New York Jets CB Bless Austin has big plans as a primary defender

Granted one of the New York Jets’ primary cornerback roles, Austin promised to live up to the great expectations placed upon him.

If you tried to turn Bless Austin’s football career into a movie, a Hollywood studio would probably reject. Not only is Austin’s NFL journey in its infantile stages, but the screenplay could be criticized for being too on the nose.

Fortunately, Austin has been watching his fair share of film as is.

Speaking after the Jets’ training camp activities on Monday, Austin is penciled in as one of the Jets’ primary cornerbacks as their preseason opener looms this weekend. As Austin prepares for extended duties, he’s taken in head coach Robert Saleh’s San Francisco filmography, with 49ers cornerback Emmanuel Moseley serving as his muse. Austin also admitted to taking a look at Saleh’s former division rival Jalen Ramsey out in Los Angeles.

It’s part of a personal goal of Austin’s that is anything but modest: to become one of the NFL’s best defenders.

“I think I’m the real deal. (There’s) no secret in that,” Austin said in a report from Dennis Waszak Jr. of the Associated Press. “Of course, I make mistakes, but there’s also a lot of plays I’ve made on that field that other corners in this league aren’t making.”

Born in Queens and starring at Campus Magnet in Cambria Heights (formerly known as Andrew Jackson High School), Austin stayed in the tri-state area, moving on to Rutgers during some of their earliest days in the Big Ten. He immediately made an impact with 14 pass breakups in his sophomore season but injuries ate away at his latter two seasons.

Austin nonetheless found redemption from a familiar source: a New Jersey-based club with New York branding.

The Jets chose Austin with their final pick of the 2019 draft (196th overall) after partaking in only five games in his last pair of collegiate campaigns. Entering his third professional season, Austin is now an elder statesman in Gang Green’s secondary: he’s the longest-tenured Jet in the team’s cornerback room and might be the most experienced at the position overall: special teams ace Justin Hardee is the only listed such defender who has been in the league longer.

Through his first two NFL season, Austin has developed a reputation as a physical defender, but his coverage needs work. A brutal coverage grade of 47.4, bestowed by Pro Football Focus, ranked 112th among 136 qualified cornerbacks. PFF has refused to let up, calling the Austin-headlined New York cornerback group one of the weakest units in the league back in April.

With the Jets woefully undermanned in terms of experience in the secondary, some have clamored for the Jets to search for veteran help from abroad. C.J. Henderson, a top ten a pick a year ago, could be up for grabs with the Jaguars reportedly ready to put him on the trading block.

New York Jets, Bless Austin
(Photo: Getty)

The cornerback, however, won’t hear of it. He’s not only confident in his own abilities but he also spoke glowingly of his new co-worker in the secondary.

Austin is set to work next to Bryce Hall, another day three choice with something to prove. The Virginia alum was projected to be a first-round pick after his junior season but a devastating ankle injury relegated him to the fifth round of the 2020 draft, where the Jets scooped him up. Hall showed promise over eight NFL contests after the Jets’ in-season fire sale purged several veteran corners, even earning his first professional interception in the team’s first win of the season over the Rams.

Austin unveiled a dire warning to those disregarding he and Hall simply because of their star-crossed collegiate careers: do so at your own risk. That notice might extend to the Jets’ front office, which has rarely used the calendar as an excuse for inaction on the free agent front.

“The front office and the coaching staff does a great job of communicating to us where their head is at,” Austin said, per Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post. “A lot of people forget me and Bryce were highly rated dudes coming out of college. We just fell short to injury. There’s a reason why they didn’t bring a veteran cornerback in here. Not to knock any out there, but they see something in us.”

“I don’t pay attention to outside noise. I’m between the white lines and I know what I’m about. Other people in the league know what I’m about as well.”

