New York Jets: Ranking the offseason needs by position

The New York Jets have plenty of positional problems to solve on both sides of the ball. But which issues should take priority?

If 2020 proved anything, it’s that the New York Jets have plenty of problems to solve.

But, even with the second-highest cap space in football, the Jets probably won’t be able to solve all these issues thie offseason. So, with March’s free agency festivities approaching, which position groups should they prioritize with the cap space surplus?

ESM investigates…

New York Jets, Mekhi Becton

1. Offensive Line

One could argue that the Jets must resolve their quarterback situation before embarking on new offseason endeavors. But think of it this way…if the Jets were to gain, say, Deshaun Watson, while failing to address their blocking corps, the Clemson alum would more or less be stuck in the same situation he faces in Houston: running for his life in an attempt to pull off miracles in what likely amounts to a lost cause.

It’s impossible to fully grade Joe Douglas’ tenure as the Jets’ general manager, but his willingness to address the offensive line is admirable and cannot be denied. Douglas’ first moves at the helm were to convince Matt Kalil out of retirement and to bring Alex Lewis in through a trade with Baltimore. In his first draft, Douglas passed on name-brand receiving talents to take Mekhi Becton with the 11th overall pick. The Louisville product became the first blocker chosen with the Jets’ top pick(s) since the legendary combo of D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold in 2006. Douglas also went splurging on blocking help through free agency, namely in the form of Connor McGovern, Greg Van Roten, and George Fant, among others. The veteran haul proved mixed results, but most of them have single-season outs (with only McGovern in a secure state for 2021). It’ll be interesting to see who stays and goes as the Jets prepare for what will likely be an offensive overhaul.

Becton was a great start as we clearly saw last season, but more is needed to truly fortify the wall in front of the quarterback, be it Watson, Sam Darnold, Russell Wilson, or a draftee.

Jan 3, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) throws on the run against the New England Patriots during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

2. Quarterback

Even if it means sticking with Darnold. the Jets need to resolve their quarterback situation as soon as possible. Expanding on why that’s important would be regurgitating almost every football cliche in the book, but the Jets need to gain clarity one way or the other.

As of now, the only guarantee is that the situation is guaranteed to be settled by April 29…the first day of the 2021 NFL Draft, where the Jets own the second overall pick in the NFL Draft in Cleveland. Many assume such a pick will be used on one of the quarterback prospects the Jacksonville Jaguars don’t take, and yet, the Jets have seemingly been connected to every disgruntled elite quarterback that wants a change of setting. The Jets are nowhere near a mindset where they can improvise on draft day. Having a concrete plan is so crucial moving forward for a team so embedded in a perpetual rebuild. Whatever the Jets do, be it Darnold, a new franchise man through free agency/the draft, or even a stopgap thrower like the Colts did with Phillip Rivers, they have to have a plan.

Nov 29, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Denzel Mims (11) runs the ball ahead of Miami Dolphins defensive back Nik Needham (40) during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

3. Wide Receiver

Obviously, the Jets should not aim for a roster setup that serves to please the fantasy football owner. But, the fact of the matter is, the modern NFL is one that does embrace high-scoring games, as stat ledgers occasionally rival Arena Football League contests. Since Brandon Marshall left after the 2016 season, the Jets have mustered only 15 occasions where a receiver has hit triple digits in receiving yards. Eight of those tallies were earned by Robby Anderson, who was allowed to leave the metropolitan area without much of a fight. Draft Becton was obviously the right move to make, but it came at the cost of passing on elite receiving talent. Shortly after the Becton choice, Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, and Justin Jefferson found their respective homes.

Even though his rookie season was plagued by injuries, the Jets have high hopes for second round choice Denzel Mims, but he can’t do it alone, and the Jets could use some veteran assistance to help oversee his first NFL seasons and his presumed ascension to the top of the receiver depth chart. There’s plenty of elite veteran help available this offseason, and the Jets should not only focus on getting some big play assistance but on gaining some catching continuity as well. To put things in painful perspective…no wide receiver from Darnold’s rookie season was on the roster last season.

