There is no offseason anymore in the NFL. With free agency and the NFL Draft approaching everyone has to be ready for the excitement, the joy, and the inevitable heartbreak.
So let’s look at what the Jets can do to make this year an unmitigated delight for a fanbase that hasn’t had much to cheer about for the last few years. There are many paths the Jets can take to become relevant again in the football world. but I will be looking at a single vision for a dream offseason.
Now is this path possible?
The answer that is yes, but is it plausible? Well probably not, although it’s within reason if all the cards fall into place, and the Jets get dealt a straight flush on the opening hand. That said the reasoning is sound. Let’s take a look a what the Jets can do.
What will happen with Sam Darnold?
The biggest question surrounding the Jets in the 2021 offseason is the quarterback position or more importantly Sam Darnold. I think the Jets have already made their decision on Darnold but are not releasing that opinion to the press. Supposedly when asked about the availability of Sam Darnold from other teams the Jets replied that they haven’t finished evaluating the other QBs in the 2021 NFL Draft yet. Then Joe Douglas said that if someone calls he will answer the phone.
That is not be a ringing endorsement. How do you think Jets teammates would interpret the organization’s views on Sam? If the front office has no confidence that Sam is the best guy for the job then why should they think he is going to lead them to the promised land?
The Jets will not pick up Sam’s 5th year option which is a reasonable $18 million+ for a starting QB. So if the Jets were to bring back Sam and he has a better year, like 3,000 yards 25 TDs and 18 INTs what do you do then? Do you try to re-sign him after a so-so year? If you don’t re-sign him who will be your QB?
If the Jets can’t guarantee Darnold’s contract then why would anyone think the Jets would keep him around when there are so many options available?
For everyone who is wondering about Sam, the answer is he is already gone. The Jets just haven’t figured out where he is going and the price they will receive for him.
That Joe Douglas finally realized the best thing to do is shop Sam Darnold before the trading starts up in a couple of weeks is a good thing. They can get teams to bid against each other for the rights to a young QB. Carolina, San Francisco, Washington, and Chicago all need a young QB and have offenses that Sam Darnold could work in.
What are the possibilities and the ramifications of finding a new QB?
The Jets can either draft a QB or they can trade for one. Drafting a QB allows you time to develop your roster with the help of the rookie salary scale. If you trade for a QB you assume that contract which is probably huge. You need some cap space, which luckily the Jets have. They also could have more if they shed some other hefty contracts.
Rookie QBs give you hope and salary cap relief, but they are not guaranteed to develop. Teams are lucky when they are in a position to draft a franchise QB, but sometimes they are not what they seem like a Jameis Winston (#1 overall), Marcus Mariota (#2 overall), Jared Goff (#1 overall), or Carson Wentz (#2 overall). No matter how well you scout a QB the conclusion is still a projection of what he can do or become. It’s just the way it is.
Which is the best way to move forward?
The best way to build a team depends on circumstance. What assets do you have? What is available for you?
The most desired way is to build through the Draft which is cost effective, but it takes time. In the case of the Jets it has taken 50 years worth of time. Of course you have to hit on numerous picks over a number of years if you want to build a strong team.
Trading players and building through free agency is faster, but it’s very expensive. You have to be a keen judge of character in addition to being smart about your philosophy. This is usually fool’s gold and gets you into cap hell unless you’re smart about it. It oddly helps when your team is so bereft of talent that you can let almost half the team go. This can give you a boatload of money to spend.
I have staunchly always favored the Draft approach, but this year might be different. Let me explain why. The Jets have to get rid of dead weight on the team. Henry Anderson is already gone with many more to follow. The league sets a minimum amount to the salary cap that must be used. The Jets didn’t use all theirs last year. This year the league increased the minimum 2021 Salary Cap by $5 million per club, from $175 million to $180 million.
There is a rolling average for each team, and you must stay above the minimum salary cap during any 5 year increment. So if the Jets don’t sign some free agents and go with a bunch of rookies they will drop below this threshold.