The Jets’ revamped receivers, headlined by the arrivals of Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, and Keelan Cole, have given Austin a formidable challenge as he enters a year that could well determine the course of the rest of NFL career. It’s a challenge where he can’t “go through the motions and think I’m gonna have a successful day”, according to DJ Bien-Aime II of the New York Daily News.

But, true to the warning he bestowed to the Jets’ front office and the lingers free agent market, Austin is apparently impressing the right people as game day approaches.

“He’s got a dog’s mentality, from a football sense,” Saleh himself said of Austin’s summer endeavors, per notes from the Jets. “He is absolutely fearless, he’s very strong at the line of scrimmage, at least from the time I’ve gotten here, doesn’t look like he’s really bothered by the play before, he can move on. It’s just those attributes, the length, the strength, he’s fast enough, it’s just a matter of working the technique and understanding where you work in the defense. He’s shown everything that we want, it’s just a matter of trying to get better and see what he looks like once we get with other opponents.”

“Bless (is) long, strong, aggressive, tough,” defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich added in those same quotes. “He’ll challenge you. He wants to play at the line of scrimmage, he wants to get his hands on you, he wants to disrupt. He’s a proven tackler, he’s tough, he’ll show up in the run game to support.”

The Jets open the preseason on Saturday night against the New York Giants in a battle for MetLife Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET, WNBC).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets add veteran QB Josh Johnson to backup mix

New York Jets

Johnson previously spent part of the summer of 2015 with the New York Jets with his last regular season experience coming in the XFL.

The New York Jets were in desperate need of experience in the quarterback room. One could technically say the signing of Josh Johnson qualifies as overkill.

New York announced the signing of Johnson on Wednesday. The University of San Diego alum is one of a handful of picks left from the 2008 NFL Draft, originally chosen in the fifth round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After a record-breaking career under Jim Harbaugh’s tutelage at USD, Johnson has embarked on a well-traveled professional journey, spending time with 16 different teams over four leagues. This marks Johnson’s second tenure with the Jets, spending just over a week with the team during the 2015 preseason.

Johnson notably went eight seasons between starts, earning his first win as a primary quarterback with Washington in 2018. More recently, Johnson spent last season on San Francisco’s practice squad. It was his third stint with the 49ers (2012, 2014), one that allowed him to spend time with current Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. He was released by San Francisco in June.

In addition to his NFL service, Johnson has also spent time on rosters in the UFL, AAF, and XFL. In the latter-most endeavor, Johnson was the starting quarterback for the Los Angeles Wildcats. In a slightly ironic twist, Johnson played a major role in the most recent sporting event held in front of fans at MetLife Stadium. Johnson threw for 325 yards and two scores, though the Wildcats fell to the New York Guardians by a 17-14 final.

The Jets were in desperate need of experience in their quarterback room. New York is set to debut Zach Wilson, the second overall pick from April’s draft, as their new franchise thrower. Behind him, the Jets also have young veterans James Morgan and Mike White to compete with Johnson for the primary backup role.

In a corresponding move, the Jets released defender Brendon White, an undrafted rookie safety out of Rutgers.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

WATCH: New York Jets OL Dan Feeney goes viral for Islanders celebration

The New York Jets took in their blue and orange brothers’ victory on the ice, a trip headlined by Feeney’s celebratory antics.

Between New York and Manitoba, it’s a good time to be a Jet involved in hockey.

Plenty have come up big for the New York Islanders during their ongoing run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But if Mathew Barzal, Josh Bailey, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Co. aren’t careful, they might lose the Conn Smythe Trophy to Dan Feeney.

The newly minted New York Jets offensive lineman stole the show during the Islanders’ 4-1 playoff win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday afternoon. Feeney was one of several Jets in attendance at Nassau Veterans’ Memorial Coliseum, joining his new teammates (including quarterback Zach Wilson) for first-round action.

Feeney quickly became a favorite of NBC’s cameras. Shortly after Bailey scored to put the Islanders up 1-0, the mulleted Feeney was shown enthusiastically chugging his beer and crushing the empty can against his head.

