon, Tre’ McKitty
LT: Mekhi Becton, Chuma Edoga
LG: Joe Thuney, Cameron Clark
C: Landon Dickerson
RG: Connor McGovern, Greg Van Roten
RT: George Fant, Brady Christensen
Defense (base nickel):
DL: Quinnen Williams, Foley Fatukasi, John Franklin-Myers, Nathan Shepherd, Kyle Phillips, Jabari Zuniga
EDGE: Carl Lawson, Joseph Ossai, Frankie Luvu, Bryce Huff
LB: C.J. Mosley, Neville Hewitt, Alex Anzalone, Blake Cashman
CB: Jason Verrett, Bryce Hall, Bless Austin, Lamar Jackson, Israel Mukuamu
Slot CB: Brian Poole, Javelin Guidry
S: Marcus Maye, Ashtyn Davis, Erik Harris, Richard LeCounte III
K: Jose Borregales
P: Braden Mann
LS: Thomas Hennessy
That’s it! The offense is largely revamped: new QB, better playmakers, an upgraded O-line, and the defense gets some reinforcements. Let me know your thoughts below!