Veteran free agents the Chicago Bears should sign

As the Chicago Bears continue to add to the roster in preparation for the 2021 NFL regular season, the NFL free-agent market still features a number of players that should intrigue head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace. Chicago is limited on cap space, despite cutting veteran Charles Leno Jr. on Monday morning. With the rookie class still unsigned, the Bears would need to penny-pinch to bring in any veteran talent, but as we’ve all heard the saying, “Cap space is fluid in the NFL.” That means the Bears could move around some money to accommodate a veteran they feel can be an asset to the team in 2021.

The good news about signing veterans once the NFL Draft has concluded is that contracts are usually cheaper. Veterans who play the following season are open to taking discounts, which works out for a team that’s looking for a short-term investment. With the Bears returning to Halas Hall in mid-May for offseason workouts, let’s break down some veteran free agents that Chicago should consider.

1) OLB Justin Houston

The Bears clearly didn’t get the return on investment they hoped in 2020 after inking Robert Quinn to a five-year worth $70M. Behind Quinn, the team has 2020 fifth-round pick Trevis Gipson who had a limited impact as a rookie. While the Bears did sign ex-Virginia pass rusher Charles Snowden as an undrafted free agent, adding Justin Houston would serve the team well.

Over the last two seasons, Houston has started 32 games for the Indianapolis Colts, totaling 19 sacks and 69 tackles. He’d be one of the more expensive free agents to sign, with money being the deciding factor. But he could be a rotational pass rusher for the Bears, splitting time with Quinn if needed.

2) CB Brian Poole

The Bears currently have 10 cornerbacks on the roster. So why not add an 11th? Brian Poole has split time in the NFL between playing on the outside but can also play inside as a slot cornerback if needed. Ideally, Poole would come in and push 2019 and 2020 sixth-round rookies Duke Shelley and Kindle Vildor, both of whom could be starting in the slot for Chicago in 2021.

Poole wouldn’t be a lock to make the opening day roster, but his experience could give the Bears enough competition throughout the rest of the offseason to warrant seeing veterans like Artie Burns, Tre Roberson, and Desmond Trufant be put on alert.

3) S Malik Hooker

Reclamation projects always seem to be fun talking points in the NFL, especially when it comes to former first-round picks like Malik Hooker. Chicago retained veterans Tashaun Gipson and Deon Bush this offseason, with both signing one-year deals.

With no starting safety lined up next to Eddie Jackson for 2022, Malik Hooker should intrigue the Bears. Give him a chance to see if he plays well enough, even in a situational role, to see if he earns a new contract for 2022. At worst, Hooker develops into a special teams contributor.

Injuries have been an issue for the former first-round pick, but he’s still worth taking a chance on as a reclamation project who could turn his career around under first-year defensive coordinator Sean Desai.

4) LT Eric Fisher

As mentioned above, the Bears released veteran left tackle Charles Leno Jr., ending an eight-year run with the team. Chicago did draft OT Teven Jenkins in round two, but Jenkins started just seven games at left tackle in college. Bears General Manager Ryan Pace did imply that the team was open to playing Jenkins at either left or right tackle on Saturday following the NFL Draft.

If Jenkins remains, the Bears starting right tackle, Erick Fisher could make sense. He’s familiar with head coach Matt Nagy, as the two spent time together in Kansas City. Fisher started 15 games for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2020, earning a Pro Bowl appearance in the process. Set to turn 30-years old, he’s got enough left in the tank to warrant protecting the blindsides of quarterbacks Andy Dalton and Justin Fields in 2021.

5) OLB Ryan Kerrigan

Another veteran pass rusher, it’s a mystery as to why Ryan Kerrigan remains unsigned. Starting 141 games since 2011, Kerrigan amassed 95.5 sacks. Set to turn 33-years old in August, Kerrigan could be another cheap option for the Bears as a rotational pass rusher or even someone to split reps with Quinn.

Compared to Houston, Kerrigan would be a much cheaper option, likely signing for just under $10M per year, giving the Bears a veteran who’s going something to prove heading into 2021.

6) RT Mitchell Schwartz

As it currently stands, the Bears starting right tackle is expected to be Germain Ifedi, who split time between right tackle and right guard in 2020. If Chicago does indeed plan to experiment with Jenkins at left tackle, that would leave Alex Bars, Elijah Wilkinson, and 2021 fifth-round pick Larry Borom as options to start at right tackle.

