The NFL Draft is over Aaron Rodgers is a Jet so everything is done, right?
Not yet. The Jets have a lot of work ahead to ready themselves for the upcoming season. Let’s take a look of what is done along with what needs to be done in the coming months.
Aaron Rodgers is a Jet
The Jets have their quarterback who is a future Hall of Famer. That’s just the beginning. The Jets need to ensure their roster is competitive so Aaron isn’t one and done. The roster isn’t near finished yet so some tweaking will be needed. Some position groups are lacking which will need to be addressed. Let’s take a look at each position to see what needs to be done.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure who will be the starting quarterback for the Jets. After all of the trade drama, Aaron Rodgers will be at the helm as long as he remains healthy. He will be backed up by Zach Wilson (he of the guaranteed contract) and either Tim Boyle or Chris Streveler. My guess is the Jets run with two QBs with another on the practice squad.
Sadly this position is still a question mark even after all of the work already done on it. It has been neglected in the past by Mike Maccagnan and fumbled by Joe Douglas with poor drafting. I could expound further, but it is what it is, a mess. The tackle position is vital to keep your Hall of Fame quarterback healthy, but somehow the Jets don’t see the obvious. They have Mekhi Becton and Duane Brown as starters with Max Mitchell and fourth round pick Carter Warren as backups. That group should send shivers down your spine since none of them have stayed healthy in recent years. If they all are healthy to start the year the Jets will release the revolving door known as Cedric Ogbuehi saving $940K unless they hide him on the practice squad.
This group is much better defined since the Joe Douglas has prioritized this group (over the tackle position) in recent years. The Jets hugely overpaid for Laken Tomlinson with a 3 year (with voidable years included) $40 million contract. He rewarded the Jets by allowing 32 QB pressures and performing poorly in run blocking which should be his forte at his size. The Jets spent 3 picks (a 1st and two 3rd round selections) to select Alijah Vera-Tucker when they could have saved those picks and selected a Pro Bowl tackle in Christian Darrisaw. ATV is coming back off injury so we all have to keep our fingers crossed he comes back in full health. They also have a combination of Wes Sweitzer and newly drafted Joe Tippman (nice selection) to back up those starters. Trystan Colon will be let go and another candidate for the practice squad.
The Jets have enough beef at the center position so it won’t be a problem. They re-signed Connor McGovern after he found the free agent market cold. Joe Douglas did a nice job of letting the free agency market play out in this way to show McGovern he isn’t a desired player at this point in his career. He is backed up by Wes Schweitzer with newly drafted Joe Tippmann waiting in the wings. As soon as the Jets believe that Tippman can take over at center he will be in there as he provides the highest ceiling.
The Jets went crazy in free agency in 2022 by signing both CJ Uzomah + Tyler Conklin to massive contracts ($20.25 million + $24 million) 3 year contracts also with 3 voidable years which I personally despise. They also have Kenny Yeboah, Jeremy Ruckert (last years draft pick) plus Jack Kuntz (this years draft pick) on the roster. One of the last three will ultimately be released and end up on the practice squad; my money is on Yeboah. So the Jets are set at the TE position for now.
The Jets have a conundrum at the receiver position. They have Garrett Wilson who with work should even be better in 2024 which is exciting. They also signed Allen Lazard plus Mecole Hardman in free agency. Denzel Mims and Irvin Charles are still on the roster as depth. You would think the Jets (if they were smart) would trade for Corey Davis for what they could get. There will be teams looking for receivers after the Draft . Davis wouldn’t bring much, but any pick and taking the cap hit off the books would still be rewards. The Jets have salary cap issues in the near future so every nickel they can save is a bonus. It’s not like Corey Davis was lighting it up on the field as he has 64 receptions, 1,028 yards and 6 TDs in the two years combined he has been a Jet. The possibility of a UDFA or a free agent making the roster is highly probably. More on that later.
The Jets are pretty much set at the running back position with Breece Hall, Michael Carter, Zonovan “Bam” Knight, and Israel Abanikanda as the four players they will run with. An additional RB should be added to the practice squad in case of injury, but that can be found after cuts (or even before). Fortunately this is the easiest position to fill and assimilate into an offense. With Breece Hall coming back from serious injury the Jets may lean on Abanikanda and Knight to take on a heavier load in preseason and early in the season.