Fans and analysts alike delighted in Feeney’s celebration, as many were quick to delcare him their new favorite Jet in the aftermath of his Uniondale revelry.

Those who know Feeney, signer of a one-year, $3.5 million deal this offseason, know that Saturday’s display isn’t anything out of the ordinary.

“He has a lot of mustache energy,” former Los Angeles Chargers teammate and fellow blocker Michael Schofield said in a report from Joshua Fischman on the team website. “He’s a great guy. (He brings) a lot of energy, (and is) just a good guy to be around. He’s a good locker room guy.”

“He’s fun to be around,” quarterback Easton Stick added in the same report. “You can tell he’s passionate about the game, (and) he loves his teammates. It’s a really good energy that Dan brings every day.”

Perhaps inspired by Feeney’s work in the stands, the Islanders’ victory on Saturday knotted their series with the Penguins at two games apiece in the best-of-seven set. Game 5 is Monday in Pittsburgh (7 p.m. ET, MSG/NBCSN).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

BREAKING: LB Jarrad Davis to New York Jets on one-year deal (Report)

Davis, a former first-round pick in Detroit, has reportedly joined the New York Jets on a one-year deal worth $7 million.

Per Ralph Vacchiano of SNY, the New York Jets have agreed to a one-year deal with linebacker Jarrad Davis, formerly of the Detroit Lions. The deal is reportedly worth $7 million. Davis, chosen 21st in the 2017 draft, earned 305 tackles, including 10.5 sacks over four years in the Motor City.

Davis, a 26-year-old Florida alum, never reached his first-billing with the Lions, but some felt that he was not properly utilized in Detroit. His experience under a 4-3 defense in Gainesville will help under the transition under Robert Saleh, who ran the format in San Francisco. Davis would often play the Mike under then-co-defensive coordinators Geoff Collins and Randy Shannon, earning 17 tackles for a loss over his latter two seasons at a Gator.

Davis’ best season in Detroit came in 2018, when he earned 100 tackles (10 for a loss), six sacks, and a fumble recovery. He earned 46 tackles over 14 games this past season, briefly spending time on the COVID-19 list. Davis was also named to the Pro Football Writers Association’s All-Rookie team at the end of his rookie campaign the year before (96 tackles and an interception).

The addition of Davis helps the Jets shore up their linebacker corps. Separate, respective reports from Vacchiano and Connor Hughes indicate that team likely won’t retain Tarell Basham and Harvey Langi. Another report from NFL Network’s Tom Pellissero has also claimed that the Jets have received calls on C.J. Mosley, who has been limited to two games in a five-year, $85 million contract. Other linebackers potentially on the market for the Jets include Jordan Jenkins, Neville Hewitt, Frankie Luvu, Patrick Onwuasor, and Bryce Hager.

Davis joins Vyncint Smith and Marcus Maye in terms of the 2021 transactions thus far. The former was re-signed on Sunday while Maye was franchise tagged earlier this month.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Liberty add free agent Paris Kea to their roster

With several key contributors out, the New York Liberty added the North Carolina alumna. She played 11 games with Indiana last year.

The New York Liberty have confirmed the signing of free agent guard Paris Kea to their roster.

Kea, 24, was a third-round pick out of North Carolina (25th overall) of the Indiana Fever in the 2019 WNBA Draft. In three seasons with the Tar Heels (after transferring from Vanderbilt), Kea averaged 18 points per game, the second-best tally in program history. Her final two seasons saw her earn back-to-back First-Team All-ACC honors and her total point tally of 1,637 is the seventh-best in Chapel Hill history over a three-year span. Additionally, she reached 30 points in seven games over her career, also good for second-best in the blue archives.

A native of Tarboro, NC, Kea was a two-sport athlete in high school, also playing soccer. She also partook in international endeavors in 2014, representing the United States in the FIBA America U18 Championship for Women. The USA took home the gold with a team that included Kea, A’ja Wilson, Napheesa Collier, and Teaira McCowan.