Cole Beasley of Buffalo and Marcus Maye of the Jets make contact after Beasley made a catchin the second halfÊas the Buffalo Bills met the New York Jets at Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on October 25, 2020.
The Buffalo Bills Vs The New York Jets At Metlife Stadium In East Rutherford New Jersey On October 25 2020

4. Secondary

The secondary is by far by the Jets’ most desperate defensive area, one that may be glad that the Jamal Adams saga is over, but has a long way to go in terms of filling the talent void left behind in his wake. All signs seem to point toward the team franchise tagging Marcus Maye, but it’ll take far more than an expensive tryout season under Robert Saleh to fully fix the unit. There is a lot of young potential to work with, like that of Bryce Hall, Ashtyn Davis, and Bless Austin, but medical absences prevented them from making a true impact last year.

New York Jets, C.J. Mosley
Sep 8, 2019; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets inside linebacker C.J. Mosley (57) celebrates after a fumble recovery during the first half against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

5. Linebacker

Right from the get-go, it was clear that last season was going to a problem for the Jets, as C.J. Mosley (understandably) opted out and hopeful sophomore Blake Cashman endured another injury-riddled season. Several depth options came up big (Neville Hewitt, Tarell Basham), but they’re up to hit the open market. Mosley’s (presumed) return should help soothe the blow a little bit, but the Jets still need to do their due diligence, particularly on their edge rush that’s likely dealing with Josh Allen (and possibly Tua Tagovailoa) twice a year for the foreseeable future.

New York Jets, Chris Herndon

6. Tight End

The Jets are certainly inspired by the re-emergence of Chris Herndon and hope he’ll be able to emerge as a top target for whoever the quarterback may be next season. They could certainly use some refreshing in the area, especially with blocking option Daniel Brown hitting the market, but unless they find some themselves in a comfortable spot to take Kyle Pitts early (potentially through a draft day trade?), they’ll probably hope that Herndon’s rebirth was not a fluke, but rather a return to form.

Oct 25, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets running back La’Mical Perine (22) celebrates his touchdown with tight end Ryan Griffin (84) during the first half against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

7. Running Back

If there’s one guarantee about the aftermath of the Le’Veon Bell saga, it’s that it’s going to be a long, long time before the Jets shell out a big contract to a running back. They likely view La’Michael Perine as a bit of a long-term project, but upcoming free agents Ty Johnson and Josh Adams proved their NFL mettle in the latter stages of last season…provided when their carries weren’t being taken by Frank Gore. Had the Jets given Johnson and Adams a brighter shot, the running back slot could’ve ranked lower on this list. Now, they have to scour both the free agent wire and the latter days of the draft to bolder the current package.

Oct 1, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets kicker Sam Ficken (9) celebrates his field goal with teammates during the first half against the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

8. Special Teams

With an offense trapped in renovations, special teams are crucial for the Jets moving forward, whether it’s to provide good starting field position, to end a drive with points via reliable field goal kickers, or to pin the opponent deep when the drive fizzles out. The Jets might have two of those three areas settled through Braden Mann punting and a combination of Braxton Berrios and Corey Ballentine returning, but they need to resolve their kicking situation after Sam Ficken struggled after an injury last year.

Sep 13, 2020; Orchard Park, New York, USA; New York Jets linebacker Jordan Jenkins (48) and defensive tackle Quinnen Williams (95) combine to sack Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) during the second quarter at Bills Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

9. Defensive Line

Even with the release of Henry Anderson, the Jets are relatively set on their front group, energized by the redemption season of Quinnen Williams, though this area could quickly shoot up the last if the former No. 3 pick’s biggest nightmare comes true and the Jets opt to ship him off in an aforementioned quarterback hypothetical. The departure of Anderson is soothed by the potential return of Kyle Phillips, who impressed as an undrafted rookie but missed all of last season with an injury.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Free agent J.J. Watt spurns Buffalo Bills for Arizona

New York Giants, JJ Watt

Despite a supposedly promising social media update earlier in the day, J.J. Watt will not join the Buffalo Bills.

A promising lead involving J.J. Watt’s supposed Peloton profile veered off course for the Buffalo Bills on Monday.

Bills fans were enthused by a report from ESPN’s Field Yates, who claimed a Peloton profile belonging to Watt narrowed his free agency destinations down to Buffalo and two other contenders from Cleveland and Green Bay. However, Watt refuted ownership of such an exercise bike on Twitter and later revealed that he would instead be signing with the Arizona Cardinals in a separate post. The latter image shows the former Houston Texan lifting weights, clad in Cardinals gear, and is accompanied by the captions “source: me”. Per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the deal is worth $31 million over two seasons with $23 million guaranteed.

With this move, Watt joins fellow disgruntled former Texan DeAndre Hopkins, who united with quarterback Kyler Murray for 1,407 yards through the air.

