The Jets are through with first part of OTAs and will continue over the new few weeks followed by mandatory minicamp on June 14th, 15th, and 16th. That will end the offseason practices and give players time off until the start of training camp. The dates of training camp have not been announced yet, but veterans cannot report (per collective bargaining agreement) until 47 days prior to the first NFL game which is Tuesday July 26th.
Until then the Jets will probably need to work out some players in an attempt to shore up a roster that is missing some needed depth. Like I stated in earlier articles, the Jets are woefully short of some key backups. They will need to strengthen some key areas before training camp so that new players have enough time to familiarize themselves with the scheme. You would like to have some of the younger players start taking on more responsibility, but you have to be selective. Some areas are easier than others. While you could get by with a young safety if properly trained, you don’t want to risk the health of your young franchise type QB to a rookie offensive tackle. You would hate to give up a gift TD on a missed assignment, but a QB with a serious injury could be franchise altering.
The problem right now is the Jets are at or near the salary cap with a few of their Draft picks left to sign. Although those signings should not take too long to complete, the adding of addition difference makers will not be so easy. There are multiple moving parts to fix before any type changes can be made. Key players might have to be moved in order to facilitate adding a new contributor. The problem is there are only a few players the Jets could move that would allow them to sign a quality free agent. Granted these players will not garner starting players type salaries, but they aren’t going to play for the minimum either.
So what can you expect going forward?
The New York Jets roster could look quite different at the start of the season from last year’s roster. I believe the Jets truly like/love every Draft choice they made. It’s not without good reason. The Jets Draft class I believe is the in their history and one they should be proud of. Add a number of quality UDFA signings that have gone under the radar. I really think as many as 3 UDFAs could make this roster so let’s first look at a few of these players.
DQ Thomas LB Middle Tennessee State 6’ 1 5/8” 226 lbs 4.67/40
Thomas is an undersized WILL type player who can play in space and come off the edge. He played 5 seasons for the Blue Raiders as a defensive leader. He had 5 sacks and 17 TFL last year with 88 combined tackles in 12 games. He is the school’s all-time leader in TFLs (51.5) and third all time in sacks (20.5). The Jets liked him so much they gave him a $105,000 signing bonus.
Tony Adams S/CB Illinois 5’ 11 1/2” 203 lbs 4.47/40
Adams is a superior signing by the Jets in that he can be a safety or a CB against big WRs or TEs. He is super athletic with great measurables; 31.0” arms, a vert jump of 41 1/2”, 130” broad jump, 6.98 sec 3-cone drill and a 4.06 short shuttle. He can play all over the 3rd level of the defense or as a nickel LB in passing situations once he gets some NFL coaching. He also had a nice signing bonus of $ 100,000 from the Jets.
Zonovan “Bam” Knight North Carolina State RB/Returner 5’ 10 7/8” 209 lbs 4.58/40
“Bam” is an average runner, but he has good size plus excellent hands as a pass catcher. He was a dynamic kickoff specialist with 3 TDs in only 30 returns in his career. He is a low cost back of the roster type who can be a valuable player when called upon. He also received a sizeable signing bonus of $100,000.
Keshunn Abram Kent State WR 6’ 1 3/8” 194 lbs 4.53/40
Abram is a shocking signing as he has never really excelled with only 57 receptions in 3 years for 835 yards and 5 TDs. He is destined to the practice squad if only because the Jets gave him $70,000 in a signing bonus. They must like something in his makeup that I don’t se,e but he should be around for a little while.
So you can see that after factoring in UDFAs, as many as 10 players from this years Draft class could be on the Jets roster in 2022. Those 10 of 53 spots that would be different players than the 2021 roster right away.
What else can the Jets do to upgrade their roster?
I am sure that Joe Douglas will be working to find viable upgrades to the active roster. All GMs do this year round so Joe is no exception.
Some players that Joe Douglas could trade (bring back maybe a late round pick) are, OT Chuma Edoga, OT Conor McDermott, WR Jeff Smith, WR Tarik Black, DE Jabari Zuniga, TE Trevon Wesco, C Ross Pierschbacher, DT Tanzel Smart, LB/S Javin White, S Will Parks, CB Isaiah Dunn, ST/CB Justin Hardee, RB Ty (stone hands) Johnson or K Eddie Pineiro. Now I don’t expect much if anything in return for most of these guys, but if Joe could somehow get a couple of 6th or 7th round picks it would be worth the trouble. Somehow he got a 6th round pick for much injured Blake Cashman from the Texans so anything is possible.
