It has been a long time since the Jets have had this much excitement and potential going into an offseason: on the roster, there are talented young players who have bought in; in free agency, there more cap space and flexibility than almost any team; and in the draft, the Jets have the second-most draft capital for any team since 1999. Unfortunately, it’s not all roses in Florham Park, as the Jets are still coming off yet another brutal season with holes across the roster. Critical to getting better will be avoiding past mistakes. Last offseason, the Jets committed roughly $40 million to one-year, depth-level rentals that were ultimately replaced by Day 3 rookies (e.g., Michael Carter), waiver additions (e.g., Quincy Williams), mid-year trades (e.g., LDT), or presumed backups (e.g., Braxton Berrios). Whether due to injuries or ineffectiveness, spending lavishly on free agency’s "middle class" failed to pay off. Instead, the Jets should employ a "barbell strategy" of prioritizing premium players while filling the rest of the roster with interesting depth options. Overall, the Jets should be targeting youth and leadership while continuing to grow its long-term capital.
Before diving in, we should note that existing contract data is based on OverTheCap (as of 3/13); AAV estimates are roughly based on PFF (where available); trades are informed by GGN guidelines, league rumors, and historical precedents; and drafting was based on DraftTek and NFL Mock Draft Database. For cap space figures shown at the start of each section, the roster additions’ cap hits are adjusted by $895k (based on OverTheCap) to reflect the replacement of a lower-cost player. For example, if Ryan Griffin is cut, the $3.0 million of cap savings is offset by the $0.9 million cost of a replacement player.
Cap Space: $48.5 million (OverTheCap does not include announced re-signings listed below)
Offensive Needs: WR, TE, IOL
Defensive Needs: EDGE, CB, S
Announced Re-Signings: Adjusted cap space of $46.6 million
Values are assumed, as actual data has not yet been announced
Connor McDermott, OT: $1.5 million, 1 year
Lamarcus Joyner, S: $2 million, 1 year
Will Parks, S: $1 million, 1 year
Cuts: $68.3 million in cap space after cuts
Connor McGovern, OC ($9.0 million saved): Too may opportunities to upgrade over an average player
Sheldon Rankins, DT ($5.4 million saved): Too expensive for depth, and too bad last year to start
Greg Van Roten, RG ($3.5 million saved): Overdue cut following consistent weak performance
Ryan Griffin, TE ($3.0 million saved): Same as Van Roten
Cameron Clark ($0.7 million saved): Already announced plans to retire due to medical issues
Re-Signings: $65.0 million in cap space after re-signings
Joe Flacco, QB ($2.5 million / 1 year): Maintains continuity in the QB room for Zach Wilson.
Mike White, QB (Original Round RFA Tender, $2.4 million / 1 year): Talented young backup who returns a 5th round pick if signed elsewhere.
Eddy Piniero ($1 million / 1 year): Was solid ending the year, and deserves to compete next season.
Others that have already been announced
Jeff Smith, WR ($895k / 1 year)
Tim Ward, EDGE ($895k / 1 year)
Javelin Guidry, CB ($895k / 1 year)
Elijah Riley, S ($895k / 1 year)
Jovante Moffatt, S ($895k / 1 year)
Pre-Draft Trades: $50.8 million in cap space after trades
Jets trade 2022 Pick 4-116 to the 49ers for Javon Kinlaw, DT, and 2022 Pick 5-172
This trade allows the Jets to replenish its IDL depth with a former first round pick chosen under Robert Saleh to replace the traded DeForest Buckner. In contrast with free agent options, Kinlaw offers significant upside relative to the remaining $4.7 million he’s owed over two years. As a former first round draft pick, Kinlaw can also be extended for a 5th year option, offering the Jets even greater long-term value in this deal. Despite these merits, Kinlaw appears gettable for this price because of a combination of ineffectiveness and injuries to start his career. Although the 49ers may prefer to start fresh with a much earlier pick on Day 3, Kinlaw would be an ideal rotational depth piece in New York who Robert Saleh may be able to get more out of.