Yates owned his refuted report, later threading the original Peloton tweet with a GIF of animated character Homer Simpson awkwardly disappearing into shrubs. It likely does nothing to soothe the blow dealt to Bills fans who wanted to see Watt in Western New York. Some Bills-supporting social media users, perhaps desperate, got their hopes up for such a union when Watt posted a tweet about “mitochondria” last week, reasoning a local medical research center in Buffalo bore the same name.

Though the Bills will miss out on Watt, he of three Defensive Player of the Year awards and 101 sacks over a ten-season career with the Texans, there are plenty of options available to them on the free agency front to bolster their pass rush, including Leonard Williams, Matt Judon, and Shaquil Barrett.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets expected to franchise tag S Marcus Maye (Report)

The New York Jets are expected to use their tag on the safety Maye, who enjoyed a breakout season after Jamal Adams’ departure.

Per Ralph Vacchiano of SNY, the New York Jets will use their franchise tag on Marcus Maye when the 14-day period opens on Tuesday. Maye, who turns 28 in March, enjoyed a breakout season that led to team MVP honors after the tumultuous departure of fellow safety, 2017 draftee, and SEC alum Jamal Adams via trade.

The placing of the franchise tag will put Maybe in the $10-11 million range for a single season. New York can afford such a deal while going after longer-term endeavors, as they currently have the second-highest cap space in football (just under $68 million). Maye earned 88 tackles, 11 pass breakups, two sacks, and two interceptions, all of which were good for career-bests. He’s an ideal candidate for the franchise tag as the Jets’ excess cap space will afford them a one-year deal that likely keeps Maye satisfied and gives them a year to see whether he fits in Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich’s defensive plans.

Saleh had some positive words for Maye upon accepting the Jets’ head coaching job in January.

“I know (general manager Joe Douglas) holds him in very high regard,” Saleh said, per notes provided by the Jets. “I know he’s got a tremendous reputation in the locker room and so being able to get on the tape and just study him and see how he fits and where. 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.”

Vacchiano’s report states that a franchise tag also makes sense for Maye on a personal level, as it could be one of the better deals he gets with the NFL’s salary cap expected to shrink by about $13 million in the wake of the ongoing health crisis.

“If you’re a guy like Marcus, not in the top tier, you might not find that big contract this year,” an NFL agent told SNY. “You might have to take a one-year deal, bet on yourself, and take your shot again next year. That’s the same as getting the franchise tag, only the tag is probably worth more.”

The tag period begins on Tuesday and will run through March 9, with free agent signings set to begin on March 17.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

3 Carolina free agents Brandon Beane and the Buffalo Bills could target

New York Giants, Curtis Samuel

General manager Brandon Beane’s past with the Carolina Panthers could lead to a brighter future for the Buffalo Bills.

In just four years, Brandon Beane is turning into one of the finest architects Buffalo has ever welcomed…and this is a city well-versed in Frank Lloyd Wright’s work.

Over his first four years as the general manager of the Buffalo Bills, Beane, 44, has ended the longest active playoff drought in the NFL and turned it into a strong Super Bowl case. But if January’s AFC Championship Game proved one thing, it’s that more is needed to truly compete for a Super Bowl. Thus, the Bills will look to pull out all the stops this offseason in searching for a way to topple the Kansas City Chiefs.

Beane has a source of untapped potential at his fingertips, one he hasn’t been afraid to approach before…the Carolina Panthers.

Over nearly two decades (1998-2017), Beane held a variety of roles in the Carolina front office. Several former Panthers have played roles in Buffalo’s resurgence. The overseer of the project, Sean McDermott, was a defensive coordinator clad in teal for six seasons. This season, Daryl Williams proved to be a serviceable replacement after the Bills’ blocking corps was decimated through injuries.

Who might Beane and the Bills target this time around? ESM investigates…

T Taylor Moton

After Williams worked in a pinch last season, it feels like Moton could be a similar case but with an eye on the future. One of Beane’s last Carolina acquisitions, chosen in the second round in his last draft, Moton would be a good candidate to take over the right tackle spot with both Williams and Ty Nsekhe both up for free agency. But the thing that could scare off the Bills, and other suitors, is the fact that Carolina has placed the franchise tag on him, which would lead to a pricy contract…one the Bills might not be able to afford that with the 20th-best cap space in football. They can add to that number and move up the ranking by bidding some veterans farewell, like John Brown (over $6.3 million) and Jerry Hugest (over $5 million).