Kea played 11 games with Indiana last season. Ironically, her best performance of the season came against the Liberty. In a June tilt at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Kea made her WNBA debut to the tune of 10 points (4-of-6 shooting) in a 92-77 Fever victory. She was released by Indiana in April.

New York had an open roster spot after several opt-outs and also sought depth after top overall pick Sabrina Ionescu went down with an ankle injury. Kia Nurse and Jazmine Jones have likewise missed time, albeit only one full game each, due to injury.

The Liberty (1-5) earned their first win of the season on Friday night, topping the defending champion Washington Mystics 74-66. They’ll look to start a streak on Sunday late afternoon against the Las Vegas Aces (5 p.m. ET, YES).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: The All-Time Undrafted Team

With the Easter season in full swing, the New York Jets have managed to find some hidden eggs after the NFL Draft’s final name.

255 names will be called during the process of the 2020 NFL Draft, which will begin on April 23 (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC/NFL Network). After the draft, however, many more will get a long-awaited phone call. Several of these players could wind up becoming hidden Easter eggs, players that become remarkable contributors to the active roster.

The New York Jets have had a good share of these spring surprises roll in from the ranks of the undrafted. ESM is proud to immortalize those names in a commemorative starting lineup….

QB: Bill Demory (1973-74)

Jets history is extremely shallow on undrafted quarterback success. 1999’s supersub Ray Lucas nearly made the list, but his career began during Bill Parcells’ New England years. Demory is the only undrafted quarterback originally signed by the Jets to win a start for the squad, riding a 132-yard day from John Riggins while he went 1-for-7 for 11 yards in a 9-7 win over New England in 1973.

RB: Clark Gaines (1976-80)

Gaines was a man of many talents with the Jets. Not only was he known for his rushing talents, but the 17 receptions he earned during a 1980 loss to San Francisco still stands as a Jets franchise record. His 55 receptions in 1977 were good for third in the NFL. On the ground, the 724 rushing yards earned during his rookie season allowed him to reach the NFL’s All-Rookie Team alongside linebacker teammate Greg Buttle and future legends Steve Largent and Harry Carson. Gaines wound up gaining 2,552 yards over five seasons with the Jets before injuries derailed his career.

WR: Wayne Chrebet (1995-2005)

One of the renowned fan favorites in modern Jets history, Chrebet was the perfect tri-state area success story. Born in Garfield, New Jersey and graduating from Hofstra University on Long Island, Chrebet’s odds were stacked against him from the literal first moment he entered the Jets’ facility. The security guard on duty thought Chrebet was too small to partake in practice, but Chrebet defied all the odds by not only making the team but leaving a lasting impact. Currently, Chrebet ranks third in team history in receiving yardage (7,365) and touchdowns (41). He continues to be a regular prescience on Jet game days and was inducted into the team Ring of Honor in 2014.

WR: Robby Anderson (2016-19)

Anderson is by far the most prolific Jets receiver since his NFL entry. He put up 3,059 yards to accompany 20 touchdowns over four New York seasons. That’s not bad at all for a guy who entered his first Jets training camp ninth on the receiver’s depth chart. A prolific preseason (13 receptions, 264 yards) was only a sign of things to come. Anderson is currently 11th amongst active receivers with 14.8 yards per reception. Alas, the receiver has left for bluer pastures, rejoining former Temple head coach Matt Rhule and quarterback P.J. Walker in Carolina.

WR: Lou Piccone (1974-76)

As a Vineland native, Piccone’s green antics wasn’t the first time he brought a New Jersey crowd to its feet. He wound up leading the NFL in kick return yards during the 1974 season. His first professional touchdown came in two seasons later on a punt return during a shutout win over Tampa Bay. Piccone’s Jets career ended shortly after, as he shifted his New York allegiance over to Buffalo.