The problem is you have to sign great free agents to make your team a lot better, but high quality players will not sign with a team like the Jets because they want to win. The Jets not only need to sign great free agents but they need to sign great free agents in the prime of their careers. That ain’t happening with a rookie QB or some retread bridge QB like a Nick Foles.
What happens in that situation is you sign players who were great at one time and now they are looking for one more huge payday before they retire. It’s a cash grab before the end. This is how you throw a boatload of money to a guy like Trumaine Johnson. The players will take the money but not work real hard because the Jets will stink whether they play great or not. Why bother making an effort. This will lead to more years of losing football.
But what if you have a top 5 talent at QB like a Deshaun Watson? Watson brings hope to a franchise, and players would want to play with him. Players are smart enough to realize the Texans were being run into the ground by Bill O’Brien and the entire organization.
What if a free agent signed with a team with Deshaun Watson and a new coach who is smart, motivated, and highly respected by numerous high profile players. . Once one player signs, then another, then there are players looking and hoping to sign with the Jets.
What is the plan of action?
If the Texans are eventually going to trade Deshaun Watson they will need to do so before the Draft so they can possibly find a replacement for their star QB. So what is a fair price? There is no really good answer for that as a franchise QB like Watson. He is priceless unless he won’t play for you. Unfortunately for the Texans, that seems to be the the case. This drops the price but how much? Or better yet how much would the Jets pay?
Fortunately again the Jets have some Draft capital to use in such a situation. With a valuable pick like #2 the Texans could draft a QB.
The teams can quibble about the price, but I think in this situation (with Watson not budging on his demand) the Jets could trade their #2 pick in this year’s draft, the earliest of their two 1st round picks in 2022, and a 2nd round pick in 2023. This gives the Texans ample capital to enhance their franchise while the Jets would still have a 1st round selection in every year.
Who stays, and who goes?
Now with Watson in the fold the Jets will need to add talent but first we have to decide who stays and who goes from the roster of last year. It is best to do this player by player.
George Fant OT-
Fant last year was rated #64 out of 79 players at the tackle position. With a salary of $9,850,000 for this year with only a $1,000,000 dead money if he is cut it is a no brainer to let him go. The gamble that a cheap Fant would somehow become even an average tackle was foolhardy. My screaming rant when the Jets signed him was spot on. I knew that was a mistake. Let’s hope Joe Douglas learns from this misdeed and finds better quality. Don’t worry we will help him do that.
Jamison Crowder WR (slot)-
Crowder has been a nice player for the Jets when he has been healthy. Yet he is a slot receiver who is set to earn an unmanageable $11,375,000 in 2021. He only has a $1,000,000 dead cap hit if released. The Jets could and try to renegotiate that contract, but for now we will just say goodbye and maybe be reunited at another time...or not.
Sam Darnold QB-
We know Sam is gone. He will leave behind about $5 million in dead cap space, but it’s the price you have to pay. I think if Joe plays his cards right he could get more than people expect for Sam. There are numerous teams who want a young QB. For the sake of argument let’s say Joe gets picks #51 and 120 from Washington for Sam. Washington is cutting Alex Smith and eating $8.6 million in dead money over the next two years. Sam is a young QB who will do what Ron Rivera wants.
Henry Anderson DE-
Already gone with a cap savings of $8.2 million
Alex Lewis OG-
Lewis graded out well for the Jets last year being the #26 out of 80 players, but he didn’t seem like a difference maker on the field. He is also scheduled to make over $7 million this year. Joe will probably keep him, but I would replace him and save $6.4 million. He is too pricey for a backup.
Greg Van Roten OG-
Van Roten graded out as #42 out of 80 players but he too was not a difference maker on the line. His salary is low at $3.5 million so I’m sure I could get a 2022 7th round pick for him so that is what I would do.