WR Curtis Samuel

Even the briefest looks at the Bills’ stat ledgers and highlight reels shows that they’re well situated with their receivers for the foreseeable future. While the top three producers (Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, Gabriel Davis) are locked up for 2021 at least, the aforementioned Brown could be let go for the cap money and Isaiah McKenzie is up for free agency. The Bills might be looking for depth at receiver, but Gabriel could provide another top target for Josh Allen. One of Beane’s final moves in Carolina was overseeing the draft that brought in Samuel with the 40th choice, 24 picks before Moton. He’s emerging from a career-best season earned while Carolina deals with an unstable quarterback situation. It’s likely Gabriel’s looking for a long-term contract in a top target’s role, but his connection with Beane could warrant at least a meeting with the Bills. Buffalo has far bigger needs to fill, but Gabriel would be a weapon worth splurging on.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kp4Lw-69jis&ab_channel=NFL

DT Kawann Short

It didn’t take long for Short, a second-round choice in 2013, to make an impact in Buffalo. He was one of the defensive faces of the Panthers’ run to the Super Bowl in 2015-16, earning Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors. Short was recently granted his release by the Panthers on February 16 and has stated that several teams have inquired about his availability. It wouldn’t be a shock in the slightest if the Bills were one of them, as they can use all the front seven they can get. The knock against Short is that he turned 32 earlier this month and injuries have dominated the latter half of his career. Short hasn’t played a full season since 2017 and has partaken in a mere five games in the last two years. A short-term for a guy who could not only provide talent to the line but mentorship to young guys like Ed Oliver would be one of the more effective, under-the-radar deals we could see in the AFC East this offseason. In addition to his familiarity with McDermott and Beane, Short has also worked with defensive line coach Eric Washington, who took over the position in Buffalo after nearly a decade in Charlotte.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Ex-Jets blocker Jonotthan Harrison headed to New York Giants

New York Jets

The New York Giants confirmed the signing of blocker Jonotthan Harrison who previously spent three seasons with the New York Jets.

Jonotthan Harrison is coming back to MetLife Stadium

The offensive lineman has inked a deal with the New York Giants, the team confirmed on Wednesday. His new contract is worth $2 million over a single season.

Harrison, set to turn 30 in August, previously spent three seasons as an occasional starter with the Giants’ MetLife Stadium co-tenants, the New York Jets (2017-19). He spent last season on the Buffalo Bills’ practice squad and made note of completing the de facto Empire State trifecta in a caption posted on Instagram.

“It’s official!! I’m completing the New York NFL trifecta! Year 8 coming at ya!” Harrison wrote. “Truly grateful and blessed for the opportunity. Notice the GIANT smile? Yeah I’m definitely stoked!!!!” [sic]

Harrison entered the league as an undrafted free agent out of Florida in 2014, spending three seasons with the Indianapolis Colts before descending upon the metropolitan area. He partook in 40 games in green, mostly at center, making 19 starts, including 10 in 2019. His release was among the Jets’ final departures prior to the start of the season in September. Quarterback Sam Darnold sang Harrison’s praises upon learning of what he described as an unexpected release.

“For the last 2.5 years, for lack of a better term, he’s been kind of like an older brother to me, showing me the ropes. It’s been fun, man, watching him come to work every day. He works harder than anyone I know,” Darnold said in a report from ESPN’s Rich Cimini. “Jon is an incredible human being, a great leader, and a great friend.”

Harrison becomes the third center on the Giants’ active roster, joining Nick Gates and Spencer Pulley. The second-year man Gates started all 16 games last season and both he and Pulley are under contract for next season.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

The New York Jets have a decision to make on Jamison Crowder

Crowder has been one of the most reliable weapons the New York Jets have had over the last two years, but a major decision looms.

Even before the nightmarish two years of the Adam Gase era, the New York Jets and offensive firepower have been like oil and water. In a modern NFL ruled by fantasy football, the Jets’ struggles on offense and low win totals are no coincidence.

Jamison Crowder, however, has been a welcome exception to the hard times. After four seasons in Washington, where he made an immediate impact by breaking a rookie receptions record previously held by Art Monk, Crowder joined the Jets on a three-year deal worth $28.5 million. As the team faltered, Crowder has developed himself into one of the most reliable slot receivers in the NFL. He is one of only 36 receivers throughout the league to earn at least 1,500 cumulative yards, a number not only achieved with four different quarterbacks in tow but one that could’ve been much higher had Crowder not missed four games wth an ankle injury last season. His 699 yards and six touchdowns still managed to lead the team in 2020.