TE: Jeff Cumberland (2010-15)

It took a while for the Jets to unlock Cumberland’s true potential, but he became a favorite target no matter who was playing quarterback for the Jets between 2012 and 2014. Cumberland was one of two players to reach four digits in yardage in that span (the other being Jeremy Kerley) and no one scored more touchdowns (10) over that three-year range. His most notable tally, a one-yard fourth quarter grab from Greg McElroy, gave the Jets a 7-6 win over Arizona in December 2012.

C: John Schmitt (1964-73)

Another Hofstra alum, Schmitt was born in Brooklyn and first graduated from Seton Hall Preparatory School in West Orange. Schmitt was named to two All-AFL teams and was the Jets’ starting center for their victory in Super Bowl III. He would finish his career with another green team during his 1974 season with the Packers.

G: Brandon Moore (2002-12)

Moore’s lasting legacy will unfairly be the titular rear end mentioned in Mark Sanchez’s infamous “Butt Fumble”. After failing to make the team at the end of 2002 training camp, Moore partook in NFL Europe (Scottish Claymores) and the Arena Football League (Carolina Cobras) before making the most out of a second opportunity with the Jets. Curtis Martin led the league in rushing during his first full year as a starter (2004) and Moore would later be invited to the 2012 Pro Bowl.

G: Kerry Jenkins (1997-2001)

Jenkins is perhaps best-known for starting on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ championship offensive line in 2002, but, prior to that, he started all 48 games over the 1999-2001 seasons.

T: Matt Willig (1993-95)

Willig wound up playing 13 years in the NFL (and was a part of the St. Louis Rams’ 1999 championship squad) but the Rose Bowl champion is perhaps better known for his film career. He most recently appeared in the Warner Bros./DC Comics collaboration Birds of Prey, four years after he had a recurring role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe television entry Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Other popular films on his filmography include The Benchwarmers, We’re the Millers, and Stretch.

T: Brent Qvale (2014-19)

Qvale recently signed with the Houston Texans, but was a serviceable depth option over five seasons. His brother Brian currently partakes in Italian basketball and is the Big South Conference’s all-time leader in blocks.

DL: Damon Harrison (2012-15)

Affectionately known as “Snacks”, Harrison was an NAIA All-American at William Penn, but the small Iowa college hadn’t sent anyone to the NFL since 1987. He wound up making the team in 2012 and then permanently took over the Jets’ starting defensive tackle spot after injuries rocked the lineup in his sophomore season. His NFL introduction came in an October 2013 win over New England, where his first NFL sack victimized Tom Brady. Harrison would then play two-plus seasons with the Giants before a 2018 trade sent him to Detroit. He remains a fan favorite amongst metropolitan green and blue fans alike.

DL: Mike DeVito (2007-12)

DeVito probably could’ve filled several slots on this list, as the Atlantic 10 legend was known for appearing on both sides of the ball. He made his first NFL squad by beating out veterans Bobby Hamilton and Kimo Von Oelhoffen. NBC recently replayed the game that featured the biggest moment of DeVito’s career, the 2011 opener against the Dallas Cowboys. DeVito’s sack of Tony Romo (the first full QB takedown of his NFL career) forced a fumble deep in Jets territory that kept Dallas off the scoreboard and allowed a comeback to continue. The Jets won the game 27-24.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – OCTOBER 13: Defensive Lineman Kyle Phillips #98 of the New York Jets makes a stop call against the Dallas Cowboys in the second half at MetLife Stadium on October 13, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)

DL: Kyle Phillips (2019-present)

When injuries rocked the Jets’ defense, Phillips wound up being a serviceable replacement. His first full NFL sack came in a big situation, helping New York secure a December win over playoff contenders from Pittsburgh with a sack of Devlin Hodges late in the fourth quarter. He finished the season with 39 tackles overall.