Bars has been solid for the Bears, playing a variety of positions on the offensive line, but a true upgrade would be Mitchell Schwartz, who spent time with Matt Nagy in Kansas City from 2016-2018. Bringing in Schwartz would buy the Bears time to develop Borom.

Set to turn 32-years old in June, despite coming off an injury, Schwartz has remained relatively healthy throughout his career, meaning he’s worth taking a chance on.

What should the Bears do?

Each of the names above would provide the Bears with an opportunity to add some sort of veteran presence, especially in the tackle room should the Bears bring in Schwartz or Fisher. Adding Kerrigan or Houston would be viewed by some as a luxury move, but it’d also be some insurance should Quinn get injured.

Adding Poole or Hooker would be more about creating competition. It’d also allow for new defensive coordinator Sean Desai to get creative when it comes to disguising coverages, as both do have different skillsets.

Overall, despite being short on cap space, adding a veteran player this late in the offseason shouldn’t be off the table for the Bears franchise, which is looking to surprise some people in 2021.

What’s next? A post-NFL Draft checklist for the New York Jets

New York Jets, Brian Poole

Draft weekend is over, but the New York Jets still have several needs to fill before they take to the practice field.

The New York Jets’ work in Cleveland is done. Nine names were added during last weekend’s NFL Draft proceedings and several others have been penciled in through rookie free agency.

But the Jets’ work is nowhere near complete.

That, unfortunately, is the macabre cloud that hangs over anything the Jets do until they start winning games again. The team has earned positive reviews for their draft weekend proceedings, one headlined by the offensive additions of Zach Wilson and Alijah Vera-Tucker. But it means nothing until they at least get back into the “in the hunt” column in those NFL postseason charts that emerge on game broadcasts circa the holiday season. General manager Joe Douglas has made it clear that he has a vision, but the on-field execution awaits.

The time is ripe for making further additions, as Monday marks the end of any compensatory pick matters when it comes to free agents. What else do the Jets need in the post-Mr. Irrelevant era of the offseason? ESM investigates…

Backup Quarterback

The Jets’ current quarterback group (Zach Wilson/James Morgan/Mike White) has a grand total of zero NFL regular season passes among them. It’s great that Wilson is there as the anchor, the latest name to fill the star-crossed role of franchise quarterback. But the Jets needs to bring someone in as both a veteran mentor and someone to have in case of an emergency. They had the right idea in the final year of the Sam Darnold era through signing Joe Flacco, but he’s in Philadelphia now. Darnold attributed the success of his rookie season to working with Josh McCown and it would behoove the Jets to find a similar solution.

Alex Smith might’ve been the most attractive option in both of those regards, but he opted for retirement. Nick Mullens, he of 16 starts over three seasons under offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur in San Francisco, is also available, but, at 26, he might not be able to provide the veteran mentorship Wilson needs in his debut season. The best current option might be Brian Hoyer, who was brought in for a visit in April. Hoyer, set to enter his 13th NFL season, spent last season in New England, his third stint with the Patriots, and credits his mentorship skills from working with Tom Brady.

“I learned so much and whenever I had a question for him, he was there to give me an answer,” Hoyer said in 2017 prior to a pre-LaFleur stint in San Francisco, per Chris Biderman of Niners Wire. “For me, the best way to be a mentor…was just watch somebody do it and do it the right way. And then when they ask you questions, you give them straight-up honest answers.”

Experienced Defensive Help

Anyone complaining about the lack of defensive additions over the first two days of the draft was roundly silenced when the Jets spent all but one of their Saturday selections on defenders. But the Jets are already packed to the brim with young projects at the top of their defensive depth chart, particularly in their secondary. Rookies Michael Carter II, Jason Pinnock, and Brandin Echols are set to join Bless Austin, Bryce Hall, and Javelin Guidry. The franchise-tagged Marcus Maye is set to work next to sophomore Ashtyn Davis. New York even found some solid pass rushing additions through the undrafted front, including Hamilcar Rashed Jr. out of Oregon State. There’s certainly plenty to be inspired when it comes to the defensive haul, but there’s no guarantee any of them can be day one starters.

The team could use some veteran help and the current free agent bank has plenty of options. Steven Nelson, one of the stronger man-to-man coverage guys, is still around after two seasons in Pittsburgh. Inviting in Richard Sherman, who endlessly praised the hire of Robert Saleh, for at least an interview would almost be a no-brainer. The Jets could also bring back Brian Poole as a reliable nickel prescience, one that remains on the open market after injury issues last season.