With the horrors of last season behind, the purge of anything related to the prior regime has been well underway. All but one of the fired Gase’s assistants (special teams coordinator Brant Boyer) were bid farewell, and an in-season fire sale put Steve McLendon and Le’Veon Bell on a collision course for the Super Bowl (Avery Williamson was likewise involved). On the offseason front, 25 Jets are up for free agency, but save for a select few (Brian Poole, Marcus Maye) there’s no one the list that screams priority re-sign.

Crowder, however, is ensnared in a tricky situation as a new unit, one that could include yet another quarterback, starts to assemble. He is under contract for another season, but, with the aforementioned contract guaranteeing $17 million, Crowder could be bid farewell if the Jets are looking to send a a few further millions to an-already healthy cap situation. If Crowder is removed, be it through trade or outright release, the team would save just over $9 million.

What are the Jets to do? ESM investigates…

The Case To Keep

When you’re a team like the Jets, a team that failed to pass the 14-point plateau in nine games last season, are you really in any position to turn down any source of firepower? Never mind four digits in yardage; Crowder and free-agent-to-be Breshad Perriman were the only ones to crank out 500 yards on the New York roster last season…and Perriman only broke the threshold by five taillies.

No matter who starts under center for the Jets in 2021…be it Sam Darnold, Deshaun Watson, or a spring draftee…they’re going to need weapons to work with. Drafting Mekhi Becton was a good start, even if it meant passing on some of the name-brand receiver talent available at No. 11. But, if the Jets were to release Crowder and let Perriman walk, the top returning receiver would be Braxton Berrios (394 yards last season). Sure, there’s cap space to add a talented slot option like Chris Godwin, JuJu Smith-Schuster, or Curtis Samuel. But if you keep the reliable Crowder, a team with a ridiculous amount of holes to fill has one less spot to worry about. The quarterback will also have a guaranteed, established weapon to work with rather than relying on a big score in free agency.

Crowder’s status as a seasoned veteran and one of the rare Jets on the current roster with playoff experience (earning a trio of receptions in Washington’s loss to Green Bay in the 2016 Wild Card round) could have a calming effect on some of the younger names on the roster like Denzel Mims, whom the Jets envision as a long-term, big-play option.

The Case To Cut

Crowder has established himself as a serviceable receiver and a reliable slot man. But if Jamison Crowder is your top receiver, that might say more about the state of your team than it does the receiver.

The Jets are not the proverbial “one move away” from the Super Bowl. In fact, they’re several moves from merely sniffing Wild Card weekend. They can use all the help they can get. Sure, their circa $68 million cap space is a wonder to behold and gives the team some solid funding to work with this offseason. But any little bit can only help this team carry on into the future. The Jets have to ask themselves if a potential top ten slot receiver is worth keeping as they move on. Samuel, for example, could step in as the slot man while the Jets take their semi-replenished funds and go after an elite big-play name like Chicago’s Allen Robinson, who has held no secrets about his thoughts on the Jets’ offseason endeavors.

Many hypothetical trades for, say, Watson also seem to center of the Jets’ surplus draft capital. But with the same cap relief afforded to Jets if they include Crowder in a deal, they may be able to keep a precious pick if you include the receiver in such a deal.

Crowder has undeniably served as a silver lining during the latest stages of the Jets’ perpetual rebuild. Is that really worth keeping him around for the potential good times ahead?

The Verdict

No matter how many opportunities the Jets have to stock up on offensive weaponry this season, they’re in no position to refuse help that’s already available to him. This New York makeover, now overseen by Robert Saleh in addition to Joe Douglas, can not afford to focus on one area. It’d be great if the path back to contention required only replenishing the offensive weaponry. But the Jets have further questions to answer with their run game, the non-Becton blocking, their defensive back seven, and their kicker. There’s no use in adding slot receiver to that last when a name like Crowder is already there.

If the Jets are able to persuade Houston in a trade for Watson…and there’s no indication the stubborn Texans are willing to budge just yet…then trading Crowder would wind up being wise if it saves them an excess first-rounder. Otherwise, let him stick around and provide reassurance to a returning Darnold or the new guy.

Keep Him 

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Should the New York Jets pursue star New England offensive lineman in free agency?