LB: Chad Cascadden (1995-99)

Cascadden was mostly used as a depth option during his five seasons in green, but contributed to the Jets’ 1998 magic in a memorable way. He helped the Jets continue a six-game winning streak to end the regular season with the 23-yard return of a Dan Marino fumble that served as the de facto game-winning touchdown in a 21-16 win in Miami. Cascadden would also tally the only multi-sack game of his career during the 1999 AFC Championship Game against Denver.

LB: Paul Crane (1966-72)

Another Super Bowl III participant, Crane’s most notable moment came in the Jets’ first game after their ultimate triumph in Miami. He intercepted two passes, returning one for a touchdown, in the Jets’ 33-19 win over Buffalo to open up their 1969 campaign.

LB: Kevin McArthur (1986-89)

A Lamar alum, McArthur had two interceptions over a four-year Jets career. One of them came during the 1986 AFC playoffs. His 21-yard swipe of a Todd Blackledge pass went for a touchdown and was among the last of 28 unanswered points as the Jets rolled to a 35-15 win over Kansas City.

LB: Jamaal Westerman (2009-11)

A decade-plus career that spanned ten teams and two countries began collegiately at Rutgers and professionally with the Jets. Westerman immediately impressed then-head coach Rex Ryan, who predicted that Westerman would make the team in June minicamp. He immediately vindicated Ryan’s confidence with a sack in his debut, a 24-7 win over Houston to open the 2009 campaign. Another career highlight for Westerman was a two-sack output against Brady and the Patriots during a 2011 visit to Foxboro.

DB: Randy Beverly (1967-69)

One could argue that it should’ve been Beverly walking away with Super Bowl III MVP honors. The Baltimore Colts planned to pick on the inexperienced and undersized defender, but he instead haunted them with two interceptions, one of which came on the opening drive. Both interceptions also stifled Baltimore scoring chances, each occurring in the end zone. Beverly’s later career included an appearance with another New York football team, the Stars of the World Football League.

DB: Bill Baird (1963-69)

Yet another Super Bowl champ, Baird played his college ball at San Francisco State. He would go on to earn 34 interceptions over his seven NFL seasons, including eight alone during the 1964 trek. Together with Beverly and Johnny Sample, Baird would unite to allow only 181 yards between Earl Morrall and Johnny Unitas, also forcing four interceptions on the fateful evening.

DB: Dainard Paulson (1961-66)

A legacy member of the New York Titans, Paulson’s magnum opus was the 1964 season, where he put up a franchise-record 12 interceptions, which is also good for third-best in AFL/NFL history. He would follow it up with seven more a year later, reaching the AFL Pro Bowl in both years. 

OCTOBER 9, 1983 CLEVELAND, OH: Cornerback Jerry Holmes #47 of the New York Jets returns an interception during a game against the Cleveland Browns on October 9, 1983 at the Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Cleveland won 10-7. (Photo by: Ron Kuntz Collection/Diamond Images/Getty Images)

DB: Jerry Holmes (1980-83, 86-87)

After serving as a depth option during his rookie campaign, Holmes worked his way into the Jets’ starting lineup and wound up posting 14 interceptions over five seasons as a regular. His best season (six interceptions in 1986) came after a two-year sabbatical in the United States Football League. One of those years featured three more Jersey picks as a member of the Generals. In fact, the USFL negotiated his NFL release the year before, but that did nothing to slow Nelson down. In a de facto lame duck situation (before spending his first USFL season with the Pittsburgh Maulers), Nelson helped seal an upset win over the 49ers by taking a Joe Montana pass back for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

K: John Hall (1997-2002)

Despite a successful kicking career at Wisconsin, Hall went unclaimed until the Jets came calling. He would go on to establish himself as a clutch NFL kicker. For example, he booted the famous winner in the Monday Night Miracle against Miami). Four AFC Special Teams Player of the Week Awards also awaited him throughout his career, as did a surprising 18 tackles over six Jets seasons. In a rather obscure stat, the Jets were 3-1 in the four games where Hall had multiple tackles.