Chris Herndon TE-
Herndon has been a huge disappointment after show some flashes early in his career. He doesn’t block well, and his drops are drive killers. It’s time we dropped him.
There are about 17 other players who I will not even discuss as they are bottom of the roster types with no guaranteed money. We hope they will not make the roster because the team obtains better replacements.
Just so you know who they are here you go:
Josh Doctson, Sharif Finch, Josh Malone, Noah Dawkins, Leo Koloamatangi, Mike White, Jimmy Murray, Chase McLaughlin, J.T. Hassell, Elijah Campbell, Saquon Hampton, D.J. Montgomery, Manasseh Bailey, John Daks, Zane Lewis, Connor Davis, and Pete Guerriero.
That gives the Jets $119,083,916 cap space left in 2021 (as per OTC). Our total cap space for 2022 is $163,062,310 so let’s re-sign a few of our own guys.
Just so you know the only guaranteed money in all these contracts is the signing bonus.
Brian Poole CB (slot)
3 year $22 million with $5 million signing bonus.
Yr. 1- [$4 million] Yr. 2- [$6 million] Yr. 3- [$7 Million]
Neville Hewitt (ILB)
2 year $5 Million with a $1 million signing bonus
Yr. 1- [$1.5 million] Yr. 2- [$2.5 million]
Marcus Maye (SS/FS)
4 Year $36 Million with a $8 million signing bonus
Yr. 1- [$4 million] Yr. 2- [$6 million] Yr. 3- [$8 million] Yr. 4- [10 million]
Matthias Farley (FS/SS)
Yr. 1- [1.2 million]
Tarell Basham (OLB/EDGE)
1 Year $1.2 million with a $200,000 signing bonus
Yr. 1- [$1 million]
Josh Adams (RB)
1 Year $920,000
Jeff Smith (WR)
1 Year $800,000
Frankie Luvu (OLB/EDGE)
1 year $920,000
Which outside free agents should we sign?
Last year Joe Douglas kind of used the quantity at a low price approach that didn’t work out so well. Let’s hope he learned from that and uses a smarter approach which is sign quality above all else. Make sure these players have talent and are in the prime of their careers. Look for players who are 27, 28, 29 years old. Then bring in drafted players to learn behind them ready to step up in case of injury. After the signings reach the end of their contracts you will have quality player to step into a starting role.
If you are going to spend serious Draft capital by trading for Watson and guarantee him a generous amount of money you should look to invest in the offensive line. Don’t be cheap. Bring in the best. By doing so not only are you protecting your investment but you also allow Watson to show what he can do. He was a top 5 QB in Houston while he was running for his life. Let’s see how things work with some time in the pocket and weapons to throw to.
Here we go...
Brandon Scherff (Guard)
I think Scherff is the premier guard on the market. He is better that Joe Thuney in both run and pass blocking and only a year older. This would take Scherff to age 34 which is not that old for a guard.
4 Year $62 Million with a $12 million signing bonus
Yr. 1- [$8 million] Yr. 2- [$10 million] Yr. 3- [$14 million] Yr. 4- [18 million]
Corey Linsley (Center)
Linsley is the top rated center in the NFL the last two years. The Jets centers have not been good, and even though we have to keep Connor McGovern because of his contract he can switch over to guard where he has played in the past. Plus you would have another center on hand in case of an injury.
4 Year $52 million with a $10 million signing bonus
Yr. 1- [$6 million] Yr. 2- [$10 million] Yr. 3- [$12 million] Yr. 4- [$14 million]
Allen Robinson (Wide Receiver)
Robinson has had two years with an iffy QB but still had 200 receptions. I would like to add some receivers through the draft but the Jets need a true #1 who can lead the WR room and teach them things only a player with experience would know. I think Robinson is a high character guy so he’s the one.