The Jets emerged from the weekend with several building blocks to groom and develop. But if they’re looking to contend in the immediate future…the playoffs still seem like a pipe dream but a decent opportunity to reenter NFL relevancy…they’ll have to add some veteran defenders that can come in and contribute immediately.

Blocking Depth

The Jets must be careful with their blocking moving forward. It’s great to see they’re anchoring Wilson’s blind side with back-to-back first rounders, as Vera-Tucker will presumably be working alongside Mekhi Becton. But they took only one lineman in the weekend’s proceedings, going with box score contributors after moving up to take Vera-Tucker. Undrafted yields like New Mexico’s Teton Saltes could make some headway but some veteran finds would turn the pressure up on an offensive line that’s set to retain three starting members from a unit that ranked 29th in Pro Football Focus’ annual offensive line standings.

It’s a hole the Jets have slightly dug themselves into, curiously opting to add veteran depth options (like Dan Feeney and Corey Levin) before the draft rather than after it as other elite talents came and went. Many of the names left on the free agent front are up there in age but can serve as stopgaps or provide some extra training camp heat. Former Green Bay Packer Rick Wagner could work on the right side while the Jets solve their center woes by putting Connor McGovern up against another veteran like Joe Looney this summer until they can find a more permanent solution for Wilson. Center was among the biggest problems during the Sam Darnold era, so any form of consistency they can with the newcomer, even if it’s only temporary, can start steering this ship in the right direction.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Two lingering free agents the New York Jets should bring back

The New York Jets have been leaving the Adam Gase/Gregg Williams era behind, but these defensive staples might be worth keeping around. 

The New York Jets have taken spring cleaning to a new level this offseason.

A purge of the Adam Gase era unofficially began during his ill-fated second season, when a de facto fire sale ended the green careers of Le’Veon Bell, Avery Williamson, and future Super Bowl champion Steve McLendon. Gase himself was let go after an unceremonious 32 games, taking almost all of his coaching staff with him. Several big names from the era were likewise sent elsewhere, the further departures headlined by the trade of franchise quarterback Sam Darnold to Carolina. Linebacker Jordan Jenkins, the longest-tenured member of the team, absconded for Houston via free agency.

But not all remnants of the Gase era have been condemned to seek employment elsewhere. Marcus Maye, a former Gregg Williams pupil, was bestowed the franchise tag. Offensive representatives like Vyncint Smith and Daniel Brown, the latter’s signing announced yesterday, are likewise back for more. Ten former Jets currently remain on the open market.

Should anyone else be welcomed back? ESM has a couple of ideas in mind…

LB Neville Hewitt

The signer of three consecutive one-year deals, Hewitt has been one of the Jets’ undisputed defensive leaders. Formerly of the Dolphins and the Marshall Thundering Herd, Hewitt has earned 161 solo takedowns (13 for a loss) over the last three years. He has thus established himself as one of the more reliable depth defenders in the league and could help the team find a sense of veteran leadership with young help presumably coming through the draft.

The Jets’ linebacking corps has been racked by disaster, whether it’s through big-ticket disappointments (Darron Lee) or abysmal luck on the medical front (C.J. Mosley, Blake Cashman). Hewitt is likely seeking some more stable, but if the Jets are looking for a reliable depth option, they shouldn’t hesitate to offer Hewitt something longer. His passable skills on both pass rush and coverage could help soothe Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich’s expected implementation of a 4-3 set.

CB Brian Poole

Poole has built a solid NFL career after going undrafted out of Florida. But he has had apparent difficulty finding work after partaking in a career-low nine games due to shoulder and knee issues. He was one of the Jets’ more consistent defenders during the 2019 campaign and even appeared in Pro Football Focus’ Top 25 cornerbacks list at the end of the regular season. The former Atlanta Falcon was the highest-ranked slot specialist on that list, praised for his work in the nickel.

Bringing back Poole would provide an experienced secondary defender for a group that needs depth and guidance. Young projects like Bless Austin and Bryce Hall, each emerging as day three gems from the most recent drafts, are expected to take starring roles in Ulbrich’s new defense. Poole also holds championship experience, a trait the Jets have appeared to value if their signings from elsewhere are any indication. He was a part of Atlanta’s ill-fated trip to Super Bowl LI and had a game-high seven tackles in the NFC title game win over Green Bay.

