2023 New York Jets Mock Free Agency 1.0

aaron rodgers, new york jets
Nov 13, 2022; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) reacts following a pass to wide receiver Allen Lazard (13) (not pictured) during overtime against the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Free agency for the 2023 NFL season is now a little under a month away. For the New York Jets, many big decisions loom.

This is a team that needs to find a way into the playoffs next year with a dire need for a new quarterback. Also, an upgrade or two along the offensive line with a few other particular positions that could be addressed.

They have all of these positions of concern to address while currently being over the budget with -$264K in cap space, per Over The Cap.

Below, an assortment of potential moves the Jets could make, from releasing players and restructuring contracts to free up cap space for re-signing 2022 Jets and adding new veterans at positions of need, will be put together.

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New York Jets Mock Free Agency 1.0:

As noted, being over the budget at the moment, the Jets will have to move on from a few players. Luckily, they have some easy outs from a few different contracts.

Releases:

  • Carl Lawson, $15.4M
  • Duane Brown, $4.9M
  • Corey Davis, $10.5M
  • Braxton Berrios, $5M

With these four releases, all of which are certainly possible, the Jets would create over $35.5 million in cap space.

Restructures and Contract Extensions:

  • John Franklin-Myers (restructure), $7.28M added
  • Quinnen Williams (extension), $3.73M added

Probably the two most logical players under contract for 2023 that would help the Jets create cap space. John Franklin-Myers is owed a $12 million salary ($12.4M cap hit). Of that salary, I chose to maximize the cap space that could be created by turning $10.92M into a signing bonus, lowering his salary to the minimum amount of $1.08M, which leads to a $5.12M cap hit from the original $12.4M.

Quinnen Williams is expecting a new deal in what seems to be the $20-25M per year range. Let’s say Williams demands $25M up front, the Jets can still lower his cap number from his current $9.6M. Similar to Franklin-Myers, the Jets can maximize Williams’ signing bonus which enables them to give him a minimum 2023 base salary. Of a potential $25M in year one, the Jets can give Williams a $23.92M signing bonus and $1.08M base salary, getting his cap number down from $9.6 to $5.9M.

With these six transactions, over $46.5M would be added in cap space, giving Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh the resources they need to work with entering free agency.

Re-signings:

  • Bryce Huff (restricted free agent), 2nd Rd. Tender- $4.3M
  • Connor McGovern- 3 yrs, $28.5M (9.5 AAV)
  • Quincy Williams- 3 yrs, $23.25M (7.75 AAV)
  • Sheldon Rankins- 2 yrs, $15M (7.5 AAV)
  • Greg Zuerlein- 2 yrs, $8M (4 AAV)
  • Nathan Shepherd- 1 yr, 1.5M
  • Ty Johnson- 1 yr, vet min.
  • Jeff Smith- 1 yr, vet min.

On the four multi-year deals, the 2023 cap hits were kept at a minimum, McGovern ($3.9M), Williams ($3.3M), Rankins ($3.2M), and Zuerlein (2.5M). This was done with maximum signing bonuses, which then leads to minimum base salaries, giving the Jets all the flexibility they need up front.

Of the re-signings, Huff, being a restricted free agent, is a no-brainer.

Williams and Rankins are both coming off solid 2022 seasons, each in their second year in Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich’s defense. With limited cap space, finding upgrades on the open market may be challenging.

Due to a limited amount of quality starting centers on the market, the Jets should not be ruling out a potential re-signing of McGovern.

Zuerlein provided the Jets with the best field goal kicking they have had since Jason Myers in 2018. Reports have seemed to indicate that the Jets would like to keep him.

Shepherd, Johnson, and Smith are all longer-tenured Jets players who provide depth. Shepherd, to a defensive line that consists of constant rotating. With unknowns on Breece Hall’s availability to begin the season, having Johnson as insurance behind Michael Carter and Bam Knight would be wise. At wide receiver, the Jets could have moving parts with Davis and Berrios, making it logical to retain some continuity and depth with Smith.

Free Agent Signings and Trade:

  • Aaron Rodgers (Trade, $15.79M 2023 cap hit)
  • Jimmie Ward- 2 yrs, $15M (7.5 AAV)
  • Nate Davis- 3 yrs, $25.5M (8.5 AAV)
  • Johnathan Hankins – 1 yr, $1.5M
  • Michael Deiter – 1 yr, $1.5 M

With the multi-year deals to Ward and Davis, to keep cap hits up front at a minimum, the signing bonus amounts were maximized. The cap hits were $3.2M for Ward (with one void year) and $3.5M for Davis.

In this hypothetical trade for Rodgers, the Jets part with two second-rounders (2023 and 2024). The Jets go all-in for a Super Bowl right now with Rodgers.

With Ward, the Jets get the safety they need and a player who has familiarity with Saleh (2017-20). Ward helps the Jets with his man coverage ability, range, and physicality at free safety. Similar to Rodgers, it is a move thinking all about the short term.

The Jets’ offensive line needs some help, and Davis is one of the better players set to be available. Not to mention, there is a connection already in place as the Jets’ new offensive line coach, Keith Carter, was Davis’ position coach all four years of his career with the Titans. In this hypothetical, with Davis, a right guard, Alijah Vera-Tucker would remain at tackle. Also, the Jets add some depth in a player with guard and center flexibility, in Michael Deiter.

Lastly, the Jets add more depth to their defensive line’s interior. They need some size and ability to stop the run at defensive tackle, and Hankins, coming off a good year with the Cowboys, provides the Jets with just that.

Final Takeaways:

Thanks to the backloading of all of these deals, the Jets would still have $11.5M in cap space for 2023, more than enough to get their draft class signed.

As a result of this free agency, come the draft, the Jets would need a third wide receiver, one more offensive lineman, and potentially depth at defensive end and linebacker, with still their first and third-round picks at their disposal.

This was just one proposal of how things could potentially play out for the Jets in the first phase of the team-building process this offseason. Adding Rodgers, Ward, and Davis would definitely generate a lot of excitement. Certainly, it will be fascinating to see what Douglas and Saleh have up their sleeve in a little over three weeks.