Jets trade 2022 Picks 1-10, 5-146 and a 2023 2nd Round Pick to the Seahawks for D.K. Metcalf, WR, and 2022 Pick 2-40
Trade also includes extension for $110 million / 5 years ($60 million guaranteed)
$20mm signing bonus with Years 1-2 guaranteed (and half of Year 3)
Cap hits: $14mm / $24mm / $24mm / $24mm / $24mm
The Jets finally add a true WR1 by capitalizing on the Seahawks’ recent rebuilding efforts. D.K. Metcalf is a rare talent, especially given his age, experience, and consistency. Although Seattle might be apprehensive to deal with the Jets again, this value may be too much to pass on, as the inclusion of a 2023 2nd round pick would make this the richest WR trade package in recent history (~1,150 - 1,300 net points) by a comfortable margin (all recent deals listed below). For the Jets, this hefty price is worthwhile, as it gives the Jets a true WR1 who crushes man coverage and could offer an exciting blend of downfield, contested-catch dominance and YAC ability underneath and over the middle with elite career success rates on slants. This trade helps to ensure that Zach Wilson’s rookie contract gets maximized with a better WR option than any alternatives in the draft or free agency. Accordingly, the corresponding contract extension pays Metcalf as a top performer, tying Julio Jones for the 2nd-highest AAV and tying Amari Cooper for the 4th-highest guarantee. Despite this, the contract’s structure would give the Jets an out after Year 2, allowing for long-term flexibility.
Recent Trade Examples: Comparing recent trade packages by value on the DraftTeck Pick Value Chart
- Julio Jones (June 2021, ~400-450 net points): 2022 2nd & 4th for Jones & 2022 6th
- Stefon Diggs (March 2020, ~850 net points): 2020 1-22, 5-155 & 6-201, and 2021 4th for Diggs & 7-239
- OBJ (March 2019, ~1,200 net points): 2019 1-17 & 3-95 and Jabrill Peppers for OBJ
- Amari Cooper (October 2018, ~600-800 net points): 2019 1st for Cooper
Free Agency: $23.1 million in cap space after free agency
Due to the Jets’ lack of top-end talent combined with an opportunity to earn compensatory picks next year, the Jets should prioritize adding a handful of Tier 1 players while filling the remaining roster with low-cost / high-upside veterans. In this scenario, the Jets would find leaders and long-term solutions to their most glaring needs while also adding starters to fill holes across the roster. Even further, this approach builds future resources by adding 3-4 compensatory picks in Day 3 of next year’s draft.
Tier 1 Priorities: $28.5 million in cap space after Tier 1 free agents
J.C. Jackson, CB (26 years old): $105 million, 5 years ($67 million guaranteed)
$30mm signing bonus with Years 1-3 guaranteed
Cap Hits: $10mm / $22.5mm / $22.5mm / $22.5mm / $22.5mm
A great way to win in the AFC East is to stop the pass, and the best way to address that is by pairing Bryce Hall with one of best ballhawks in the NFL. Jackson has already had the most INTs to start a career (25) since 2000, with only Richard Sherman, Marcus Peters, and Ed Reed surpassing 20. The combination of year-to-year repeatability with high-difficulty plays suggests that Jackson’s turnovers are a matter of skill, rather than luck. To attract him to become New York’s CB1, the Jets will need to set the market at CB, exceeding Jalen Ramsey’s $100 million extension. Fortunately, the Jets are well-positioned to add Jackson, as upcoming extensions for Denzel Ward, Jaire Alexander, and others will continue to surpass this mark. Even recently, the Dolphins made Byron Jones the highest paid CB for a brief period. All considered, this is a fair price for the Jets to pay to give Robert Saleh one of the NFL’s best defensive playmakers.
Backup Plan: Sign Carlton Davis to $80 million / 5 years
James Daniels, RG (24 years old): $60 million, 5 years ($45 million guaranteed)
$15mm signing bonus with Years 1-3 guaranteed
Cap Hits: $10mm / $12.5mm / $12.5mm / $12.5mm / $12.5mm
Signing James Daniels is akin to adding an extra fist rounder. In terms of both guarantees and total dollars, this contract would still fall slightly short of the 4th pick’s, allowing the Jets to add a more experienced and consistent player than any available draft options. Furthermore, Daniels is incredibly young, as he’s only 10 days older than likely first rounder, Bernhard Raimann. As a player, the former Hawkeyes and Bears captain graded out as one of the ten best RGs last year, according to PFF, and after moving around the interior O-Line to start his career, is only now settling into a consistent role. To draw Daniels to the Jets, the contract offers a guarantee above projections, however his mix of youth, upside, and leadership makes Daniels a long-term solution to one of the Jets’ biggest needs.