P: Ben Graham (2005-08)

In 2005, Graham, formerly of Australian Rules Football, became the oldest rookie to appear on an NFL roster at 31. He also made history in New York as the first Australian player to captain an American football team. Further football history awaited him beyond his green endeavors, as he became player to partake in both an AFL Grand Final and a Super Bowl as a member of the Arizona Cardinals.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants: Dante Fowler Jr. A Young Pass-Rushing Option In Free Agency

New York Giants, Dante Fowler Jr.

The New York Giants will be in the market for a pass-rusher this offseason. Luckily, the 2020 free agency class is filled with talented edge rushers for the Giants to pursue. New York is expected to make a run at all of the big names, such as Yannick Ngakoue and Jadeveon Clowney. But there are more affordable options out there.

Dante Fowler Jr. will be one of those more affordable options in the 2020 free agency class. The 25-year-old edge rusher out of the University of Florida has been with the Los Angeles Rams for the past season and a half but is set to hit the open market once again this offseason.

Dante Fowler Jr. Stats And Highlights

Dante Fowler Jr. was selected third overall in the 2015 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He spent his first two and a half seasons in Jacksonville before being traded to the Los Angeles Rams. Fowler signed a one-year contract extension with the Rams in the 2019 offseason.

This offseason, however, a contract extension might not come to fruition. The Rams are pressed against the salary cap and might have to let Dante Fowler Jr. walk away.

Fowler Jr. was looked at as a bust during his time with the Jaguars. He never hit that elite level that they expected him to when they drafted him third overall. However, a change of scenery worked well for Dante. He had a career-year in 2019 that should see him rewarded handsomely in free agency.

In 2019, Dante Fowler recorded a career-high 11.5 sacks, 35 pressures, and 58 combined tackles. This was far and away the best season of his career and a big step forward from his 4-sack campaign in 2018. Fowler’s inconsistency throughout his career is a major red flag. But if 2019 is any indication, it appears Fowler is starting to get the hang of the professional game. Maybe in the right defensive system, Dante Fowler Jr. will be able to reach his full potential.

Dante Fowler Jr.’s Contract

Dante’s impressive performance in 2019 should see him earn a pretty expensive contract, however, he will be a cheaper option in comparison to Clowney and Ngakoue.

According to Over the Cap, Dante Fowler Jr. is projected to get a four-year deal worth about $15 million on average annually. This is $6 million less than what Jadeveon Clowney is projected to sign for and $4.5 less than Ngakoue’s projected contract.

New York Giants: Byron Jones Should Be The Top Free Agent Target

The New York Giants possess one of the worst defenses in the NFL. In 2019, the Giants’ secondary was especially bad. New York’s pass defense ranked fifth-worst in the NFL this season, allowing 264.1 passing yards per game (ESPN). Granted, the team had multiple rookie defensive backs starting for them. But this league-ranking is unacceptable regardless and needs to improve in 2020.

Luckily for the Giants, there are plenty of options to improve their secondary this offseason. Whether it be drafting a young stud defensive back in the first round or spending big in free agency- the possibilities are limitless. In free agency, there are plenty of big-name offensive tackles and edge rushers that Giants fans will drool over. But the player they should be drooling over is in the secondary. Byron Jones, Dallas Cowboys defensive back, should be the Giants’ top free-agent target in 2020.

Free Agent Cornerbacks Pay Off

The Giants have spent big in the secondary before. Over the past five years, the Giants have signed a couple of big-name cornerbacks. Fist, New York secured Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the 2014 NFL offseason. The Giants signed DRC to a five-year deal that saw him total 11 interceptions and 46 passes defended in three seasons. Rodgers-Cromartie was also selected as a second-team All-Pro in 2016.

DRC was not the only free agent cornerback from which the Giants got high returns. More recently, the Giants parted ways with cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Jenkins was a big signing for the Giants in the 2016 offseason when the team spent heavily on impact players in free agency, such as Jenkins, Olivier Vernon, and Damon Harrison.

