New York Jets: 4 underrated free agents the team can pursue

juan thornhill, new york jets
Feb 12, 2023; Glendale, Arizona, US; Kansas City Chiefs safety Juan Thornhill (22) celebrates after the Chiefs defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

We still have no confirmation on who the New York Jets‘ next quarterback will be. That being said, free agency begins today, and the Jets have other needs on their roster that must be addressed.

The Jets have given themselves some salary cap relief over the last few days to be able to make some moves. Below, four underrated free agents, all at positions of need for the Jets, will be discussed.

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Four underrated free agents for the New York Jets to go after:

Juan Thornhill, S:

Even after the Chuck Clark trade, the Jets could still use a free safety. Juan Thornhill is one lesser-discussed option on the market.

Thornhill was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the second round of the 2019 NFL draft and just finished his rookie contract. He will turn 28 years old in October.

Physically, Thornhill has some good size, listed at 6-foot, 205 pounds, and has 31 1/8″ arm length. Athletically, Thornhill is exceptionally gifted (9.75 Relative Athletic Score). His explosion (44″ vertical jump and 141″ broad jump) place him in elite territory. He also has great speed, as shown by his 4.42 40-yard dash time.

Availability has been a huge plus with Thornhill since entering the league. He missed the first game of his NFL career this past year. Thornhill has played at least 762 snaps all four years of his career.

From a production standpoint, Thornhill averages two interceptions and five passes defended a year. He is coming off his best year from a ball production perspective, as he recorded three interceptions and nine passes defended.

Lastly, what Thornhill offers, with his speed, is a ton of range on the backend. Thornhill has many enticing attributes and would be a thrilling signing for this Jets secondary that is already extremely deep.

Jake Brendel, C:

With Connor McGovern currently set to hit the market, the Jets are in need of a center. Jake Brendel is one very underrated and intriguing free agent option for the Jets.

Brendel has spent seven years in the NFL, but prior to last year, hardly had any playing experience. In 2022 with the San Francisco 49ers, though, Brendel showed some encouraging promise as a first-year starter at 30 years old.

Brendel is tall at 6-foot-4 but not the biggest at 299 pounds or longest with 31 5/8″ arms. However, Brendel does provide tons of athletic ability. He would come from a very similar offensive system under Kyle Shanahan to Nathaniel Hackett’s offense, where his athleticism in the running game would be a natural fit.

Lastly, what Brendel would give the Jets that makes him such a viable target is his production in 2022 as a pass blocker. He only gave up 12 pressures per PFF and had the fourth-best pressure rate allowed of all centers. Brendel would be a nice addition to the middle of this currently concerning Jets offensive line.

Greg Gaines, DT:

Should the Jets lose Sheldon Rankins, they would have a key need for a defensive tackle alongside Quinnen Williams. One under-the-radar player who could fit is Greg Gaines.

Gaines was selected by the Los Angeles Rams in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL draft. He will turn 27 years old in May as he goes into year five of his NFL career.

Gaines has the same 6-foot-1 height as Rankins. He also has good size at 312 pounds but is not the longest with 31 1/4″ arms. Athletically, the best trait Gaines has is his explosion (31″ vertical jump, 109″ broad jump).

Over the last three years, Gaines has proven to be incredibly durable, missing just one game in 2022. He played at least 732 snaps in each of the last two seasons.

Gaines has accumulated some solid pass-rushing production over the past two years, with 4.5 sacks in 2021 and four in 2022. Along with his pass-rushing ability, Gaines is a very good run-stopper as well. Gaines would make for a very solid signing to the Jets’ fourth-ranked defense.

Taylor Rapp, S:

Another Rams defensive player to close it out here. Taylor Rapp is a safety with some good versatility and physicality.

Rapp was a part of the same Rams draft class as Gaines in 2019 as a second-round pick. He is listed at 5-foot-11, 208 pounds, with 30 3/4″ arm length. Rapp is going into his fifth year in the NFL and turned 25 in late December.

Over the last two years, Rapp has been available nearly every week, missing only one game. He recorded at least 977 snaps in each of the past two seasons for the Rams.

Rapp averages just over two interceptions per year, with nine in his career. He also averages right under six passes defended a season in his career, with 23 total.

Rapp totaled 94 tackles in 2021 and 92 in 2022. He hardly misses tackles and can play against both the run and the pass. Also, what he can give this Jets secondary in coverage, particularly, makes Rapp very fascinating.