4 Year $70 million with a $16 million signing bonus
Yr. 1- [$8 million] Yr. 2- [$12 million] Yr. 3- [$16 million] Yr. 4- [$18 million]
William Jackson (Cornerback)
Jackson had another solid year with the Bengals. The Jets could use a solid defender on the outside, and Jackson is one of the players I was looking for. Sportrac has a calculated market value of $6.3 million, but I think he gets a little more than that.
3 Year $21 million with a $7 million signing bonus
Yr. 1- [$3 million] Yr. 2- [$5 million] Yr. 3- [$6 million]
Taylor Moten (Right Tackle)
27 year old Taylor Moton is a stud right tackle 6’ 5” 330 lbs for the Carolina Panthers. He graded out as the 13th best overall tackle out of 79 players at the position. He is great in the run game and well above average in the passing game. It would be nice to bookend two stud tackles. This could be just a dream as since I believe Carolina would be insanely foolish not to franchise tag Moton. There is no player even close to his level as a free agent.
4 Year $59 million with a $12 million signing bonus
Yr. 1- [$6 million] Yr. 2- [$12 million] Yr. 3- [$14 million] Yr. 4- [$15 million]
Shaquill Griffin (Cornerback)
Griffin is a quick/fast corner who can play in a multitude of defenses. He would be a day one starter across from William Jackson.
4 Year $44 million with a $10 million signing bonus
Yr. 1- $6 million Yr. 2- $8 million Yr. 3- $9 million Yr. 4- $11 million
Hunter Henry (Tight End)
The tight end position has been a black hole of production for the Jets the last decade. Henry brings high end talent to a position that Deshaun Watson likes to utilize.
3 Year $27 million with a $7 million signing bonus
Yr. 1- $4 million Yr. 2- $7 million Yr. 3- $9 million
Blake Bortles (Quarterback)
Bortles is a low cost QB with the type of movement skills needed in the new Jets offense. He has starting experience and would not be a total liability if needed.
1 Year $1.5 million contract
K. J. Wright (WILL LB)
Wright is the type of player who can play a pivotal role in coverage and edge defender on a defense while helping school the younger players along the way. He is the type of player who can turn a very good defense into a great defense.
3 Year $21 million with a $7 million signing bonus
Yr. 1- $3 million Yr. 2- $4 million Yr. 3- $7 million
That leaves the Jets with $32,877,250 in remaining cap space for 2021 with 49 players under contract. There is $54,395,644 cap space remaining for the 2022 season.
The 2021 Draft will take up about an estimated $11,931,278 in cap space, but that includes the #2 pick which is $4,310,594 of that total. Remember that has been traded away. Deshaun Watson’s contract cost to the Jets in 2021 is $10,540,000 which is amazingly inexpensive. That leaves at least a little under $15 million extra in cap space to use or roll over into 2022 when Watson’s contract inflates to $35,000,000 which is all guaranteed.
Who to pick in the NFL Draft?
I know Joe Douglas will be wheeling and dealing during the draft, but I only made one trade in my Jets draft with the Kansas city Chiefs trading up from #31 for the Jets #23 overall pick so h they can select the stud guard prospect Alijah Vera-Tucker out of USC. The Chiefs needed more inside offensive line help, and Tucker was by far the highest rated guard left on the board. They didn’t want to lose a chance to get him. The Jets received picks #32, 94 and 132 for their troubles.
Draft Pick #31
Terrace Marshall WR LSU 6’ 3” 205 lbs
The pick here gives the Jets wide receivers with speed plus great size. The idea here is to overwhelm the defense with tall, fast, athletic receivers forcing a mismatch for Deshaun Watson to exploit on every play.
Zaven Collins OLB/DE 6’ 4” 260 lbs
The athletic Collins has rare quickness for his size and would be a chess piece in a Robert Saleh defense. Collins can play all over the formation and allow the DC to scheme a mismatch where ever he finds it on tape. Collins has great instincts, and he outran the offense on this game winning INT in double overtime.