New England Patriots, Joe Thuney

Heading into last offseason, one of the hottest commodities projected to hit the market was two-time Super Bowl champion and all-pro offensive guard Joe Thuney. The New York Jets and Miami Dolphins were reportedly set to back up the brinks truck to Thuney in hopes he would anchor his offensive line. Then, the Patriots threw a wrench in those plans by tagging Thuney. Now, Thuney will reportedly be allowed to seek a new home this offseason. With Mekhi Becton as the solidified anchor of the offensive line at left tackle, here is why Joe Thuney can give the Jets one of the best tackle/guard combos in football.

Who is Joe Thuney?

Joe Thuney grew up in Ohio and was one of four children. Thuney was not a stranger to success early in life, he was a member of two state championship football teams, he was named offensive lineman of the year in the Greater Catholic League, and was class president in his senior year of high school. Thuney was well-liked on and off the gridiron, and this led to an opportunity to play at NC State. At NC State, Thuney played all over the offensive line taking snaps at center, both tackle spots, and guard during his time with the program. Thuney graduated NC State in three years and received All American honors.

After a successful beginning to his football career, Thuney was selected with the 78th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. In five seasons, Thuney has played every single game, not only that, but he has been a team-first guy being adaptable this past season and making the switch to tackle with Marcus Cannon opting out and creating a void. Thuney has been both a depiction of stability and success, winning two rings during his tenure with the Pats.

Why The Jets?

Thuney will command a monster deal this offseason. As one of the most reliable and consistent linemen in the game, he will be paid as such. Now, Joe Douglas has been rather set in his evaluations of certain players in the past, but offensive linemen have been his most focused entity in his brief tenure as general manager to this point. The potential of having two beasts on the offensive line for the long-term future in Thuney and Becton is something the well-traveled exec may not be able to pass up. Not only that, but as we saw just a few weeks ago with Patrick Mahomes, if you don’t have protection, the entire rhythm of the game plan is thrown out the window.

On a relatively young team, Thuney would slot in as a leader and building block for the future. We are talking about a durable, smart, and versatile piece that fits the mold of everything Douglas seems to look for in the guys he wants to fill out his roster with. Add all that into the fact that he is successful no matter the stop. Thuney could be used anywhere on the line, but the idea of Becton and Thuney anchoring the left side could be too much to pass up. No matter where you put him on the line, Thuney would be a massive addition to the team and someone the Jets should not let slip away.

New York Jets: Two bold free-agency predictions

New York Jets, Hunter Henry

The New York Jets need help. They have a new coaching staff, which should help, but they need talent. Regardless of what happens at quarterback, because that decision is far from over, weapons have to be around whoever that is.

The Jets are reportedly interested in JuJu Smith-Schuster and Will Fuller V, but those wouldn’t necessarily be bold predictions. For one, Smith-Schuster going to the team seems to be a common one. However, there are some players who, even though they have a good chance of returning to where they played last season, could come over to play at Metlife Stadium.

With more than $62-million in cap space, the team can certainly make a splash. Here are two bold predictions for the use of that cap space:

WR Allen Robinson II

Robinson is going to be the most coveted number-one receiver in free agency. This past season, with an underwhelming quarterbacking tandem of Nick Foles and Mitchell Trubisky, he posted 102 receptions for 1,250 yards and 6 touchdowns.

Robinson can do it all on the field. At 6-foot-2, 216 pounds, he certainly isn’t small. He can use his size and strength to win the tough catches and shield the ball from defenders. He’s a solid route runner and is smart after the catch. Along with his on-field skills, he’s someone that Denzel Mims can learn a lot from.

Also, at only 27 years old, he is still very well in his prime. He’s going to get offers – and a lot of them. However, the Jets can offer him the most appealing amount of money. I say “appealing” because only the Jaguars have more cap space, but I don’t see any scenario with him returning to Jacksonville.

So, the New York Jets will sign Allen Robinson II to a four-year, roughly $84-million deal.

TE Hunter Henry

Although they have Ryan Griffin and Chris Herndon on the roster, neither is the solidified option at tight end. Hunter Henry is proven to be a reliable and capable player at the position. Last season with the Chargers and rookie quarterback Justin Herbert, he totaled 60 receptions for 613 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Henry quickly became a favorite target for Herbert, and rightfully so. He’s explosive and consistently finds a way to be open. Also, he’s well-rounded – meaning he can catch and block effectively. Sam Darnold, or whoever is the quarterback, could desperately need that assistance. He’d be vital for anyone, especially if they draft a quarterback.

