The New York Jets top 10 free agents

new york jets, quincy williams
Oct 16, 2022; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) is tackled by New York Jets linebacker Quincy Williams (56) during the third quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets have a big offseason ahead of them. It obviously all starts with getting a veteran quarterback. The offensive line needs an addition or two. A safety could certainly be acquired. Also, in-house, the Jets have over a dozen of their own free agents, 18 players set for unrestricted free agency per Spotrac, to be exact.

Of the many unrestricted free agents that the Jets have, some were core contributors in 2022, players the Jets would be wise to want to keep. Let’s review in order who the Jets’ 10 best free agents are.

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Power Ranking the New York Jets’ best 10 unrestricted free agents:

10. Ty Johnson, RB

Ty Johnson has been with the Jets for quite some time now. In early October of 2020, the Jets claimed Johnson off waivers when he was just getting his second year in the NFL underway. That year, he came in on a bad Jets team and showed some promise.

In his first game as a Jet, Johnson had an explosive 34-yard run against the Dolphins. His best game came in December against the Raiders, when he ran for 104 yards (4.7 per carry) and a touchdown. Johnson played 11 games in his first year as a Jet and averaged 4.7 yards per carry.

Despite a career-best 610 scrimmage yards (238 rushing, 372 receiving) and four touchdowns, Johnson did have some struggles in year two with the Jets, particularly with drops.

In 2022, Johnson showed improvement in the passing game as both a pass-catcher and blocker. He flashed in two games later in the year, against the Bears and Seahawks. Johnson finished this past year averaging 5.3 yards per rush and had 248 all-purpose yards.

Johnson undeniably has the speed and explosion while showing growth in the passing game. The Jets have some unknowns with Breece Hall’s status to start 2023. Having Johnson around as depth with his nearly three years of experience as a Jet could be a smart move.

9. Nathan Shepherd, DT

In year five with the Jets, Nathan Shepherd finally broke out, giving some solid contributions on the second defensive line group.

He played in all 17 games (417 snaps), recording 1.5 sacks, four tackles for loss, and six quarterback hits. Shepherd brought some quality pass-rushing presence in a depth role.

Shepherd has played 73 career games with the Jets since being a third-round draft pick in 2018. Aside from Quinnen Williams and Tanzel Smart, the Jets have no defensive tackles currently under contract for 2023. Having Shepherd remain in the rotation up front along the interior is something the Jets may have some interest in.

8. George Fant, OT

It was a tough year for George Fant, but the truth he clearly was not himself. Due to multiple injuries and position changes, Fant was not able to execute up to what he proved in 2020 and 2021. That said, if he gets healthy this offseason, he can still be an asset at offensive tackle.

Fant has tremendous athletic gifts that allow him to excel in space as a pass protector on the edge against speed rushers.

Fant was probably the Jets’ best player in 2021. He will now be going into his eighth year in the NFL, turning 31 in July. The Jets’ offensive tackle position is certainly in flux, with the potential retirement of Duane Brown, along with Alijah Vera-Tucker, Mekhi Becton, and Max Mitchell all coming off an injury. If Fant’s market is not overly robust, knowing the concerns the Jets have at the position, there is no reason why they should not keep in contact with him.

7. Mike White, QB

After four years with the Jets, Mike White is currently set to hit the free-agent market. He delivered so much excitement and some enticing potential in 2021 and 2022.

With the Jets in the market for a veteran quarterback, it will be fascinating to see how White’s free agency plays out. One would rightfully so think that the Jets would have an interest in keeping White as a backup with everything he showed the last two years. But, if he gets a better opportunity to start elsewhere, he would have to take it.

If it is the end for White with the Jets, he had a great run. His toughness and leadership were clearly loved and respected by all of his Jets teammates. If there is not as big of a market for White, perhaps, the Jets could have a chance at keeping him as their backup to the veteran they acquire.

6. Greg Zuerlein, K

Greg Zuerlein, in his first year with the Jets, gave the team its best kicking execution since 2018. In his 11th NFL season, Zuerlein was nearly perfect on extra points (28-29, 96.6%) and had solid field goal production (30-37, 81.1%) with a longest kick of 60 yards.

Inside of 50 yards, Zuerlein was excellent for the Jets. He went 24-26 (92.3%), with not a single miss from 20-39 yards (15-15).

Zuerlein is 35 but showed in 2022 that he still has some ability left in the tank to have some similar success next season.

5. Connor McGovern, C

Since signing a three-year contract in March 2020, Connor McGovern started 48 games for the Jets’ offensive line, providing immense availability. Over the last three years, McGovern played 3,055 snaps. The only two games he missed throughout the past three seasons were in 2021.

McGovern battled through an injury for the Jets in 2020, which did impact his play. However, in 2021, he did some good things, especially in the running game, which continued in 2022.

McGovern turns 30 in April and has his moments in the passing game. But his run-game execution and consistent week-to-week availability make him valuable. It will be intriguing to see what the Jets do.

4. Nate Herbig, RG

Nate Herbig had a solid first year with the Jets in 2022. After being claimed off waivers in early May, he was expected to be a high-level backup. However, injuries to the Jets’ offensive line happened early and often, leading to Herbig getting his first start in Week 4.

Herbig went on to play some respectable ball for the Jets at right guard. Despite multiple injuries, he started in 11 games (706 snaps).

He is still a very young player and gaining experience. Herbig only turns 25 in July as he enters year five in the NFL. There is a good chance that he is an ascending player hitting his prime years. Knowing that the Jets should be motivated to find a way to keep him around on a multi-year deal.

3. Kwon Alexander, LB

Kwon Alexander proved to be yet another awesome summer signing by Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh. The athletically talented eight-year veteran came in and played all 17 games (559 snaps) in 2022 for the Jets.

Alexander impacted the Jets’ defense with his speed and energy. He finished the year with 69 total tackles (six for loss) and had a forced fumble.

Alexander will not turn 29 until August. Knowing his connection with Saleh, it is fair to expect mutual interest in a return. The main point, though is if the Jets re-sign Quincy Williams, will Alexander look for an opportunity to play more elsewhere? Either way, he was a very good contributor to the Jets last year.

2. Sheldon Rankins, DT

Year two with the Jets was a strong one for defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins. He played in 15 games and made plays as both a pass rusher and run defender. Rankins concluded the year with three sacks.

He proved to be the ideal complement to Quinnen Williams in his breakout year. Rankins turns 29 in April and enters his eighth NFL season. It seems like a two-year contract in the seven to eight million dollar a year range should get it done for the Jets if they want to re-sign Rankins, which they would be wise to do.

1. Quincy Williams, LB

The Jets’ best unrestricted free agent is Quincy Williams. In his second year as a Jet, Williams cut down on the mental errors, and it allowed the natural ability he is gifted with to take over and, at times, dominate.

Williams has all the speed, tackling power, and motor in the world, which were on display in 2022. He played in 15 games and wrapped up the year with 106 tackles (12 for loss), three sacks, and six quarterback hits.

He is 26, turning 27 in late August, and entering his fifth year in the NFL. Williams will likely land a three-year contract. The average annual salary is hard to project, but Williams could land something ranging from seven to nine million dollars a year. His market could be busy, and one would have to expect that the Jets want to keep Williams for the defense to remain one of the best.