This is obviously the position that Robert Saleh loves the most. His defense is predicated on pressuring the QB which (when it works) is highly effective. The Jets like to rotate all their defensive linemen so they all stay fresh. So the Jets will field John Franklin-Myers (who also can work back inside as a DT), Jermaine Johnson, Bryce Huff, Michael Clemons and newly drafted Will McDonald with either Bradlee Anae (who was effective when used in 2022) or Marquiss Spencer as the last reserve. The loser for the last spot between Anae or Spencer will be a practice squad candidate. The Jets again should (if they are smart) Carl Lawson (who has real value) to a team looking for edge help. The Jets are in desperate need of future salary cap space. Every dime you save today will help in the future. Plus the Draft capital will be needed since the Jets won’t have a 1st round pick in 2024 (unless disaster strikes with Rodgers, and no one wants that) so every pick helps.
The Jets have Quinnen Williams along with a bunch of question marks at the tackle position. The only veteran players on the roster are Solomon Thomas, Tanzel Smart, and newly signed Quinton Jefferson. John Franklin-Myers will takes some reps at D-tackle as well. The Jets may want to bring in an additional tackle into the rotation; more on that later.
The Jets didn’t add much to the linebacker room so it will be interesting to see what they do with this position this year. CJ Mosely and Quincy Williams will hold down the fort with the Jets praying they don’t go down to injury. They will need another quality starter to go along with some combination of Jamien Sherwood, Chazz Surratt, Hamsah Nasirildeen and newly drafted Zaire Barnes who will probably be relegated to special teams service (when he is active) the first year. The Jets were rumored to be interested in resigning Kwon Alexander, but they could opt for someone else. We shall see.
The Jets cornerback room is one of the league’s best so the Jets didn’t spend any Draft capital on that position even though it was the most talented position this year. Once again Sauce Gardner and DJ Reed will hold down the outside with Michael Carter II in the slot. Backing them up with be some combination of Bryce Hall, Brandin Echols, Jimmy Moreland, Craig James, and any free agent they bring in. The backups will be pivotal to providing special teams value to be active on game day.
The Jets will have Jordan Whitehead and Chuck Clark as their starting safeties, but the position is in a fluid situation. While the starters seem entrenched, neither is signed beyond this season so the Jets have decisions to make. As of now they have Tony Adams and Will Parks as backups. Another year of evaluation is in order for both. Ashtyn Davis may be on the outside looking in with newly drafted Jarrick Bernard-Converse looking to grab snaps on special teams.
The Jets special teams will have long snapper Thomas Hennessy back (if it ain’t broke don’t fix it) with Greg Zuerlein at kicker and Thomas Morstead the punter, at least for now. It only takes a few bad kicks to put a job in jeopardy. The kick returners are also in a fluid situation so you could see a few different players in that role. Justin Hardee’s position as gunner will be looked at closely if the Jets can find a cheaper alternative.
Every team in the NFL has to figure out how to best use the salary cap system. The Jets have been one of the worst teams in terms of salary cap usage. The Jets have been near the bottom of salary cap space nearly every year recently despite having a QB who is still on the rookie salary cap scale. While the Chiefs win Super Bowls with a half billion dollar QB along with a DT making nearly $30 million a year and the highest paid tight end, the Jets can’t get a winning season while signing players to multiple voidable years to get under the salary cap.
To make matters worse your All-Pro DT Quinnen Williams wants a $15 million raise this year and $25 million a year after that. Aaron Rodgers’ salary for next year is only $107,600,00 which is like 46% of the entire salary cap. I know the Jets will look to spread that out but you can only hide $107 million for so long. At some point you have to pay the piper. Also Allen Lazard’s cap hit jumps from $3,264,000 to $12,184,000 next year. Also Duane Brown’s current contract runs out this year, but there are three voidable years added to the contract so the Jets will be on the hook for nearly $5 million of signing bonus for a player who probably will not be on the roster.
It’s imperative that the Jets get some cap relief this season that will carry over until next season.
Like I stated earlier, if let go Carl Lawson would save $15.4 million against the cap this season and Corey Davis would save $10.5 million which would be substantial savings for a team needing salary relief. Sure it would help to have them playing for the Jets, but Lawson (in 17 games) had 33 total tackles with 9 TFL and 7 sacks. Corey Davis caught only 50% of his targets caught 32 balls for 536 yards and 2 TDs with several noticeable drops.
As for Lawson the Jets have numerous young edge players in need of snaps like Michael Clemons, Jermaine Johnson, Bryce Huff, and newly drafted Will McDonald IV so there is ample players to fill that role.