Backup Plan: Sign Austin Corbett to $40 million / 4 years
Ben Jones, C (32 years old): $21 million / 3 years ($15 million guaranteed)
$6mm signing bonus with Years 1-2 guaranteed
Cap Hits: $5mm / $8mm / $8mm
Ben Jones has been a consistent top-five center over the past several years, but surprisingly is not expected to demand a market-leading contract. Despite his age, Jones’ three best seasons have also been his three most recent, suggesting the ability to age well in the wide zone system like Alex Mack has done. The sense that the Jets could add such a talented anchor for their line while also saving several million in cap space is a no-brainer opportunity. As a veteran from the Titans and former captain at UGA, Jones can lead the Jets’ young offensive line while acting as another playoff-tested mentor to help Zach Wilson grow.
Backup Plan: Sign Brian Allen to $21 million / 3 years
Depth-Level Additions: $23.1 million in cap space after depth-level additions
Alec Ingold, FB (25 years old): $4 million / 2 years ($1.5mm guaranteed / $2.5mm non-guaranteed); former Raiders captain who was non-tendered and could be a solid plug-in for LaFleur’s Kyle Juszczyk role, as well as a special teams contributor. Contract structured like Dan Arnold’s last year.
Hayden Hurst, TE (28 years old): $1.5 million / 1 year; severely overlooked in a deep TE market as a dynamic former first rounder who started to break out in 2020 before getting blocked by Kyle Pitts. Beyond Hurst, the abundance of viable TEs (~15 potential starters) suggests that him or another exciting player (i.e., OJ Howard, Eric Ebron, or Tyler Conklin) will likely slip through the cracks.
Will Hernandez, OG (26 years old): $1.25 million / 1 year; aggressive blocker with physicality and nastiness that’s been compared to Icky Ekwonu and the versatility to play at both LG and RG.
Tom Compton, OT (32 years old): $1.75 million / 1 year; good swing tackle who filled in well last year for Mike McGlinchey in SF to replace Morgan Moses. Like Hurst, the supply of useful depth tackles (e.g., Dennis Kelly, Mitchell Schwartz, etc.) suggests that there will be value in the later stages of free agency.
Mo Hurst, DT (26 years old): $1.5 million / 1 year; rotational DT from SF to compete with Kinlaw.
Vic Beasley, EDGE (29 years old): $1 million / 1 year; once-promising prospect with a 16-sack season under Jets’ DC, Jeff Ulbrich, who could be this year’s Arden Key.
Keanu Neal, S / LB (26 years old): $1.5 million / 1 year; severely overlooked rebound candidate after a down year in Dallas, who can reunite with Ulbrich and play SS in base packages and LB in nickel. In SF, Saleh showed that he could extract solid play from inexpensive starters like Jaquiski Tartt and Jimmie Ward, so these positions appear to be ideal spots to target stopgap value instead of the best free agents, especially after the announced re-signings of Lamarcus Joyner and Will Parks to compete.
Malik Hooker, FS (26 years old): $2.5 million / 1 year; another Cowboys departee who’s getting overlooked. Despite injury issues, Hooker has consistently produced a pace of ~3 INT per year. Hooker’s skillset is an ideal fit as a deep-third centerfielder with the ability to be the "last line of defense" vs. the run. Even if Hooker signs elsewhere, options like Anthony Harris would present similarly ideal upside.
Draft: $7.2 million in cap space after draft
1-4: Kayvon Thibodeaux (EDGE, Oregon)
There’s not much explanation needed for this selection. Thibodeaux is an astounding physical talent with the requisite production and work ethic to project as an elite pass rusher. For the Jets, he’s an overdue solution to the multi-decade hole at EDGE, and opposite Carl Lawson and with Quinnen Williams and JFM inside, Thibodeaux could elevate this unit to an imposing force for offensive lines.
2-35: Trey McBride (TE, Colorado State)
McBride gives the Jets a true TE1 with a dominant college track record as both a receiver and blocker. Since the Senior Bowl, the Jets coaching staff has raved about McBride, so there’s no sense in wasting time to get their guy to fill one of the biggest remaining needs on the roster.
2-38: Jalen Pitre (Slot CB / S, Baylor)
Ideally, this pick would be used to select one of the top-tier WRs that’s fallen into Day 2, but with none remaining, the Jets choose to add another explosive playmaker to the defense. Pitre’s combination of exceptional coverage skills with leading PFF grades in run defense make him a do-it-all playmaker across the entire defense. For Robert Saleh, he’ll be a valuable weapon to deploy across the defense, similar to how Jevon Holland was used this year in Miami.