Javonte Williams RB 5’ 10 220 lbs
Williams is a 3 down back with great contact balance along with superior receiving skills. He has the body that can take a blow and keep going. He led all college RBs in broken tackle last year by a wide margin.
Pick #66 Elijah Moore WR (slot) Mississippi 5’ 9” 185 lbs
Quick, athletic, fast and tough. He ate Florida and Alabama alive this year. 86 Receptions for 1,193 yards in 8 games in 2020. 10/227 against Florida and 11/143 against Alabama. A replacement with upside for Jamison Crowder. I love this kid.
#86 Quinn Meinerz OC/OG 6’ 3 1/4” 320 lbs
Mieinerz is a small school guy who lit up the Senior Bowl where he shined as a center prospect even though he never had played center before. He manhandled most of the players down there, and if you watch his Wisconsin-Whitewater tape you will see players all hitting the turf. He is an excellent developmental prospect who could really become something special with NFL coaching. He is one guy who is not going to take this opportunity for granted. Here he is laying a guy out.
#94 Baron Browning OLB/ILB 6’ 3” 240
Saleh likes a fast athletic LB that he can use in a variety of ways. Browning will be a WILL at first as he learns the defense. He has coverage speed plus he is great on blitzes. He is just scraping the surface of what he can do. Saleh will bring out the rest. Browning is #5 here.
#103 Payton Turner DE 6’ 6” 270 lbs
Saleh also likes these tall DE’s with great length, and Turner fits the bill with his 35” arms. A converted defensive tackle in 2019 Turner has come a long way in a short period of time on the edge. Houston only played five games in 2020, but Turner had 25 tackles, 5 sacks and 10 1⁄2 tackles for loss.
#120 Paris Ford SS/FS 6’ 0” 190
A playmaker with speed. Ford can begin his career on the special teams until he learns the defense. Ford has great instincts and above average speed to make plays from sideline to sideline. He is #12 in this clip, just great desire.
#132 Cameron Sample DT/DE 6’ 3” 280 lbs
Powerful, quick and fast Sample is just beginning to develop into a scary player. There is a theme here on defense; get to the QB which is what Saleh wants.
$143 Tommy Tremble TE 6’ 4” 248 lbs
Sometimes the third option in the passing game for Notre Dame, Tremble has great speed plus he blocks real well as an inline player. A developmental TE who can learn while staring on special teams. A traits based player who has all the tools.
#151 Adrian Ealy OT 6’ 6” 327
Ealy is a big man with movement skills who showed up big time at the enior Bowl. He has a problem playing too high at Oklahoma but stayed down well in Mobile. He will fight for a backup job with Edoga early in his career as he develops. Here he is #59 on the pull.
#184 Bryan Mills CB 6’ 0” 180 lbs
Mills is a small school product from North Carolina Central out of the MEAC with good speed, quick feet, and great length (32” arms). He showed up big time at the Senior Bowl and looks like a very nice developmental player.
#245 Jose Borregales K 5’ 10” 205 lbs
Borregales has made 79.5% of his field goals as a collegian 70/88 and 168/171 extra points. he has a strong leg and will be great competition for Sam Ficken.
Once it is all said and done the roster should look like this. Of course the Jets will save a few bucks as not all these players will make the team. Some may make it to the practice squad or be gone altogether. The starters are not necessarily the player listed first or the position they are listed in. Many of the starters are interchangeable especially on the defensive line. Also the Jets will use a multifaceted approach to defense, not just a stagnant 3-4 or 4-3 alignment. These players will have a variety of roles but have the skill sets to do so. This would be a fast flowing dynamic, attacking defense that can find weaknesses in any offense. The goal here is to keep the other teams guessing while the defense causes havoc, creating turnovers and making negative plays for the offense.
