The New York Jets are back to square one. From landing the second overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft to signing a new head coach in Robert Saleh to now looking into trading quarterback Sam Darnold over the offseason, the Jets are officially starting from scratch once again, beginning a brand-new chapter with the aim of reviving this franchise’s prestige and reputation.
Following their worst finish to a season since 1996, the Jets have massive holes to fill on both sides of the ball, presenting coach Saleh with a mighty big challenge to take on and overcome. What bodes well for Saleh is that defensively, the Jets are in half-decent shape with a solid front seven that is not only spearheaded by the bright, young talent in Quinnen Williams but that could also see the return of the playmaking linebacker in C.J. Mosley. Even with a secondary that is pretty depleted, the Jets still have Marcus Maye and Brian Poole, who provide good talent, experience, and toughness to the defensive back position.
On the other hand, what remains to be the far greater concern for Saleh, is his offense. Outside of Jamison Crowder, Denzel Mims, Breshad Perriman, and Mekhi Becton, this Jets offense doesn’t have much of a foundation in place, more or less, much talent to show for. Ultimately, you’re looking at a Jets offense who placed last in the league in total yards, yards per game, and points per game (ESPN). In a nutshell, this Jets offense reached rock bottom last year, and it could take more than one season for Saleh to repair this ailing unit.
However, the good news for the Jets is that not only do they have the number two overall pick in the draft, granting them the opportunity to go after their next franchise quarterback, whether it’s Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, or Justin Fields. But in addition, the Jets also have a projected total of $75 million in cap space, leaving them plenty of funds at their disposal to bolster a weak offensive line and invest in a strong running back to take charge of the ground game (Spotrac).
Although running backs are quite dependent on the talent and chemistry of their offensive line (which the Jets don’t have much of), it’s still of the utmost importance for the Jets to secure a top running back who’s willing to take on a large workload and bring versatility to the position. With plenty of cap space to spare, the Jets have several free-agent running backs to pursue over this offseason. But with each bringing their own unique skill set and approach to the game of football, the Jets will need to determine which running back will make for the best fit for their new-look offense. On that note, here’s the Top 3 free agent running back choices the New York Jets should go after this offseason:
Three free agents running backs the New York Jets can target:
3. Mark Ingram:
Although he’s 32 years old, Mark Ingram would make for a great acquisition and for a variety of reasons. To begin with, Ingram is a natural-born, ground-and-pound runner that feeds off large workloads and brings toughness to the position like no other. He’s a bruising running back that can overpower his opponents with his strength and grit yet has the quickness and speed to evade and zoom past defenders as well.
Coming off a 2020 season where his starting role fell to the wayside as the Baltimore Ravens shifted their running game to a committee backfield with Gus Edwards and rookie J.K. Dobbins, it’s important to remember just what kind of season Ingram was able to muster in 2019. On 202 rushing attempts, Ingram put up over 1,000 yards rushing, averaged 5 yards per carry, and collected 10 rushing TDs, despite Lamar Jackson rushing for 1,200 yards and 7 TDs himself that season (ESPN). Ultimately, Ingram brings a lot to the table, and considering that the Jets could sign him to a cost-efficient deal that would save them plenty of cap space, Ingram would be a great addition for the Jets.
2. Leonard Fournette:
“Really?! He just won a Super Bowl ring with the G.O.A.T! What makes you think he wants to come to the Jets?” If any of this popped into your head, you have a fair argument, and this is without a doubt the toughest obstacle for the Jets to overcome. But there’s mainly one big reason why the Jets have a chance to sign him. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a shopping list of pivotal free agents they are looking to resign, but with only $27 million in cap space, there’s just no way they’re going to be able to keep all of them on their roster, and that includes Leonard Fournette (Spotrac).
Guys like Shaq Barrett, Lavonte David, Ndamukong Suh, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, and even Antonio Brown are all unrestricted free agents (Spotrac). And with both Barrett and David costing a combined total of $25 million last season, you can best believe that the Buccaneers will not have enough funds for everyone, particularly since most of these players will be looking for bigger deals (Spotrac). One of these players is Fournette, who by no means (at the prime age of 26 years old) should be splitting backfield duties with another running back and will want more than his previous $2 million he received last year (Spotrac). Not only can the Jets offer him a fat contract, but they can also grant him the role he deserves and a chance to be the face of a new offense in one of the biggest markets in football. Even for Fournette, that’s a tough bargain to turn down, and the Jets should not hesitate to approach him this offseason.
1. Chris Carson:
This might seem far-fetched for some, but Chris Carson is an absolute must-have running back for the Jets and brings just about everything one can ask for. Despite a tough 2020 season, Carson still managed to muster his best average per carry in his career and demonstrated what kind of force he can be on the receiving end as well. In addition, Carson is only 26 years old and had two flat out dominant seasons in 2018 and 2019, where he posted over 240 carries, ran for over 1,500 rushing yards, and tacked on over 5 rushing touchdowns in each of those two seasons (ESPN). This man runs with authority and pure determination, providing a level of athleticism and creativity that not many in this league can match on a weekly basis.
To top it all off, the Seattle Seahawks have their own little list of unrestricted free agents they will want to resign over the offseason, yet they only have a meager $14 million of cap space at their disposal (Spotrac). After receiving an annual average of over $600 thousand dollars last season, Carson will be looking for his first, major contract and Seattle does not have a lot of funds to sway him from leaving (Spotrac). When all is said and done, the Jets need star talent on offense badly. And with his versatility and ever-growing potential, Carson makes for the perfect fit for this new-look Jets offense.