It’s surprising that Poole has lasted this long on the open market. The Jets should take advantage before it’s too late.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

5 impending free agents the New York Jets should bring back

With the start of free agency inching closer, the New York Jets have some decisions to make. With 17 unrestricted free agents, and some more restricted, some are going to walk and some are going to return. The question is: who are they going to bring back?

Not all of them should, obviously, but odds are a good number of them will. The number of players that should be brought back is somewhat small compared to the overall list, in all honesty. So, these are five players that the team should re-sign:

S Marcus Maye

This is an obvious one. In fact, it’s the most obvious thing the Jets should do this offseason. Marcus Maye was easily the best player on the team this past season, at least on defense. While playing in all 16 games, he compiled 82 total tackles, 2 sacks, 2 interceptions and 11 passes defended, all career highs. He also added four tackles-for-loss and two QB hits.

Filling the hole left by Jamal Adams wasn’t going to be easy, but Maye made it look like it was. He did everything on the field. That’s why I have him listed as a safety and not restricted to free or strong. He can play both well.

The highlight of his season, though, was an image that resembled a real throwback.

Everyone remembers the infamous “butt-fumble” from the Mark Sanchez. This past season, Marcus Maye introduced the world to the “butt-pick.” That alone should have him resigned.

In all seriousness, though, Marcus Maye needs to be resigned. He is extremely vital to the defense and the overall team’s success.

CB Brian Poole

Brian Poole has unarguably been the team’s best cornerback the past couple of seasons after coming over from Atlanta. This past season, however, he only played in nine games. In those nine games, he had 44 tackles (2 for loss), 2 interceptions, 7 passes defended, 2 QB hits and a sack.

The Jets wouldn’t have to break the bank to bring him back, making him a smart re-sign. He’s a very capable and productive player for the cost and, to be honest, the team doesn’t have many reliable options in the secondary at this point.

Poole didn’t necessarily “prove it” after his one-year, $5 million deal. However, he showed enough to at least come back for another year.

LB Jordan Jenkins

Jordan Jenkins is another player who wouldn’t “break the bank” in a return. He has spent his entire five-year career with the Jets and should be brought back to continue with them. The only problem is, he had a noticeably down year after a great 2019 season.

This past season, he had, in 12 games, 32 combined tackles (3 for loss), 2 sacks, 6 QB hits and a forced fumble. The sack number is what really sticks out. In 2018 and 2019 he had 7 and 8 sacks, respectively. That number dropping to just 2 is not a good sight. However, I don’t think that’s enough to prevent them from bringing him back.

Jenkins is still under 30 and can provide nice production for a reasonable price. He should be brought back by the Jets.

LB Harvey Langi

Langi, being an inside linebacker, got substantial playing time with absences, specifically the opt-out of C.J. Mosley and the trade of Avery Williamson. Regardless, while on the field, he made an impact that was hard to ignore.

He had 60 total tackles, but other than that his number don’t fly off the page. Something that does fly, however, is him while on the field.

Harvey Langi isn’t the kind of player that’s going to break records or put up Pro Bowl statistics. His play style doesn’t really allow for that to be the case. Regardless, his play style and services can be valuable. He’s shown that.

While he doesn’t rack up very high tackle numbers, he’s always in the vicinity. While he doesn’t get a ton of sacks, QB hits or passes defended, he causes pressure. He does the type of things that lead to wins but don’t necessarily show up on stat sheets. As a result, the Jets could bring him back on a very team-friendly deal to help the defense.

CB Arthur Maulet

To end off the list, I’m sticking with defense. As I mentioned when making the case for Brian Poole, the New York Jets don’t have much to be excited about at cornerback. They have some young talent, but if they don’t make a big addition in free agency, Arthur Maulet could be a solid player to bring back.

Maulet re-signing wouldn’t be a headline, but it could be extremely beneficial for the defense. In 11 games last season, he had 29 total tackles, a QB hit, a sack, 5 passes defended and an interception. He was, whether it’s believable or not, one of the best players in the secondary for the Jets throughout the season.

He played last season on a one-year, $875,000 deal, which is not a big dent in the cap whasteover. If they can re-sign him to a similar deal, even if it’s slightly more money, it’s well worth it.

Maulet, along with Marcus Maye, Brian Poole, Jordan Jenkins and Harvey Langey all should be re-signed. If they all will, however, remains a mystery at this point.

New York Jets positional preview 2021: Secondary

What does the post-Jamal Adams era look like for a New York Jets secondary riddled with free agents? ESM investigates.

