The New York Jets are coming off a big overhaul from the offseason in their defensive backfield. General manager Joe Douglas signed two 25-year-olds, cornerback D.J. Reed and strong safety Jordan Whitehead. Then, with the fourth overall selection in the 2022 NFL draft, a big addition was made in Sauce Gardner.
With those three additions now going along with second-year starting slot cornerback Michael Carter II, four out of the five starting positions in the secondary are set for the Jets.
The one position that could use a significant upgrade is free safety. Adding a ball-hawk with range to the deep middle of this defensive backfield could put the group over the top and be one of the best in football.
According to Jeremy Fowler, Senior NFL reporter for ESPN, the Jets are looking to make one more big move in the defensive backfield with an elite playmaker. Fowler stated, “It seems like New York is still looking for another splash move in the secondary.” He went on to further state that the Jets “could still use one more playmaker. A rangy center fielder at safety would elevate what should be an emerging defense.”
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Could the Jets land Jessie Bates from Cinci?
The main free safety that most will link to the Jets in this situation is Jessie Bates of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Bates has played 63 games in four years of his career. In each of his first three seasons, he recorded three interceptions. Last year, he had one. He had a remarkable 15 passes defended in 2020.
This offseason, Bates was franchise tagged by the Bengals. No multi-year extension was agreed to by the deadline for franchised players. Bates is reportedly unhappy about the situation, leading to trade speculation. The Bengals’ first two draft picks also went to the secondary with versatile defensive back Daxton Hill and cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt. The secondary also has returning veterans Chidobe Awuzie, Mike Hilton, Vonn Bell, and Eli Apple, potentially making Bates expendable.
Bates will play this upcoming season, his fifth in the NFL at just 25 years old. If the Jets pursue him, he could be a long-term piece to this young secondary. Adding Bates with Gardner, Reed, Whitehead, and Carter II would give the Jets quite the starting defensive backfield. All five players being very young, 25 years old or younger as well. It will be interesting to see if the Jets end up making a move for a prime free safety.