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Could Desmond King be a potential Jets target in free agency?

NFL: Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

In the run-up to free agency, there’s been a lot of attention given to which big-name free agents the Jets should sign. However, we wanted to give some thought to a couple of lower-level signings that could benefit the team.

Before the tampering window opens, we’ll suggest one affordable defensive player and one on offense that could be a solid addition to next year’s roster, starting today with a defensive player.

Houston Texans defensive back Desmond King is out of contract so could he be a potential target for the Jets? The 27-year old is listed at 5’11” and 200 pounds and is a former fifth round pick out of Iowa.

Role

Over the course of his career, King has played primarily in the slot and was arguably one of the league’s most reliable nickelbacks in his first four seasons with the Chargers and Titans.

However, in 2021, he signed for Houston and ended up playing most of the season on the outside. While he had his ups and downs in that role, he seemed to settle down over the course of the season and led the team with three interceptions - one more than any Jets player had in 2021.

King had an outstanding college career as an outside cornerback but he slipped in the draft due to concerns over his athletic ability with some teams reportedly viewing him as a safety. This seemed harsh, because his combine numbers were more than adequate, including an outstanding three cone drill.

Ultimately, he dropped all the way into the fifth round and the Chargers got themselves a bargain as he excelled in the slot cornerback role and also in the return game.

There’s also some suggestion that he lacks the size to play on the outside but he managed to hold his own with the Texans. In terms of his scheme fit for the Jets, it’s worth noting that he’s bigger than both Brandin Echols and Javelin Guidry, who split most of the reps across from Bryce Hall last season. The Jets seem to have targeted players whose three-cone drill was good, so King might fit the athletic profile too.

As noted, King had his ups and downs on the outside, but he only gave up three touchdowns and had four penalties, while allowing a lower catch percentage than he typically had in the slot. He also only gave up one 40-yard play all year, which ironically was a 46-yard catch by Braxton Berrios.

If the Jets targeted King, it would likely be in part as Berrios’ replacement in the return game. King was an all-pro punt returner in 2018 and averaged a solid 9.1 yards per return in 2021. He’s also returned kickoffs in the past.

Cost

King provided the Texans with good value in 2021, as his cap number was just over $3 million. OverTheCap valued his contributions at over $4 million and Spotrac valued him at over $6 million. Although their valuations are an inexact science, that speaks to the fact although King might be seeking a slightly higher salary in 2022 and beyond, he probably won’t command starter-level money.

For a player whose primary position is as a slot cornerback it can be difficult to attract that kind of money. The Jets experienced this themselves with Brian Poole, who was expected to command around $8 million per year but ended up twice signing with the Jets for about half that amount.

If King also contributes in a full-time role as a return man, this would ensure the Jets are getting good value for money, because they’d need to add at least a couple of million dollars per year to Berrios’ contract if they were to retain him.

Conclusions

The important thing to note about the suggestion of making this signing is not that it’s specifically designed to bring King in to take a specific role, nor does it preclude them from making any other big moves such as using one of their first round picks on a potential starter or targeting another potential starting defensive back in free agency.

King is not likely to replace Michael Carter II in the slot or take over as a starter on the outside. However, his ability to play either position - and maybe safety as well - strengthens the depth for the secondary as a whole by giving them a viable option to fill in at multiple positions in the event of injuries or a downturn in performance.

If Berrios isn’t re-signed, this would be a smart move for the Jets to make, bringing the kind of upside, character and versatility the team has routinely targeted since Robert Saleh’s arrival.

Do you think this would be a good move? Who would be an affordable option you might target instead of - or even in addition to - this move?

We’ll be back in day or two with a suggestion for the offensive side of the ball.