Joe could receive a little more in compensation for QB Mike White who is a viable backup with possible upside. White is 27 years old and would save the Jets $2.54 million in cap space. The Jets have any RFA hold on him after this year which means he could sign with anyone for no compensation after this year. I would much rather trade Joe Flacco, but he would cost $1.73 million in dead cap space (and no one would want him anyway unless it’s a dire emergency which I don’t foresee happening in the offseason).
Also the Jets could possibly get something (4th, 5th or 6th round pick) for S Ashtyn Davis or Bryce Huff if they choose to put them on the market.
I had mentioned before that linebacker, offensive tackle, safety, and defensive tackle were areas of major concern which means the Jets have done an excellent job of filling the other positions on the team with some type of talent. The fact that we are not mentioning the cornerback position is a miracle. The ever porous cornerback position is now a position of strength for the first time since we had Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie as the corners. Even back then having a great cornerback room cost the Jets a huge amount of the salary cap. Now they have it covered for now at a bargain price.
Now let’s look at four areas of concern to see what can be done.
The defensive tackle position is not a position of serious problems. It’s just the Jets need a player who can come in and be a two down plugger to stop the run to put the offense in 3rd and long so the now plentiful edge rusher group can make some hay. I know the Jets have high hopes for a 2nd year leap from Jonathan Marshall which I expect as well. He has the size and athleticism to be a force, but I wouldn’t want to put all my eggs in that basket for the 2022 season. If Marshall shows well this year then you could expect some great things from him. He had a grand total of 2 tackles in all of 2021 so let’s not hitch our future to that wagon just yet.
Nathan Shepherd had a poor year and probably needs a good training camp to make the team or risks being cut/traded before September. Even if he makes the team he is not a real stout player at the point of attack.
Sheldon Rankins is in the same boat as Shepherd as he totally disappointed last year. With a cap hit of $6.1 million and a cap savings of $5.4 million if cut I could see Rankins on the street looking for work if the Jets find anyone who is capable of stopping the run.
Solomon Thomas I thought was a foolish signing as he is more of a pass rusher (and not a great one) and a very poor run defender. His cap hit is $2.25 million and would leave too much dead money and not enough savings unless he is traded and not cut. I don’t see anyone offering so much as a bag of peanuts to take Thomas off our hands.
I was hoping the Jets would sign Tim Settle, but the Bills jumped on that deal and signed him for 2 years at $4.5 million a year which is a bargain. Now I would love to see Linval Joseph, Sheldon Richardson or Akiem Hicks. The Jets could probably sign one with the money left over from the Sheldon Rankins contract if released.
My take on this is Joe will wait until first cutdowns and look for a Sione Po’uha type talent to fill the void of a run stuffing defensive tackle. The fact that a waiver wire player would be probably a near minimum contract is a plus. I really have no problem with that type of signing if he can get one. The only consideration is that first you have to find a player like that on the waiver wire, and he would not be as dynamic as the other players I have mentioned.
Linebacker should not be as problematic to fill as some other positions. There are a lot of options you can choos. It’s just a matter of what a GM wants to do. A top player as an ILB like Joe Schobert, Dont’a Hightower, Jon Bostic might not want to take a backup position right now at least. That may change if they remain unsigned as training camps open. Still you could add a couple players like a Will Compton and/or Dakota Allen (WILL) as cheap insurance policies in case of injuries at either position. The Jets could also just ride with the few young players they have on the roster now. Most are low level type draft picks who would definitely struggle if they were thrust into heavy snap in 2022.
It’s a fine line a GM must walk as he tries to assess his young players while not wanting them to be inserted into starting reps too early in their careers. It may take some players longer to develop before you have an idea of their ceilings as players. The ILB position is a tough place to play, and you need skilled athletes with superior talents if you want great results.
There is current speculation that the Jets would be interested in Deion Jones.. He is reportedly going to be released by the Atlanta Falcons. Jones underwent shoulder surgery earlier this year so he will not be ready until training camp. Given the fact that Jones would be released with a dead cap charge to the Falcons of over $24 million is a huge red flag. If the Falcons are so eager to release Jones that it costs them over 10% of their cap space for 2022 it would make me be more than hesitant to sign him. That and his injury history.
My take that this will drag on into training camp where the Jets will determine how far along their young players are before making any moves. They could also wait for first round roster cuts to fill a spot. Of course a training camp injury to a starter will change all that in a instant.
The safety position is a little more tricky that the other two spots. Great safeties are very expensive which is why I was disappointed that Joe did not secure one in the Draft. He did bring in Tony Adams as a UDFA which I am happy about, but we must see how he develops before we can heap praise on that signing. You want a backup with experience plus some defensive acumen. Ashtyn Davis was poor as a replacement last year so if the Jets are willing to settle for him as a backup you know what to expect.