The Position: Secondary
On the Roster: Bless Austin, Corey Ballentine, Javelin Guidry, Bryce Hall, Lamar Jackson, Elijah Campbell, Sauqan Hampton, Ashtyn Davis, J.T. Hassell
Free Agents: Marcus Maye, Brian Poole, Arthur Maulet, Bradley McDougald, Matthias Farley, Bennett Jackson, Kyron Brown
Reserve/Future: Zane Lewis

The Jamal Adams roller-coaster finally returned to the loading station for the last time over the summer, as the disgruntled defender was dealt to Seattle. As far as the Jets are concerned they won’t have to think about Adams again, at least for the time being, until the Seahawks visit MetLife Stadium in 2024. The Jets even netted a solid consolation prize in a pair of Seattle first-round picks.

But, a question lingered, almost forgotten in the hullabaloo Adams caused on his way out: what would become of the secondary he left behind?

Leadership duties turned over to Adams’ fellow SEC alum and 2017 draftee Marcus Maye, who took full advantage of a new year in the spotlight. Maye set new career-bests in almost every major defensive category and ensured the Jets at least appeared in the SportsCenter Top 10 with a pair of jaw-dropping interceptions. His efforts were rewarded with the 2020 Curtis Martin Team MVP Award.

But Maye is set to be a free agent this spring and the situation behind him is quite murky. Injuries prevented some of the Jets’ defensive youngsters from taking the next step in their development, though some (like fifth-round rookie cornerback Bryce Hall) managed to make the most of their opportunities.

It’s great to see the Jets managed to make something of an ugly situation, vis a vis Adams’ departure. But it’s going to mean nothing if they can’t settle their own affairs on the homefront.

Free Agents-to-be

Kyron Brown

Brown, who partook in three games (one start) in 2019, spent all of last season on the Physically Unable to Perform list. As an exclusive rights free agent, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get a camp opportunity.

Matthias Farley

Farley may be brought back for not only defensive veteran leadership, but for his work on the Jets’ special teams. He held special teams captaincy last season and led the Jets with seven tackles on kickoffs and punt returns.

Bennett Jackson 

The versatile Hazlet, NJ native has partaken in ten games over the past two seasons with the Jets and Ravens after a nearly half-decade absence from regular season action. His versatility, having played both cornerback and safety, could warrant him a new opportunity in green.

Arthur Maulet

Another defender who made his mark on special teams, Maulet possibly earned some brownie points with Jets brass when he did a serviceable job at safety over the final games. It’s possible Maulet could return on a third one-year deal.

Marcus Maye

Shortly after his hiring, new Jets head coach Robert Saleh sang of Maye’s praises.

“I know he’s got a tremendous reputation in the locker room,” Saleh said, per notes from the Jets. “From my understanding, he’s a very, very, very talented young man. And within our scheme, safeties are, obviously, they’re important to everybody, but with how we do things, it sounds like he’d be a very versatile piece.”

In terms of the Jets’ own free agents, Maye would likely be at the top of the list of terms of potential returnees. He probably isn’t worth the Eddie Jackson-numbers that Adams was seeking just yet, but the Jets’ plethora of cap space could make him an intriguing candidate for the franchise tag (circa $10-12 million).

Bradley McDougald

In 2020, McDougald became the answer to a New York sports trivia question, as he’s thus far the only yield from the Adams trade with a name. Unfortunately for McDougald, he failed to make an impact in the secondary was one of those afflicted by injuries (seven games). There’s no doubt that McDougald is talented, and the Jets could bring him back on an affordable short-term deal, though he’d probably have to battle for reps with Ashtyn Davis.

Brian Poole

One of the more pleasant surprises of the 2019 season, Poole was brought back on a second one-year deal and posted solid numbers before the injury bug cost him seven games. Through his time in Atlanta and New York, Poole has developed a strong reputation as a reliable slot defender. He’s more than earned another one-year deal, but, set to turn 29 in October, he might be seeking more long-term stability this time around.

Will They Draft?

It’s probably not a question of if, but when the Jets address their secondary on draft weekend. It also feels like these issues can be addressed as early as one of their Seattle picks at No. 23. Top prospect Patrick Surtain Jr. will likely be gone by then, but former receiver Caleb Farley out of Virginia Tech could be around, as well as more of Maye’s fellow SEC options like Jaycee Horn (South Carolina) and Tyson Campbell (Georgia).