Jets Possible Roster 2021
Quarterback- Deshaun Watson, Blake Bortles, James Morgan
Running Back- Javonte Williams, Lamical Perine, Ty Johnson, Josh Adams
Left Tackle- Mekhi Becton, Chuma Edoga
Left Guard- Connor McGovern, Cameron Clark
Center- Corey Linsley, Quinn Meinerz
Right Guard- Brandon Scherff, Cameron Clark
Right Tackle- Taylor Moten, Adrian Ealy
Wide Receiver- Allen Robinson, Jeff Smith, Jaleel Scott,
Wide Receiver- Denzel Mims, Terrace Marshall, Lawrence Cager
Wide Receiver (Slot)- Elijah Moore, Braxton Berrios
Tight End- Hunter Henry, Ryan Griffin, Tommy Tremble, Trevon Wesco
LDE- Payton Turner, John Franklin-Myers, Bryce Huff
LDT- Quinnen Williams, Nathan Shepherd
RDT- Folorunso Fatukasi, Tenzel Smart
RDE- Kyle Phillips, Tarell Basham, Jabari Zuniga
WILL- K.J. Wright, Baron Browning, Frankie Luvu
MIKE- C.J. Mosley, Neville Hewitt
SAM- Zaven Collins, Blake Cashman
CB- Shaquill Griffin, Bryce Hall, Bryan Mills, Lamar Jackson
CB- William Jackson III, Corey Ballentine, Kyron Brown, Bless Austin
CB (Slot)- Brian Poole, Javelin Guidry
SS- Paris Ford, Matthias Farley
FS- Marcus Maye, Ashtyn Davis
LS- Thomas Hennessy
P- Braden Mann
K- Sam Ficken, Jose Borregales
Some of the ideals of team building I believe in are built into this article; those are:
- Keep building a strength; continue to add to a team strength before it becomes a weakness. Also build on top of that strength; the defensive line was a strength but I put an emphasis on edge and interior pass rushing presence. You can’t rely on one or two guys to cause pressure it has to come from multiple players and multiple positions.
- Bring in strong young players behind established players. The reason being that young players can learn from those peers who are in front of them. If there is an injury they can come in better prepared than if they just started too early when they haven’t yet learned from the NFL coaching. The young players get too involved with learning what to do from their new playbook instead of learning better technique. Here some of the players brought in are 28-29 years old. The young players can take over for the big free agents in a few years without a serious drop of in play at a fraction of the cost. Then you continue that bringing in players behind them. Your backups can’t all be UDFAs and 7th round selections.
- Offensively you must cause a problem schematically for the defense. The Chiefs use speed and quickness across their receiving corps to overwhelm the defense since not every defensive player runs 4.3/40 in coverage. I used the same approach except with speed and size. No defensive backfield can cover numerous tall, fast receivers. It makes the defense adjust, play your safeties deeper in help mode which helps out the offense in intermediate routes and the running game.
- On the defense you need size and speed on the second level with players that can read a play and believe what they see. Hesitation is death on the 2nd and 3rd levels of the defense, you have to see it and go to make plays. You don’t know if a player has those skills or can learn those skills until they make it to the NFL except for generational players like a Ray Lewis or Mike Singletary. Keep bringing in players who fit the skill set if you don’t have a few already. Keep adding fast defensive talent.
- You can’t fake coverage. You need quality corners or you are destined to fail. Pass rush helps. Zone coverage will keep big plays to a minimum, but either you can cover or you can’t. You never have enough great corners. Select some every draft. Here I signed a couple of starters now in 2022. You need to bring in a couple high quality players to fill in behind these guys in hopes they take over in a year or two then do the same thing again.
- Character counts more than you realize. It is the biggest mistake most team make about players even though they spend a lot of money trying to figure out what their character is. I tried to pick players who show a positive if not great character. Poor character is like a rotten potato. A single one can ruin a 5lb bag. You especially don’t want a player with the wrong mindset around your young future stars. That could become a disaster in more ways than you could imagine. One team one goal approach.
These are some of the more important aspects of my team building design. There are more, but I won’t bore you with minutiae.
Let me know what you think.