There’s a real good chance, however, that the Chargers franchise tag Henry again. If they do, he’ll be locked up. If not, he could walk. Recently, the latter seems increasingly likely. According to Sports Illustrated, the Chargers have joined the conversation in trading for Eagles tight end Zach Ertz. He could be the replacement in Los Angeles that allows Henry to come to Gang Green.

In this scenario, that trade happens. The New York Jets then sign Hunter Henry to a four-year, $48-million deal.

These bold signings would instantly bolster the Jets’ offense.

 

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

Should the New York Giants double dip at wide receiver in free agency and the draft?

New York Giants, Kenny Golladay

The New York Giants are in need of offensive reinforcements. General manager Dave Gettleman and co-owner John Mara promised fans that they would fix the offense this offseason. Finding weapons for Daniel Jones is going to be a top priority for the Giants and their front office.

Fortunately, there will be a boat load off offensive talent available this offseason. In free agency there will be numerous top-tier wide receivers that could hit the open market. This year’s NFL Draft class is also loaded with wide receiver and tight end talent. The Gaints have no excuses. They will have every opportunity to find an offensive playmaker this offseason, and they better take advantage.

Many fans and analysts are predicting that the Giants will sign a big-name wide receiver in free agency, like Kenny Golladay. This opens things up for the Giants and their draft strategy. Landing a playmaker in free agency would allow the Giants to focus on different positions, maybe even on defense, in the first round of the NFL Draft.

But what if the Giants did not alter their draft strategy in such a way? What if the Giants went best player available at eleven overall, whether that is an offensive playmaker or not? Well, the best player could potentially be one of the draft’s top wide receiver talents, such as Devonta Smith, JaMarr Chase, or Jaylen Waddle. The Giants could potentially double dip at the wide receiver position in the NFL Draft after signing a wide receiver in free agency.

Who could the Giants sign in free agency?

It seems like a very likely scenario for the Giants to land wide receiver Kenny Golladay in free agency. The only thing that could potentially stop Golladay from hitting the open market is if the Lions use their franchise tag on him. Golladay has already declined a lucrative contract offer from Detroit.

If Kenny Golladay hits the free agent market, the Giants should make signing him a top priority. The Giants had interest in trading for Kenny Golladay back in October. They inquired but no deal was made. Now, the impending free agency could be the Giants’ top target in free agency, and many analysts believe he will be. Many analysts are predicting that the Giants will, in fact, sign Kenny Golladay.

But even if New York does not land Kenny Golladay, there are other great wide receivers they could pursue. Names like Cory Davis and Curtis Samuel stand out as slightly cheaper options with different playing styles. Still, these players could be huge additions in the Giants’ pitiful, 17.5 points per game offense.

Double dipping in the draft

Assuming the Giants accomplish their mission and land a wide receiver in free agency, the likely next step would be to address a different position in the draft. But New York could go a different route and completely overhaul their offense. The Giants could double dip at the wide receiver position in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, depending on how the board shapes out.

If a player like Jaylen Waddle or Devonta Smith were on the board at eleven, those would be premiere offensive talents, extremely difficult to pass up on. Regardless of who the Giants sign in free agency, they should strongly consider drafting one of these top wide receiver talents if they have the chance to.

A wide receiver corpse featuring Kenny Golladay, Jaylen Waddle, and Sterling Shepard would be dominant. The more playmakers the better for Daniel Jones entering his third season.

Kenny Golladay is an elite wide receiver that could go for one thousand receiving yards and make plays at every level of the field. Jaylen Waddle has a ceiling so high no one can see it and could be a game-changing playmaker to stretch the field for the Giants’ offense. Sterling Shepard, now a savvy veteran, would be that underneath option to get open and make scrappy plays. The Giants cannot forget about Darius Slayton as well, who, in this scenario, would be an incredible fourth receiving option.

Throw this group of playmakers in alongside Saquon Barkley and the Giants’ offense could go from worst to first in a year. Sure, drafting a stud cornerback or edge rusher would be beneficial for the Giants’ defense in round one, especially if they sign a wide receiver in free agency. But if the Giants are going “best player available,” they cannot pass up on one of the top three wide receiver talents in this year’s draft. The Giants’ offense could receive a massive overhaul and turn things around in one short offseason.