2-40 (from SEA in D.K. Metcalf trade): Darian Kinnard (OG / OT, Kentucky)
Kinnard is a physical monster who established himself as the SEC’s best run blocker last year. At 6’5" and 344 lbs, Kinnard is able to step in at either RG or RT, ensuring that the offensive line will be well-stocked going forward, in the event that Mekhi Becton gets hurt again or George Fant leaves in free agency next year. Although not filling any immediate needs, drafting Kinnard allows the Jets to continue focusing on BPA, instead of continuing to plug holes in the future.
3-69: Derion Kendrick (CB, UGA)
Despite some character concerns stemming from Kendrick’s dismissal from Clemson last season, he has been one of the most dominant CBs in college football. Last season, Kendrick had the 5th-lowest passer rating allowed since 2017 (38.6) while not allowing any touchdowns in the SEC. With the addition of J.C. Jackson, Kendrick is a welcomed upside selection, who could compete for reps with Bryce Hall and Brandin Eichols, but isn’t immediately necessary.
4-110: Calvin Austin (WR / RS, Memphis)
Although undersized, Austin is an electric playmaker both as a receiver and as a returner. At the start of Day 3, Austin would be an ideal replacement for Braxton Berrios with the ability to step into his role across all phases of the game.
5-163: Jerome Ford (RB, Cincinnati)
Despite needing to improve as a blocker and pass-catcher, Jerome Ford could be an explosive power-rushing complement to Michael Carter after averaging 6.1 YPC and running a 4.4 40-yard dash. After a successful first year starting, the 4-star Alabama transfer could continue to grow as an RB2 for the Jets.
5-172: Matt Araiza (P, San Diego State)
Although we don’t need a punter, Araiza is too good to pass up, as this man hits absolute nukes. Hailed as the best punter prospect since Michael Dickinson (drafted in 2018), drafting Araiza could improve an already-strong punting unit by adding the ability to reverse the field with multiple 80+ yard punts and pre-empt an extension for Braden Mann. He’d also just be a ton of fun to watch.
Depth Chart Summary: $14.3 million in cap space after roster trimming
QB: Zach Wilson, Joe Flacco, Mike White
RB: Michael Carter, Jerome Ford, Austin Walter
FB: Alec Ingold
WR: D.K. Metcalf, Elijah Moore, Corey Davis, Calvin Austin, Denzel Mims, Jeff Smith
TE: Trey McBride, Hayden Hurst, Kenny Yeboah
OT: Mekhi Becton, George Fant, Tom Compton, Connor McDermott
OG: Alijah Vera Tucker, James Daniels, Darian Kinnard, Will Hernandez
OC: Ben Jones, Ross Pierschbacher
DE: Carl Lawson, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Vic Beasley, Jabari Zuniga
IDL: Quinnen Williams, John Franklin-Myers, Javon Kinlaw, Mo Hurst, Jonathan Marshall
LB: CJ Mosley, Quincy Williams, Keanu Neal, Hamsah Nasirildeen, Jamien Sherwood
CB: J.C. Jackson, Bryce Hall, Derion Kendrick, Brandin Eichols, Michael Carter II, Justin Hardy
S: Jalen Pitre, Malik Hooker, Lamarcus Joyner, Ashtyn Davis, Jason Pinnock
K: Eddy Piniero
P: Matt Araiza
LS: Thomas Hennessy
After drafting Zach Wilson last year, the clock officially began on the Jets window to go all-in and build a competitive roster. In this offseason, it will be vital that this goal is advanced to give the Jets the best possible opportunity to compete at a high level with their young core and fairly assess Wilson as a potential franchise QB. By adding playmakers on both sides of the ball while also plugging key holes in the trenches, the Jets can enter 2022 with a legitimate chance to compete within their division and hopefully more broadly. Long-term, although this approach ties up cap space with salary step-ups for Metcalf and Jackson, only George Fant appears to be an expensive upcoming free agent, and the contracts of Corey Davis, Carl Lawson, JFM, and CJ Mosley will be able to free up to ~$45 million in additional cap space. Beyond the cap outlook, 3-4 additional comp picks should help supplement a core that will largely remain intact. Overall, this plan seeks to add great, young impact players at each position group as the next step towards building a championship team.