Veteran Possibilities

Richard Sherman, San Francisco

The big difference between the hiring of Adam Gase and the modern arrival of Saleh is the difference in who was praising the moves. When Gase was brought in, it was mostly hot-take artists who felt like Gase was an outside-the-box hire. When Saleh came to town, it was the players who were responding positively to the move. No one’s praises have been louder than Sherman’s from afar, as Saleh has worked with him in their shared NFC West stops in Seattle and San Francisco. Sherman told Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer that Saleh would ” turn that entire culture around” and he personally congratulated the Jets on Twitter after the move was announced.

This, of course, raises the question…if Sherman is such a big Saleh fan, would be willing to join him in his first head coaching endeavor? Sherman would be a great fit, as the regaining of his trademark brand of smashmouth football, as well as his championship experience, would be perfect for this team to pick up.

Jason Verrett, San Francisco 

The more Niners the merrier, it would appear, as Saleh comes over from the Bay Area and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich represented the team as a player for a decade. That concept will probably only increase as players will seek to gain traction and stability in Saleh’s new schemes. Verrett would a comparable option to Sherman, though he’s younger and potentially more affordable.

Xavier Woods, Dallas

While there’s plenty of talent available in this secondary free agent class, many of them are expensive names that are either past or nearing the end of their prime. Woods is nearing the end of his rookie deal after four serviceable seasons in Dallas, but he struggled in coverage in the Cowboys’ beleaguered secondary. While the Jets truly can’t afford to help someone else pen a redemption story, as they’ve spent a decade trying to write their own to no avail, they could make an exception for Woods and his flashes of potential.

Outlook

Already in a tenuous spot, the Jets need to do something to bolster their secondary in the post-Adams age. Bringing back Maye, even if it’s through a franchise tag deal that would allow them a year of relatively consequence-free football to see if he fits in Saleh’s system, would be a vital first step in achieving that goal. Adding Maye back would also combat the issues of a free agent class relatively deep in experience while giving the youngsters whom the Jets have high hopes for (Austin, Davis, Hall, etc.) a familiar face to work with.

Signing Maye probably isn’t going to become the ultimate difference between the postseason and another trip home in January. But, if they miss out on him, the Jets better have one heck of a backup plan.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Who should replace Gregg Williams at defensive coordinator?

New York Jets, Gregg Williams

The New York Jets defense currently looks lifeless for a number of reasons. The biggest two, though, are coaching and lack of talented personnel. The primary excuse to this point has been, “the defense cannot get off the field” when in actuality, the Jets’ time of possession is only on average of five minutes or so less than their opponents. They fail to control the ball, which is true, but the team is so poorly coached; it is laughable.

With budding turmoil between head coach Adam Gase and Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams, it is not a long shot to think that Williams could be axed soon, with Gase following eventually. Williams has regressed mightily this year, likely due to the talent drop-off and the poor leadership from Gase, Still, as the rift widens between the two, I decided to pinpoint one guy who makes sense to replace Williams as soon as possible.

Dennard Wilson Deserves A Shot

Dennard Wilson had a fairly impressive college football career at the University of Maryland. Wilson was a dynamic piece of the Terrapins secondary, playing in 42 games with 30 starts. In his senior year, he played well enough to earn an honorable All-ACC Mention and eventually a contract from the Washington Football Team. Unfortunately, a season-ending injury wrecked his pro career, but he quickly found his niche as a coach.

Fast forward to 2017, Wilson was brought on to be the defensive backs coach under Todd Bowles and the Jets. Wilson impressed so highly in his first year that he kept a job despite the coaching turnover. As of this season as well, Wilson even earned a promotion to Passing Game Coordinator/ DBs Coach. Wilson has quickly ascended the coaching ranks, and at 38, has made a name for himself in the NFL.

Despite having one of the least talented secondaries in the league, last season, the secondary was able to display potential with pieces like Brian Poole and Bless Austin earning long-term roles. Then this season, the team has improved its amount of turnovers and rotated in young corners to see what they are made of. The success of guys like Austin, UDFA Lamar Jackson, and Brian Poole can be attributed to the hands-on approach used by Wilson.

His coaching has led him to keep his job, and he evidently deserves a shot to prove himself as a coordinator. To put it frankly, Williams deserves a shot to go work under a competent young head coach, a la, Wade Phillips in LA. As for Wilson, the potential coaching ascension possibilities for him would be plentiful if he had success. He could remain on the staff as the coordinator if another head coach didn’t want to bring in his own guy or if the coach/organization sees potential in him. Not only that, but he could earn a potentially better opportunity as a coordinator elsewhere, or even as a head coach in New York if he does THAT good. The opportunities are endless, and the Jets should seize the opportunity to lessen the organizational dissension by axing Williams and giving Wilson a shot as the Defensive Coordinator.

New York Jets: 2 players who could be traded before the deadline

new york jets, jamison crowder

The New York Jets are now 0-6 with yesterday’s loss to the Dolphins. Surprisingly, the amount of points they scored yesterday is the same amount of wins they still currently have. Okay, maybe it’s not that surprising.

On another note, it seems as though they are in full “sell” mode.

Jamal Adams, Le’Veon Bell, and most recently Steve McClendon, have all been removed from this team one way or another this season. It seems as though no one is safe right now, as linebacker Avery Williamson has already pointed out.

The Jets and general manager Joe Douglas appear to be leaning towards a rebuild now, potentially without Sam Darnold, but that’s a worn-out conversation already. So, let’s look at two other players that could be off the team come the deadline.

Jamison Crowder

Crowder is unarguably the team’s best receiver and potentially their best player overall. Through four games played, as he’s missed two, he’s totaled 29 receptions for 383 yards and 2 touchdowns. Before finishing with 48 yards yesterday, he was leading the NFL with 111.7 receiving yards per game.

His services could potentially come down to a bidding war among teams pushing for the playoffs this season, especially if they need a proven offensive piece. Crowder, who mostly lines up in the slot, wouldn’t force a team to make him the top target outside of the numbers. When he’s lined up in the slot, he’s been very productive and reliable.

Potential contenders, such as the Packers, would benefit instantly from acquiring him. However, injury-riddled teams, such as the Eagles, could be in play as well.

Being the team’s best asset at the moment, he would probably allow for the most return in any trade. Almost immediately after the Le’Veon Bell release, Crowder was named as one of two players on the trade block.

Brian Poole

With Crowder as one of two players named on the trade block, Poole joined him as the other. Poole is the Jets’ best cornerback, and it isn’t close. He was the ninth highest-graded cornerback in the entire league last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Also, before yesterday’s game, he was ranked fifth in the league with a coverage grade of 81.6.

Poole was re-signed in the offseason to a one-year, $5-million deal. If he’s dealt before the deadline, it’s most likely because of his contract. Corner-needy teams won’t have to spend any sort of drastic money for him, making him even more desirable.

Teams such as the Chiefs, Packers, Seahawks, Cardinals and Raiders could all upgrade their slot-corner position with Brian Poole, to name a few. That doesn’t mean that any of these teams go for him, but they are some potential teams to watch.

Right now, all the talk and rumors surrounding Jamison Crowder and Brian Poole is speculation, but with the direction things seem to be heading, they could realistically be gone before the end of the reason. If they are, it’ll be interesting to see what Joe Douglas can get in return.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New York Jets add former Air Force defensive back to ranks

New York Jets, Zane Lewis

The New York Jets have added a new piece to the secondary in the former track star and defensive back Zane Lewis. Lewis was signed by the Cardinals as a UDFA out of Air Force for the most money of any of the 21 UDFAs they brought on.

When watching him, a few key abilities show why he earned the money he did originally. His speed, versatility, and on-field production are big reasons why and why the Jets picked him up quickly.

How will Zane Lewis fit in with the New York Jets: 

At Air Force, Lewis played in 37 games with 94 tackles, 5 TFLs, and 2 INTs. In 2019, Zane played in all 13 of their games and put up 45 tackles and one pick. He also finished fourth in the Mountain West for pass deflections with 15 as well.

Lewis was a key contributor and leader for a squad that had their best year in a long time, finishing 11-2. Lewis received a lot of compliments during the pre-draft process for his coverage abilities and his vertical speed. His biggest flaws though, came when looking at his tackling. It was evident in watching him shortly that he needs to get better as a tackler to stick in the league.

With the Jets they have a lot of depth at corner currently. That doesn’t mean much, though. Aside from Pierre Desir, Bless Austin, and Brian Poole, there is no clear 4th option. If Lewis comes in and performs quickly, he could fight for that role at some point. Still, with his flaws, he will need to shape up quickly. If he does, the speedy corner could be a nice addition. 

Report: New York Jets signing veteran corner Logan Ryan to prove it deal

New York Jets, Logan Ryan, Tennessee Titans

Throughout this offseason, New York Jets GM Joe Douglas has been very active in signing players to prove it deals to attempt to fill critical needs. He’s also been very aggressive in trying to fill one of the Jets’ biggest voids. Last season the Jets’ cornerback group was one of the worst in football. With minimal depth and no proven entities, the Jets had to upgrade the position this the offseason.

They released Trumaine Johnson and Darryl Roberts, two bad signings from the old regime, and added Pierre Desir on a one year deal. They also brought back Brian Poole on a one year deal as well. The Jets still have Bless Austin, Nate Hairston, and Arthur Maulet, but they looked to upgrade the position in the draft.

The Jets then came out of the draft with two more new corners—Bryce Hall from Virginia and 23-year-old former second-rounder from the Colts, Quincy Wilson. Although there were reports before the draft of the Jets’ interest in CB Logan Ryan, it seemed as though the team was comfortable with their corners. Well, apparently they were not. The New York Jets have reportedly signed Logan Ryan to a one year deal per Manish Mehta of the NY Daily News.

Who is Logan Ryan?

As we’ve covered extensively here at ESM, Logan Ryan is a reliable veteran coming off a very successful season. Ryan is a hometown kid who attended Rutgers University. After a solid career there, Ryan was drafted in the 3rd Round of 2013 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. When Ryan debuted, he immediately carved himself a role with the Pats. Ryan was an excellent corner with them until he left in 2016.

He then joined the Titans, where he’s been coached by Mike Vrabel. He comes from a very good coaching tree, and he’s got a championship pedigree with two rings under his belt. Ryan is also 29 years old; he’s still got a few years of good football left. After remaining unsigned for the first two months or so of free agency, he now goes to a team in need of a reliable lead corner.

How Will Ryan Fit?

Logan Ryan is coming off a season where he had 113 tackles, 4 INTs, and 4 TFLs. In one of the best years of his career, he also picked off his former teammate, Tom Brady, in what was ultimately the last play of Brady’s time in New England. Now the former Patriot is coming home to the Jets.

Ryan will be tasked with leading a young cornerback group while also trying to perform well to earn himself a long term deal. What better coach to have with that pressure then one of the best defensive coordinators in the game, Gregg Williams. The opportunity to play under Gregg has been a critical reason that players like Brian Poole and Jordan Jenkins took such cheap deals to return to the Jets and is likely a reason Logan Ryan is coming to Gang Green. Williams gets the best out of his players, and he will try to do that with a veteran player who’s had a lot of success.

Even if this move bombs, the Jets have loads of young talent in the secondary that need mentorship. Bryce Hall and Bless Austin could both benefit from learning behind an experienced player, and even Quincy Wilson and Pierre Desir could pick up a thing or two from Ryan. Overall, the Jets have solidified their secondary for the upcoming season and formulated serious competition for the starting roles.

If there is anything you can pull from this offseason, it’s that Joe Douglas likes two things, leadership and establishing competition. By adding a talented player like Logan Ryan, he did just that. 

New York Jets Resign CB Brian Poole (Report)

New York Jets, Brian Poole

The New York Jets secondary was very weak last year. They didn’t have a true number one or two corner. They continuously rotated guys in the spots to see who, if any, could cover on the outside. At nickel corner, however, the Jets were set. Brian Poole had a career year for the Jets and according to PFF, was ranked as one of the top 10 best corners in the league. This made him a priority on the Jets list this offseason. Now, the Jets locked Poole up, according to The Athletic’s Connor Hughes.

The Contract

Locking Poole up may be an understatement– the Jets inked Poole to a one year, $5 million dollar deal. The deal is actually a win-win for both sides. The Jets get stability at the slot corner position for another year on a very good value deal. Poole gets $5 million and another shot to cash in next offseason. The Jets likely used the fact that last year was his best year as a negotiating tactic for the 27-year-old corner. The Jets will now get him back on a team-friendly deal and Poole gets to prove his worth yet again.

What do the Jets do next?

The Jets made Poole a priority and got him back. Now the Jets can turn their attention to adding an outside corner to pair with Bless Austin. The Jets will likely sign one bigger name corner and maybe add a few lower-level guys with good potential. The Jets can now turn their focus to the edge rusher spot and outside corner spots as previously noted, as they await Robby Anderson’s decision. If Anderson doesn’t resign then expect the Jets to move quickly to ink another receiver like Phillip Dorsett and turn their attention towards the other side of the ball.