Davis has been unproductive as he missed time with injuries and was ineffective when he was on the field. The Jets could find a couple of replacements that have a history with Rodgers for much less.
Other players who could be moved for late round draft picks or just released:
Ashtyn Davis- Release saves the Jets $2.743 million in salary cap space.
Cedric Ogbuehi- Release saves only $940,000 but it also saves the life of Aaron Rodgers.
Jeremy Ruckert- Saves only $934,000, but he may fetch a late round pick as well. I would call the Bengals who have little talent behind starter Irv Smith.
Bryce Hall- I would hate to trade Hall, but his salary is $2,743,000. He played in only 5 games last year with zero stats; no tackles, no PBU, nothing. This came after making 79 tackles and breaking up 16 passes in 2021. He has value so I wouldn’t just release him, but he is wasting away on the bench while not being used. He is a nice insurance policy, but the Jets also need so draft capital next year since they don’t have a 1st round pick.
Evans is a former 1st round pick who is still only 27 years old. He left Tennessee last year to spend the season with the Falcons. Evans had 160 tackles on a salary of only $1.75 million. He is now a free agent who Joe could offer a $5 million, 2 year contract to play as a backup ILB or as a run and hit WILL. Evans has the speed to chase down RBs with sideline to sideline range. He wouldn’t have to take on many blockers which would leave him free to blitz or just find the ball. This would be a low cost/high production move.
Alexander was somewhat productive with the Jets making 69 total tackles as a WILL and is still only 29 years old. He doesn’t have great speed anymore and is often a liability in coverage. Yet he knows the scheme. He made only $1,120,000 last year so the Jets could offer him a $2.5 million, 2 year deal with the first year guaranteed to get him back.
Having both Evans and Alexander signed would alleviate any worries about injuries to linebackers. The Jets are “Super Bowl or bust” this year so you don’t want a couple injuries late in the season to ruin any chance you have at the grand prize. You might want to save a few pennies, but when you have the chance to bring in quality players inexpensively you need to be pragmatic about your situation.
Cobb is great friends with Aaron Rodgers, and the two work very well together. Cobb is no longer the quick/fast player he once was, but he is smart and understands how to get open. As a midseason addition to the Green Bay roster he caught 68% of his targets (34/50) for 417 yards and 1 TD. Cobb also gives you salary cap relief since he qualifies for the Veteran Salary Benefit Rule. Under the VSB rules, in 2023, a team can sign a 7-year veteran or more to the applicable minimum salary of $1.165 million, with a signing bonus of $152,500, and instead of counting $1,317,000 against the Cap, the player would only count $1,092,000 against the cap which is what a 2nd year player’s minimum salary would be.
Kumerow is a fringe player who is an outside receiver that Aaron Rodgers also has some history with. He would be a 4th or 5th type receiver but would qualify for the same Veteran Salary Cap Rule as Randal Cobb. He could be an option also later in the year if the Jets get an injury and need a receiver on the cheap.
Landry is a 9 year veteran who has been around forever it seems but is still only 30 years old. He was used sparingly in New Orleans last year after some productive years in Cleveland. He has never won a championship and may jump at a chance to join in with Aaron Rodgers for a final shot at a title. He has always been a very professional receiver with great balance. He can play in the slot or outside and knows how to get open. He also would benefit under the Veteran Salary Cap rule so he would be inexpensive.
T Y Hilton
Hilton is another veteran receiver who still has speed, is a true professional and has never won a title. He would need to come here on a minimum salary, but he may be open to work with an NFL legend on a quest for a ring.
Harris is one of the better run defenders but also had 28 QB pressures from the interior line in 2022. He made $3.26 million in Seattle and may be open to taking a lower contract in an effort to get a ring. He is one of the true one gap defensive tackles available.
Joseph is a super powerful player who can be a demon in the trenches. He doesn’t have first step quickness but is nearly unblockable by a single blocker. He is another player who has never won a championship but was so close last year with the Eagles. He played for $2 million last year so he is in the right price range for a one or two year rental.
So there you have it, at least part of what the Jets have left to do. The season is right around the corner so there is little time to wait. Soon OTAs and minicamps will be starting so you want everyone ready to go.
There is some dead time after the last OTA, but now is the time to strike and set the team up for success. Soon Joe will be working on rookie contracts with agents. He might as well get to the patching of holes now.
The Draft is over but the work is not done.
That’s what I think...
What do you think?