The free agent frenzy has mollified, but the New York Jets would be smart to handle matters with a handful of their own unsigned players.
Professional football discussions are currently centered on the draft. The free agency period thus feels like a distant memory, but, for several recent New York Jets, it remains an all-too-current reality.
Entering Thursday, the Jets still have 14 players in the free agency pool. The team has made plenty of moves on the transaction front, but a few more could truly solidify them for the 2020 season…
P Lac Edwards
We spoke about the Jets’ holes in the special teams department earlier this week. Edwards’ lingering free agency is only exacerbating the tenuous situation. Former Steelers summer leg Ian Berryman is currently destined to take the role as the only punter on the roster.
Edwards endured a heavy workload last season (an NFL-high yardage of 3,991 on an equally-high 87 punts), but he tied for eighth in punts inside the 20 (28). It seems like a trivial matter, but a reliable punter is a must-have accessory for an offense that struggles to consistently score. Having built a rapport with long snapper Thomas Hennessy and drawn the praises of special teams coordinator Brant Boyer, Edwards could be an under-the-radar signing that puts both the offense and defense at ease.
— New York Jets (@nyjets) December 23, 2018
S Rontez Miles
Miles is one of the NFL’s most undersung success stories. A California alum…not the Golden Bears of Berkeley, but the California University of Pennsylvania on the Division II level…that entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2013, Miles has built himself a respectable NFL career primarily through special teams exploits. His efforts with the team were rewarded last season with a team captaincy.
Assisting Miles’ case is the Jets’ failed signing of former Los Angeles Ram Marqui Christian. The veteran safety was set to sign with the Jets before a salary dispute caused the deal to fall through. For a team in desperate need of veteran leadership, Miles’ experience could be indispensable.
RB Bilal Powell
Another longtime Jet that has yet to be invited back is Powell, the longest-tenured guy in green at nine seasons. During the Jets’ endless stream of starts on the offensive line, Powell was able to lead the team with a 3.9 rushing average. A decent average has been part of Powell’s repertoire since his 2011 entry. Over the past nine seasons, Powell’s 4.32 ranks 12th in the NFL amongst rushers with at least 800 attempts.
The Jets upgraded their offensive line this offseason, which should allow Bell to at least reach a closer version of Pittsburgh self. Spell options, however, remain slim in the form of Josh Adams, Kenneth Dixon, and Trenton Cannon. With fellow free agent Ty Montgomery failing to find a true spot in the rushing rotation, bringing back the reliable Powell makes a lot of sense.
WR Demaryius Thomas
Renovations on the blocking front have provided a long-sought sense of hope for the Jets’ offense. But there’s no denying that the loss of Robby Anderson was a big blow. For example, whereas Anderson scored 20 touchdowns for the Jets since his 2016 entry, no other Jets receiver reached double-digits. Sam Darnold’s current top target is destined to be Breshad Perriman after a stellar season wrap-up with Tampa Bay. Jamison Crowder returns in the slot, but a whole bunch of uncertainty lies behind him.
Thomas probably isn’t at a level where he can be a reliable top target. But the Jets could his experience and veteran leadership on a roster in desperate need of older help. It may be a lot to ask Thomas to duplicate his stellar numbers from Denver, but a young quarterback like Darnold needs a seasoned veteran to help him out. He recently told Denver radio station 104.3 The Fan (KKFN-FM) that he was very willing to return for an eleventh season.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags