New York Jets claim former San Francisco WR Matt Cole

New York Jets

Cole, the newest New York Jet, partook in his first NFL action alongside Mike LaFleur in San Francisco last season.

The New York Jets announced the claiming of former San Francisco receiver Matt Cole on Wednesday. Cole, 24, reunites with Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, who served as the 49ers’ passing game coordinator last season.

Cole emerged from Division II McKendree, where he earned a reputation as a superstar in yardage. His total tally of 3,583 all-purpose yards over four seasons was good for fourth all-time in program history. He ended his career by setting single season marks with 939 receiving yards and 12 touchdown receptions.

That senior season was also punctuated by a strong showing in the return game, where Cole had 208 yards on 26 returns. He also registered 18 tackles on special teams, earning the Great Lakes Valley Conference’s Special Teams Player of the Year honor, as well as an appearance for his receiving efforts on the all-conference team.

The Chicago native began last season on the Miami Dolphins’ practice squad. As an undrafted free agent, he was the first McKendree alum to appear in an NFL system. He remained on the Dolphins’ practice squad for most of the season, save for a stint on the COVID-19 list in November. The 49ers signed Cole to their active roster in December and he made his regular season debut in their final game of the season just over a week later. In a narrow loss to Seattle, Cole had two special teams tackles. San Francisco released Cole on May 4 but he has now been claimed by New York.

Cole joins a Jets receiving corps that added veterans Corey Davis and Keelan Cole as well as rookie Elijah Moore through the draft. Incumbents Jamison Crowder and Denzel Mims likewise return. He could well compete for the Jets’ primary returning duties, likely set to compete with incumbents Corey Ballentine and Braxton Berrios.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets undrafted free agency tracker (UPDATING)

New York Jets

Follow along with ESM as we track down the New York Jets’ post-draft free agent signings and activities beyond Cleveland.

As the New York Jets sign undrafted free agents, ESM will update the list below.

(LAST UPDATED: 5/1/21, 9:20 p.m. ET)

OT Teton Saltes, New Mexico-Born on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, Saltes is the most recent winner of the Wuerffel Trophy (awarded to the college football player “who best combines exemplary community service with athletic and academic achievement”) was one of the top blockers in the Mountain West. (Draft Diamonds)

TE Kenny Yeboah, Mississippi-A transfer from Temple, Yeboah spent last season working with second-round choice Elijah Moore in Oxford and put up career-best numbers (27 receptions, 524 yards, 6 touchdowns). (Matt Barrows)

LB Milo Eifler, Illinois-Eifler started his career at Washington before transferring to the Illini, where he had 63 tackles in 2019 before injuries cost him three contests last year. (Eifler)

DL Michael Dwumfour, Rutgers-Dwumfour transferred from Michigan to spend his final season in Piscataway, earning honorable mentions on the All-Big Ten team. (Dwumfour)

CB Brendon White, Rutgers-White was the Defensive MVP for Ohio State during their 2019 Rose Bowl victory over Washington. (Rutgers Football)

G Tristen Hoge, BYU-The Jets opted to add one of Zach Wilson’s protectors from Provo in Hoge, a Notre Dame. (BYU Football)

OL Grant Hermanns, Purdue-Much like some of their day three collections, Hermanns has been a strong leader off the field too, serving as one of the Boilermakers’ captains and appearing on the Big Ten’s All-Academic team. (James Yodice)

LB Hamilcar Rashed Jr., Oregon State-Rashed is best known for dominant junior year, where he set a school record with 14 sacks in 2019. (Jeremy Fowler)

OL Parker Ferguson, Air Force-This Cadet impressed the 18 teams that came to his Pro Day and has earned praise for agility and technique. (Center Grove Football)

CB Isaiah Dunn, Oregon State-At $185,000, Dunn has reportedly been inked to the richest undrafted rookie contract in post-draft history after earning 115 tackles and 18 pass breakups in his final season in Corvallis. (Aaron Wilson)

K Chris Naggar, Southern Methodist-Naggar converted 17-of-21 triple attempts last season (his longest from 48 yards out) and will likely compete with Sam Ficken and Chase McLaughlin. (Nathan Shackelford)

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

 

New York Jets: The case for (and against) a Sheldon Richardson reunion

Former first-round draft pick Sheldon Richardson is back on the open market. Should the New York Jets stage a reunion?

As the New York Jets inch toward their future, a remnant of their not-so-distant past is seeking a new opportunity.

Sheldon Richardson, part of the last draft where the Jets had multiple first-round picks prior to next Thursday’s proceedings (8 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC/NFL Network), hit the free agent market last Friday, released by the Cleveland Browns after two seasons. Richardson, 30, has spent the past four years in Seattle, Minnesota, and Cleveland after his Jets career ended with a trade to the Pacific Northwest prior to the 2017 campaign.

Should the Jets stage a reunion, allowing fans to break out their old No. 91 jerseys? ESM investigates…

Why They Should

Though Richardson never reached the heights he hit in New York, he still proved to be serviceable, especially in terms of pressure. His 12 quarterback hits (including two in Cleveland’s AFC Wild Card win in Pittsburgh) earned last season would’ve been the third-best tally on the 2020 Jets, behind Quinnen Williams and a tie between John Franklin-Myers and the departed Tarell Basham. Richardson also came up big during Cleveland’s crucial December win over Tennessee, picking up a game-changing fourth-and-one stop and later forcing a fumble from Derrick Henry. Both takedowns led to Browns touchdowns.

His continued contributions were no surprise to All-Pro Myles Garrett.

“He is a big-time player. That’s why he is here,” Garrett said of Richardson following a dominant defensive win over the Giants in December, per team video. “We see him do it time and time again, and I expect nothing less out of him.”

The Jets have been inspired by the play of their young front seven, particularly through Williams’ 2020 breakout. But with yearly dates with mobile threats Josh Allen looming indefinitely, they can use all the help they can get when it comes to invading the pocket.

New York management could also be interested in a Richardson reunion because of his recent endeavors in the 4-3. They haven’t run it as a primary defensive set since the Herm Edwards day but are expected to make a transition with previous practitioners Roberts Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich at the helm. Richardson struggled when the Jets employed the set during his earlier days (his 2014 Pro Bowl appearance came through his work in the 3-technique) but appeared to gain a new appreciation for it in Cleveland under defensive coordinator Joe Woods.

“The main part is being in the right place at the right time, and you’ll get all the production you’ll need,” Richardson said of Woods’ philosophies, per team reporter Anthony Poisal. “It’s D-line friendly. Everybody has an opportunity on the D-line to make plays without being wrong.”

Why They Shouldn’t

The Jets are currently $24 million under the cap, the third-highest in the NFL (behind Jacksonville and Denver). While some of their neglected needs (offensive line) can be somewhat satisfied in the draft, they still need some veteran renovations. Picking up a veteran backup quarterback to both guide the incoming rookie and relieve him in case of an emergency should be on their spring checklist. The Jets could also use some veteran assistance in the secondary, which may be headlined by young projects Bless Austin and Bryce Hall.

One could argue that Richardson provides veteran mentorship to players like Williams, but the Jets have already brought in some experienced front seven options like Sheldon Rankins, Jarrad Davis, and Carl Lawson. The Jets have enough pressing needs as is. Do they really need to bring in a defender that’s already in his 30s? They already welcomed 32-year-old Vinny Curry to the fold. If they do wish to further remodel their front seven, their remaining offseason funds are perhaps better spent on younger projects.

Richardson’s price tag could also scare some teams away. One of the primary factors behind Richardson’s release was the creation of cap room ($11 million) to afford Jadeveon Clowney. With so many other pressing needs to fill, it would perhaps be wiser for the Jets to look elsewhere.

One also has to wonder if Richardson would even seek out a developing team like the Jets. He has plenty of talent left and could well be the “missing piece” for a team on the cusp of contention. Cleveland’s pair of playoff games in January were the first of Richardson’s NFL career. Granted a taste of postseason action, it’s certain he’s hungry for more. The Jets may have improved, but it wouldn’t be fair to anyone…even the Jets themselves…to call them playoff contenders just yet.

Verdict

Any potential discussion around bringing Richardson in may soon be rendered null. Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski remarked that he “hope(s) that there’s a scenario” to bring Richardson back (per Browns Wire’s Jeff Risdon). Richardson also remarked in an Instagram post bearing the bad news that Cleveland was “starting to feel like home” after single-season stints in Seattle and Minnesota.

From a Jets standpoint, getting Richardson back at an affordable price would be one of the more subtly effective moves of the offseason. From a Jets standpoint, however, there is a case to bring Richardson back. The run defense got a lot better with the additions of Rankins and Lawson and could reach potentially elite levels if Richardson arrived with the same power he had in 2020.

But, for better or worse, the Jets can’t afford to make Richardson a priority right. There are too many scary voids on this roster, ones that can’t fully be solved at the draft next weekend. If they can get Richardson back, maybe on a “hometown” discount of sorts, they should. But the more likely scenario probably has Richardson moving on to another contender.

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

New York Jets bring back veteran TE Daniel Brown

The New York Jets announced the return of the veteran tight end Brown, who will embark on his third year in green.

The New York Jets announced the re-signing of tight end Daniel Brown on Monday morning. Terms and figures of the deal have yet to be disclosed.

Brown, set to turn 29 in May, will return for a third metropolitan season, having signed with the team as a free agent in March 2019. His previous NFL endeavors came in Baltimore and Chicago after going undrafted out of James Madison. He is mostly known for his special teams efforts, partaking in a career-high 76 percent of such snaps last season.

In his listed position of tight end, Brown has been used as a blocker but has earned 103 yards on 13 receptions over his first two years in New York as well. His most notable box score contribution came in a November 2019 visit to Washington, when Brown opened scoring in a 34-17 Jets win with a 20-yard touchdown reception from Sam Darnold. It was his first NFL touchdown in nearly three full calendar years.

Last season, Brown was part of the Jets’ final roster cuts but was brought back to the active roster shortly after. He earned a pair of receptions, one each in the final two games of the season, for 31 yards.

Back in the New York fold, Brown will reunite with special teams coordinator Brant Boyer, a rare holdover from Adam Gase’s staff, as well as a tight end room that also welcomes back Chris Herndon, Ryan Griffin, and Trevon Wesco. The Jets also signed former Buffalo Bill Tyler Kroft earlier this offseason.

With the signing of Brown, the Jets still have several free agents from the 2020 roster that remain up for grabs. Among the notables still available are secondary defenders Brian Poole and Bradley McDougald, as well as linebacker Neville Hewitt.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

The New York Jets’ latest acquisitions know that championship feeling

Some of the New York Jets’ major 2021 acquisitions know how football’s biggest spotlight feels. Here’s why that’s so important.

The New York Jets are going back to the Super Bowl. 

Alas for fans of the star-crossed franchise the trip will have to come vicariously through the acquisition of new running back Tevin Coleman. The newly-minted 28-year-old has appeared in two Big Game box scores, starring in the 51st and 54th editions as a running back for the NFC champions from Atlanta and San Francisco respectively. Coleman, in fact, may own one of the most infamous touchdowns in Super Bowl history: his six-year scoring grab from Matt Ryan gave the Falcons a 28-3 lead over the New England Patriots in the former tilt at NRG Stadium. What happened next requires little elaboration.

While he was mostly sidelined in the latter Super Bowl trip…the 49ers’ doomed defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs…Coleman played a major role in the path to the championship, tallying triple digits in yardage and two scores in the Divisional triumph over Minnesota.

Less than 24 hours before Coleman conquered the Vikings, Corey Davis scored a three-yard touchdown through Derrick Henry trickery. It was a score that gave the Tennessee Titans a permanent two-possession lead over the Baltimore Ravens on the AFC side.

Both Coleman and Davis are now members of the Jets, a team whose playoff conversations in the last decade have centered only around the location of their watch parties. They’ve each been called upon to end a metropolitan playoff drought that might reach a point where it can see a PG-13 movie without a parent/guardian’s permission. Several transactional measures have been taken to ensure that doesn’t happen again: Coleman, Davis, Sheldon Rankins, Vinny Curry, and Keelan Cole are among them.

Sure there are signings beyond that group…previous practitioners Carl Lawson and Jarrad Davis should be intriguing in the 4-3 set that Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich are projected to implement…but the aforementioned assembly has a common link: experience in the NFL postseason.

When you’re a team as starved for postseason success as the Jets have been, any ray of light will be gratuitously accepted. The idea of bringing in a Super Bowl champion like Curry…a rare conqueror of the New England dynasty through a Philadelphia Eagles victory in Super Bowl LII…as a mentor to a young defense seems cliche, stolen from the script of the most basic sports film. Putting aside the point that maybe a return to the fundamentals might be the very thing that the Jets need right now, Curry provides the good vibes, the championship vibes the Jets need to get any semblance of momentum going within their organization.

In his first statements in a different shade of gridiron green, Curry established himself as a leader, becoming yet another on-field voice, and not a hot take artist, to profess his faith in both Saleh and his process. But Curry immediately endeared himself to his new group and got things rolling on a strong note by comparing the modern Jets to that championship squad that neutralized Tom Brady, if only for a short while.

“I just wanted to get on this ship. I’ve seen this ship before when coach Pederson took over in Philadelphia. I’ve seen this ship before, and I just wanted to be a part of it,” Curry said, per Newsday’s Al Iannazzone. “I think once we all get around each other and get a feel for each other, we have the potential to really be a force upfront. Potentially we could be something special.”

Rankins concurred with his fellow newcomer in the front seven. The former New Orleans Saint was part of modern-day playoff runs engineered by Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, and offensive company, though he and his defenders had their own moments of glory. Rankins himself had a big sack that kicked the Chicago Bears out of field goal territory during January’s NFC Wild Card playoff matchup.

Unlike the over-optimistic razzle-dazzle often seen from offseason newcomers, Rankins brought another feeling the Jets needed: realism, while keeping sanguinity on the cusp of his comments.

“It’s not going to be easy to essentially turn around an organization that, let’s just be completely honest, hasn’t won a lot of games in a while,” Rankins said in Iannazzone’s report. “But when you got someone at the helm that demands excellence and you bring in guys that demand excellence that does nothing but has a trickle-down effect on the rest of the roster.”

Rankins would probably know. Going into his third season in 2018, three-time Pro Bowl blocker Terron Armstead uncannily expressed both dread and admiration in working across from Rankins, telling Around the NFL’s Herbie Teope that “I’ve had the advantage of watching him work every day. Sheldon has been a guy who works on his craft daily. He’s only improved since he’s got here.”

When one looks at the current Jets roster, there is raw potential that can be cultivated with the right brand of guidance. The Jets discovered the hard way that Adam Gase and his single game of playoff experience wasn’t the way to go about that. This time around, general manager Joe Douglas brought in winners, contributors on a big scale that won’t flinch if faced with a big game situation, ones the Jets hope to experience again fairly soon. This time, instead of working with players who will one day appear on the “Wait, He Played for the Jets???” lists, they found young contributors who have already experienced a lot of what the NFL has to offer.

Last season, the Jets were forced to enjoy sizable contributions from Joe Flacco and Frank Gore…staples of new century football that lingered well into the new decade. They provided mentorship but were never meant to be consistent stat providers, respectively forced into action through a Sam Darnold injury and the release of Le’Veon Bell. These playoff-savvy newcomers, however, have expectations thrust upon them, projected to provide clarity and stability to a team in desperate need of it.

The Jets have begun to chart a new path to the Super Bowl, one that’s different in several inspiring ways. This revelation that it will potentially be paved by young weapons who have walked it before should provide rare metropolitan optimism.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Four areas the New York Jets must still address in April

New York Jets, Joe Douglas

The New York Jets undoubtedly improved this offseason, but there are several areas of need to address as the calendar flips to April.

The New York Jets undoubtedly became a better team this offseason. Whether that’s a result of the Adam Gase era giving them nowhere to go but up or it leads to actual results on the field remains to be seen, but the Jets have laid down a solid foundation for the Robert Saleh era. Optimism reigns for an already star-crossed franchise coming off a two-win season through the signings of names like Tevin Coleman, Corey Davis, and Carl Lawson.

“There’s a lot of optimism, especially coming off a bad season, so I’m looking forward to working. I love the process,” Lawson said in video provided by the Jets. He compared the situation to franchise mode on the Madden NFL video game franchise. “I play Madden because I love building teams. I love franchise mode. Franchise mode hasn’t changed on Madden in like 15 years, but I’m never going to stop loving it because I get to build, I get to grow, I get to improve.”

Yet, as the calendar flips to April and the free agency frenzy mostly pacified, the Jets have several areas of need that have yet to be satisfied. Competing in the crowded AFC will probably be difficult with even the perfect offseason, but the Saleh era can get off to an optimally smooth start if the following areas are satisfied, preferably sooner rather than later…

New York Jets, Mekhi Becton

Offensive Line

Solving the offensive line issues was probably at the top of the Jets’ offseason to-do list, the necessity even outweighing the quarterback quandary. No matter who’s throwing the ball, he’s going to need protection.

Joe Douglas has shown he’s willing to make up for the blocking negligence of the Mike Maccagnan era. His drafting of Mekhi Becton was a strong start, but his free agency signings failed to pan out. Several are set to return for another season, but the Jets missed out on the big targets (Joe Thuney, Corey Linsley, Matt Feiler), adding only interior man Dan Feeney from the Los Angeles Chargers. Another addition, tight end Tyler Kroft, has gained positive reviews for his blocking, but nothing that should dramatically change the Jets’ protection affairs.

An interesting gambit for the Jets would be to draft top blocking prospect Penei Sewell with the second overall choice and letting Sam Darnold work behind a revamped line, but the Jets’ due diligence at incoming rookie passing class hints that they’re headed toward that direction. But at least one of their early picks, namely the 23rd and 34th overall selections, should be used on a blocker if only to raise the heat on some of the incumbents. Veteran help from abroad, like Kansas City’s Austin Reiter, should also be considered. Reiter, set to turn 30 in November, was the Chiefs’ starting center in each of the last two Super Bowls.

New York Jets, Bless Austin
New York Jets, Bless Austin

Cornerback

After the spending frenzy in March, the Jets appear to have a plan in place when it comes to their safeties. Marcus Maye was granted the franchise tag, which basically serves as a $10 million “prove it” deal. On the strong side, the post-Jamal Adams era continues. Ashtyn Davis will get a de facto second rookie season after injuries marred his original and the Jets have brought in a strong mentor and veteran prescience in LaMarcus Joyner to help out. Elsewhere on defense, front seven newcomers Lawson and Jarrad Davis have experiences in the 4-3 scheme that Robert Saleh is reportedly hoping to implement.

But the cornerback depth is definitely concerning. Youngsters Bless Austin and Bryce Hall have shown flashes of brilliance in their infantile NFL careers, but they’ll probably need further development before fully embracing the starting roles. Newly signed Justin Hardee is listed as a corner but primarily works on special teams. The Jets also have a decision to make on one of their free agents, Brian Poole.

The 23rd pick, obtained from Seattle for Adams, can potentially be used on the top cornerbacks on the draft, namely Caleb Farley, Patrick Surtain, or Jaycee Horn.

New York Jets, Sam Darnold, James Morgan

Backup Quarterback

The Jets have not had a quarterback start every game in a season since Ryan Fitzpatrick went all 16 in 2015. If Darnold stays, the Jets should be ready for the unthinkable again, as he has yet to play a full NFL season. Should the rookie arrive, some see Darnold as a safety blanket. But if Zach Wilson or Justin Fields make their entrance, Darnold still shouldn’t stay. There doesn’t need to be a quarterback controversy and the USC alum isn’t at the “veteran mentor” stage.

When Darnold got hurt last season, the Philadelphia-bound Joe Flacco did a serviceable job in relief. But with the Super Bowl XLVII MVP donning a new shade of green, they need to be prepared in case of an emergency. The draft can’t be an option, as the Jets have far too many needs to fill with their surplus and the fourth-round choice of James Morgan in last year’s proceedings remains puzzling. If they want a safety net that can win games, Saleh and Mike LaFleur’s Bay Area comrade Nick Mullens could be an option, while veteran mentors are available through Alex Smith, Brian Hoyer, or Blake Bortles.

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

Kicker

Since Pro Bowler Jason Myers absconded to Seattle, the Jets have gone through six different kickers over the last two seasons. When you’re a team like the Jets, a team that struggles to get into the end zone, you need a reliable kicker to ensure visits to opposing territory end with at least some points. There appears to be a competition in place between two of those names (Sam Ficken and Chase McLaughlin), but the Jets need reliability and would be smart to showcase new talent.

The Jets haven’t used a draft pick on a kicker since Mike Nugent in the second round of the 2005 selections. There’s certainly no need to go that early this time around, but the selection of punter Braden Mann with their final pick last year shows the Jets won’t hesitate to address their special teams on draft weekend. Evan McPherson (Florida) and Jorge Borregales (Miami) are the top boots this time around.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Ranking the New York Jets’ March Madness by 2021 impact

New York Giants, Corey Davis

With the free agency frenzy relatively pacified, ESM looks back on the New York Jets’ March signings and ranks them by their 2021 impact.

The third month on the calendar has been filled with realized dreams, jaw-dropping surprises, and, quite simply, madness.

We are, of course, referring to the NFL’s free agency proceedings…what were you thinking?

Even in its dormant stages, the gridiron has matched the hardwood in drama and intensity through its annual transactional period. We’ve seen the metropolitan football landscape shift as both the New York Jets and Giants seek to claw their ways back to respectability.

From the former’s green standpoint, perhaps anything short of a perfect offseason renovation was going to be able to loosen the current stranglehold the Buffalo Bills have on the AFC East. But the Jets have had a solid, methodic offseason that has at least laid down the groundwork for the team’s potential redemption.

But which newly-minted Jets can have the biggest impact in 2021, in the short term future? ESM looks back on the Jets’ March signings and investigates…

1. RB Tevin Coleman

After the Le’Veon Bell debacle, it’s going to be a long, long time before the Jets break open the bank for a running back. Even so, a strong rushing attack can help remove some of the offensive burden from the quarterback, whether it’s a Sam Darnold desperate for stability or a rookie looking to get off to a good start. There’s potential in the La’Mical Perine-Ty Johnson-Josh Adams triumvirate, but veteran assistance was definitely needed.

Coleman was a rare carry-over from San Francisco for Robert Saleh and Mike LaFleur. He struggled last season, dealing with a sprained knee for a majority of the year, but earned some vital carries during the 49ers’ run to the Super Bowl the year before. Coleman’s offensive firepower, capable of earning yards and scores through both rushing and receiving antics, is something the Jets have sorely lacked, as a shortage of big-play talent has stifled any progress they’ve been trying to make in the modern NFL.

2. WR Corey Davis

The Jets were without a big-play receiver after letting Robby Anderson walk to Carolina without much resistance and Denzel Mims’ NFL debut was delayed. Time will tell if Davis is capable of becoming a No. 1 receiver, a billing he never truly lived up to in Tennessee. But, for now, he grants further offensive stability and is a proven talent that knows how to play in big games, having partaken in three playoff treks in Nashville.

Despite falling just short of four digits in yardage, forced to the reserve/COVID-19 list, Davis is nonetheless coming off a career-best season (65 receptions, 984 yards, 5 touchdowns). Getting a young talent on the upswing was vital for this offense, and Davis was perhaps one of the better options available in that realm.

3. LB Jarrad Davis 

While Saleh and the Jets avoided splurging on former 49ers, they were nonetheless able to acquire personnel that can seamlessly fit in what the new head coach is trying to do.

Davis never lived up to first-round billing in Detroit but was very successful in a 4-3 set under co-coordinators Randy Shannon and (current Georgia Tech boss) Geoff Collins. Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich have had success in the set before and will bring it over to New York. Having a relative expert in the field like Davis will help the transition.

4. DE Carl Lawson

Perhaps overshadowed by Geno Atkins in Cincinnati, Lawson has a prime opportunity to shine in New York. He couldn’t have arrived at a better time, as the Jets are faced with the prospect of two yearly meetings with both Josh Allen and Tua Tagovailoa, necessitating a strong pass rush. His versatility should allow him to contribute on the edge as both an end and a Linebacker. Lawson is particularly excited about working with what Saleh has to offer.

“I looked up some stuff on YouTube about Coach Saleh and I heard some stuff around the league,” Lawson said in his introductory statements, per team reporter Randy Lange. “Listening to some interviews, I came away with how impressive he was. Even in a video, he felt like he was talking to me. And then there was availability at the spot [on the D-line], so those were the first two things that really attracted me here.”

5. WR Keelan Cole

One can debate whether the Jets have a true “No. 1” receiver right now. But with Cole, Davis, and the returning Mims and Jamison Crowder, there’s some strong potential and a sizable arsenal for the quarterback to worth with. The arrival of Cole is just another weapon to work with and helps the Jets start the season with a far more experienced receiving corps. Making Cole even more valuable is the fact that he has carved a strong NFL path for himself despite a carousel of quarterbacks working their way through Jacksonville.

6. DT Sheldon Rankins

Rankins should be an instant starter on the Jets’ defense and is another versatile option that has lined up as an end, tackle, and nose. The revamped front seven can benefit from that flexibility and experience. Ranking, the 12th overall choice of New Orleans in 2016 should also serve as a great mentor to Quinnen Williams, who appears ready to follow in the Louisville alum’s footsteps.

“I watched the true impact defender that (Williams) really is, watching him flourish last year, but he’s really only scratching the surface,” Rankins said of his potential mentorship role, per Brian Costello of the New York Post. “He’s still doing a lot of things of just being better than a lot of people. I think once you fine-tune some things…I’ve been around this game going on for six years now. I’ve seen a lot, been through a lot. I can give him some nuggets here and there.”

7. S LaMarcus Joyner

The Joe Douglas era has been relatively bereft of long-term deals, and Joyner’s one-year offer ($3 million) was no exception. He should probably take over the primary strong safety spot alongside Marcus Maye as the 30-year-old searches for some long-term roots after spending the last two seasons with the migrating Raiders.

If anything, Joyner can be a strong mentor to previous third-round choice Ashtyn Davis, who enters a de facto second rookie season after his original was marred by injuries.

8. TE Tyler Kroft

When’s the last time the Jets have had a reliable red zone target? Scoring has been a major concern in the first place, but they could use someone able to create the necessary red zone separation. There was hope Chris Herndon could be that scorer, but he hasn’t matched the firepower of a strong rookie season.

Kroft probably isn’t going to challenge Herndon for the top spot just yet, but he can be that option for a quarterback in desperate need of stability. Each of the Rutgers alum’s dozen career touchdown receptions has come from 20 yards or fewer, including three from Josh Allen last season, including the game-winner in a September win over the Rams. Kroft has also earned positive reviews for his blocking, indirectly addressing an area of need that has unfortunately been otherwise neglected.

9. G Dan Feeney 

Going into the offseason, the Jets’ most pressing need was not the quarterback, but the protection in front of him. Thus far, the Jets have done little to remedy the situation as Feeney, high in personality but low on the analytical ranking lists, is the only offensive line acquisition they’ve made thus far, thrusting a brighter spotlight upon him.

It’s unknown exactly where Feeney will fit in on the Jets’ official depth chart. The best estimation right now probably has him backing up Greg Van Roten at right guard. But, at least until the Jets add some protection through the draft, he’s the only difference from last season and he might get called upon to make some changes, especially in the interior.

10. CB Justin Hardee

Hardee is officially listed as a cornerback, but it’s far more likely he’ll bolster the Jets’ coverage units. When you’re a team like the Jets, one that struggles to score, pinning the opponent deep on kickoffs and punts remains vital. Hardee, a mainstay amongst the top special teams tackle leaders, should help the Jets improve on their punts, as they allowed 11.7 yards per return last season (27th in the NFL), a number that could’ve been higher if not for some crucial stops by Braden Mann.

11. DE Vinny Curry

Curry has had his moments of NFL glory, but no one’s expecting the nine-sacks, four-forced fumble season he earned in 2014. Last season in Philadelphia showed that the 33-year-old still has some power left in the tank, so he can serve as a reliable depth option, which could’ve come in handy last season when Jabari Zuniga and Kyle Phillips went down. It’s more likely, though, he’ll be used in more of a mentorship role for Williams and Foley Fatukasi.

12. LB Del’Shawn Phillips

The former JUCO star has an inspiring story, working his way into a Big Ten school (Illinois) after academic ineligibility ended his original Division I dreams at Western Michigan. Even with the Jets’ issues at linebacker, Phillips likely faces an uphill battle to reach the Week 1 lineup.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Why Tevin Coleman is the most impactful pick-up yet

The New York Jets have made some intriguing moves this offseason, but none may be more vital than welcoming in Tevin Coleman.

The New York Jets look drastically different than they do from this time last year, but Robert Saleh made things a little more familiar on Wednesday.

Per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the Saleh and the Jets are finally tapping into the new head coach’s former potential from his former Bay Area stomping grounds by adding running back Tevin Coleman. The former Indiana Hoosier spent the past two seasons navigating his way through Saleh’s defenses in San Francisco and worked extensively with offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, then the 49ers’ passing game coordinator.

After a slow start, the Jets have made several moves to propel themselves in a positive direction this offseason. Carl Lawson should help a slow pass rush while aerial weaponry has been added through Corey Davis and Keelan Cole. Further veteran defensive help has been provided through both Sheldon Rankins and Coleman’s fellow Wednesday signee Vinny Curry.

But, to build toward the vision that Saleh and LaFleur are building towards, the arrival of Coleman might be the biggest move yet.

ESM explains…

The Anti-Bell

After the Le’Veon Bell situation, it’s going to a long, long time before the Jets shell out big bucks for another running back. The offseason surplus might’ve given Joe Douglas and Co. some wiggle room in terms of extra spending, investing high numbers into a running back hasn’t paid off. Of the 10 highest-paid running backs in football last season, only two (Derrick Henry and Mark Ingram) appeared in January’s playoffs. The highest-paid back on the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers was Ronald Jones, who was a sub-$2 million cap hit last season. By the time the Super Bowl trek started, he was sharing carries with in-season find Leonard Fournette.

Coleman’s coming off a year where was the 11th-highest-paid rusher in football. Going into the new year, he’ll be a mere $1.1 million cap hit in a deal where he’ll be eager to reprove his NFL worth. Meanwhile, the Jets get a ridiculously affordable back who has tasted success at the highest levels to headline their revamped rushing game. Coleman gets a chance to take on a new opportunity. On such an affordable deal, it comes at little, maybe even no, risk to the Jets.

Haven’t We Done This Before?

Defying the expectations of many offseason prognosticators, the Jets have opted not to load their roster with free agents from Robert Saleh and Mike LaFleur’s old Bay Area stomping grounds. But, if they were to add anyone from the most recent addition of the 49ers, Coleman was likely among their best options. For a team so desperate for offensive weaponry, adding a rusher that can put up numbers on the ground through the air is an absolute must.

When Coleman joined the 49ers, then-San Franciso run game coordinator (now offensive coordinator) Mike McDaniel referred to the rusher’s signing as “Christmas in March”. LaFleur, the Jets’ new offensive boss also stiationed in San Francisco at the time, concurred in that same report on the team’s website.

“He can run and he’s explosive, no doubt. The thing that really sticks out with Tevin is how fearless and physical this guy is. He is a man out there,” LaFleur said. “When you tell him to put his foot in the ground and go north and south, he’s going to do it times 10. It’s every single week. It’s every single down. You’re always getting the same guy. … When we need him to get us a yard, he’s going to get us a yard every single time.”

Coleman wound up getting some big yards in San Francisco’s journey to Super Bowl LIV. Anytime you’re in the same sentence as Jerry Rice is a celebratory cause, especially in a 49ers setting. Coleman joined such hallowed ground by becoming the first Niner since Rice to score four touchdowns in a single game since the legendary No. 80. He also put up 105 yards and two scores in the Divisional round triumph over Minnesota, becoming the first 49er to tally triple digits in a playoff game since Colin Kaepernick in 2014. It’s the type of playmaking the Jets desperately need in an anemic offense.

That Championship Feeling

Inconsequential as it may seem, the Jets could use some championship pedigree in their roster as they seek to get the rebuild back on track. That endeavor was seen on defense through Vinny Curry and continues with Coleman, who also partook in the Atlanta Faclons’ ill-fated visit to Super Bowl LI.

While each member of their returning rushing corps (La’mical Perine, Ty Johnson, the newly re-signed Josh Adams) had flashes of brilliance last season, they lack the experience to truly invoke confidence. Through Coleman, the group now has a championship mentor to work with, someone who has experienced the highs and lows of rushing starterhood.

Relief through Coleman also comes at the quarterback slot. Whether it’s Zach Wilson, Sam Darnold, or a third party that has yet to present himself, the quarterback can’t be a one-man show in New York. He’s going to need some help he can get to help the offense pick up the pieces after the Adam Gase era. While the Jets still have to make changes on their offensive line (Mekhi Becton notwithstanding), Coleman and the receivers added (Corey Davis/Keelan Cole) will certainly help, but Coleman’s arrival definitely gives the quarterback a sizable safety net. The need for aerial miracles could drastically lower.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets land DE Vinny Curry: What does he bring?

The New York Jets have now added a former Super Bowl champion in former Eagles edge rusher Vinny Curry. Curry joins the Jets on a one-year, $1.3 million dollar deal. Curry garnered interest from the Jets last offseason but ultimately returned to Philadelphia, now with Robert Saleh in the fold, Curry becomes another piece for Saleh to play with on defense. So, how will the veteran rusher impact the team?

Last season, Curry put up 3.0 sacks, 3 TFLs and 10 QB Hits as a rotational edge rusher for the Eagles. In three seasons before that, Curry had a total of 10.5 sacks, 90 tackles, 20 TFLs, 37 QB Hits and a forced fumble. Although he is north of 30 (will be 33 by Week one), the New Jersey native brings productivity and experience to the edge spot as a rotational presence.

Curry has had exceptional seasons in the past with 9.0 sacks and 4+ forced turnovers just a few years ago, but if Curry can at the very least replicate what he did last season he will be an asset to the team.

The Jets will still likely need to add another edge in the draft, but it is clear Joe Douglas is not messing around with making additions to the defense. By adding Carl Lawson, Sheldon Rankins, and now Curry, the team continues to make the defensive front a point in order to built a legitimate presence heading into the Robert Saleh era.

In analyzing the way this defense is being outlined, it is already being formulated similarly to the 49ers Super Bowl front with Buckner, Bosa, Thomas and others. If the Jets can institute even a semblance of that they are on their way to success.