They could bring in a player like Andrew Sendejo who is nearing the end of his career and would provide a wealth of experience. He would be a nice stop gap if one of the starters went down which is very possible during a long season. Of course the Jets could bring in Jaquiski Tartt who is familiar with the Saleh system so he could step right in. He is another player who may be waiting for a starting gig. At 30 years old Tartt may want one more 3 year contract before he retires.
My take is that the Jets will likey stand pat with who they have and risk disaster on the back end so they can see what they have right now. It will be a case of trial under fire for the young safeties on the backend. It’s the best way to find out what you have but is risky since things could go south real quick. The other possibility is the Jets sign Tartt just before training camp or just after it starts.
The offensive tackle dilemma is the riskiest of all the problems the Jets have. You are hoping that George Fant can reproduce another career year and that Mekhi Becton comes back in top physical shape and ready to play after missing all but half a game last year. Add the implications on the health of your franchise QB, and you have the makings of a possible franchise altering disaster waiting to happen if you do nothing. The Jets have waited a generation for a franchise type QB, and now that they believe they have him. They had better protect him in every possible way they can. If that means a little overkill on the side of caution then so be it. If you have to rob Peter to pay Paul to get it done, then so be it.
The top three players again may be looking for a starting gig so you may have to wait until camp starts before you could entice them for a backup role. The top 3 players I have in mind are Daryl Williams, Bobby Massie or Eric Fisher. If you couldn’t get one of those guys then ex Jet Brandon Shell would be my 4th choice at a near bottom of the pay scale deal. You could give any of these players snap incentives. I’m sure all these contracts would have that provision.
Offensive tackles are not cheap so you may have to get inventive to land one. You might have to lose some of your assets at other positions in order to bring in the talent needed. So what are some of the things you can do?
One way to find some cap space is to trade Corey Davis to a team looking to compete with a need at wide receiver. Trading Davis would save (according to over the cap) the Jets $13 million this season while leaving only $666,666 in dead cap space each of the next two years. It’s not ideal but it would get the job done in most cases.
The teams who might want to make the trade would be possibly the Green Bay Packers and the Cleveland Browns. The Packers would keep Aaron Rogers happy with a respected receiver and not have to pay the signing bonus the Jets would have to absorb. The Packers have the 3rd most cap space so they have the room to do so, and they would probably only give the Jets a 5th round pick to close the deal. Davis would slide right into the X receiver spot ahead of Allen Lazard who is a 4th type receiver at best.
Same goes for the Browns who have the 2nd most cap space and in need of a #2 type receiver. Looking out on the market there is only Odell Beckham available with that type of talent, and you know the Browns want no part of that. It would be a win-win situation since Davis gets a new start, and the Jets get cap relief which allows them to sign a tackle.
Davis was a huge signing for the Jets but was a disappointment. I mentioned at his signing that it was a dubious deal since Davis was coming off a career year. YOU never sign a free agent after a career year; it’s always a disaster. He played only 9 games as he dealt with injuries, but in those games he averaged just 1.74 yards per route run — a massive drop off from the 2.58 he managed in 2020. Davis also had the highest drop rate (15.6%) of his career and his lowest PFF grade since he was a rookie in 2017.
So how do you fill a huge hole in the Jets receiving room with the trading of your most experienced receiver? That answer would be the signing of Will Fuller to a one year $5 million contract to be the X receiver. He has the speed you want to challenge the defense and give space to the rest of your receivers. You want Garrett Wilson and Elijah Moore to be the center of the offense so they can develop. To have Fuller as your #3 receiver allows you to play him sparingly in hopes of keeping him healthy while suppling some big play potential.
So you ask why do the Packers and Browns just sign Fuller instead of trading for Davis? The answer would be that Fuller has never lasted an entire NFL season without getting injured. Those teams have playoff aspirations and more so they can’t be gambling on Fuller to be healthy. The Jets could afford to give Fuller spot duty since they run a lot of two TE sets.
My guess is the Jets will just run with what they have which I would believe to be a mistake. You don’t gamble with you franchise QB. Every team with a top QB always makes sure of their protections. It will never be perfect, but you always do the best you can. I hope I am wrong, and Joe sees the wisdom in max protection of his prized QB.
Well the Jets have some decisions to make so I hope they do the right thing for this year and the years beyond. The Jets need a year where they begin to take steps towards respectability. So key wins and playing competitive football is essential to their future. You need to start seeing development across the board for the Jets. It starts this year.
That’s what I think.
Tell me what you think.