In that 2016 offseason, the Giants signed Janoris Jenkins to a five-year deal. The Giants got three and a half years out of Janoris. In those three and a half seasons, Janoris Jenkins racked up 12 interceptions, and 56 passes defended. Janoris Jenkins was also selected as a first-team All-Pro in 2016. The Giants’ past two cornerback free agent signings have paid off big-time with elite play and reliability in their secondary.

Why The Giants Should Sign Byron Jones

If the Giants make a third big purchase in the secondary, signing Byron Jones in the 2020 offseason would be a home run. Undoubtedly, Byron Jones is the best cornerback set to be available in free agency in 2020.

The Giants’ secondary is filled with youthful talent. DeAndre Baker, Sam Beal, Corey Ballentine, Julian Love, and Grant Haley are all second and third-year players. Having a talented veteran presence in the secondary should be a top priority for the Gmen. Byron Jones fits the bill at 27-years-old with 5 years of experience.

The Cowboys are in a bit of trouble regarding their salary cap. They just paid Ezekiel Elliot and Demarcus Lawrence, and they still have not paid Dak Prescott. New head coach Mike McCarthy will have some tough decisions to make regarding the team’s impending free agents, and he might have to let some big names walk out the door. Byron Jones could be one of those big names to depart.

Byron Jones is a versatile cornerback that makes a significant impact in pass coverage. He has experience playing both safety and cornerback at the professional level and has done both exceptionally well. Jones is 6 feet tall and 200 pounds. He’s a large-bodied cornerback with peak physicality to cover larger receivers and tight ends. Finally, the Giants could get a coverage-man to shut down opposing tight ends.

New York Yankees: Two free agents the Yankees should consider

New York Mets, Zack Wheeler

The New York Yankees are in the offseason with one major goal: get quality starting pitching. General manager Brian Cashman has already said they’re after Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, and Madison Bumgarner.

These are all three big names in the Major Leagues who are most likely looking for lengthy and expensive contracts. Even though the Yankees can pretty much afford anyone, that doesn’t mean they’ll definitely sign with the Yanks.

Here are other available pitchers on the free-agent market that the Yankees should consider if they don’t land one of those three guys.

Zack Wheeler

Known for his high-heat, Zack Wheeler is someone who can give the Yankees exactly what they need. Behind the Yankee offense, this duo could be something special. After posting a 3.96 ERA in 31 starts, the Yankees could grab him for a contract in their favor.

Wheeler has an arsenal of pitches, throwing a four-seam fastball, slider, curve, chance, and splitter. Something else attractive about Wheeler is he consistently goes the distance, usually leaving the game after giving seven innings. With how to dominate the Yankee bullpen is, this is something the New York Yankees need in their starting rotation.

Wade Miley

Someone who sorta flew under the radar this past season, Wade Miley had a great year with the Houston Astros. In 33 games started, Miley posted a 14-6 record with the World Series runner-ups.

Miley is an enticing player because he’s one of the few MLB starters who doesn’t rely on the fastball. He uses a cutter and a changeup as his primary pitches while working in a fastball with a curve and slider.

Why are the New York Yankees, and all of MLB, sitting out free agency?

We have all seen the headlines “cold stove”, “when will they sign?”, “will there be a labor stoppage?” etc. The gist of most of the articles is that it’s some type of outrage that there haven’t been 10 year/400 million dollar contracts for Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, or that Craig “the greatest closer in history” Kimbrel remains unsigned. The reality is it’s THEIR Fault, not the owners. A “cheap” New York Yankees team has emerged as the biggest spenders.

Where are the issues stemming from?

I know when it comes to labor issues we all become part of the proletariat and unite, but at what point does banking on others stupidity as the baseline for your contract become your fault? The pendulum for the power in contracts is swinging back towards equilibrium in baseball and it’s freaking the MLBPA and agents out.

Is anyone enjoying watching Albert Pujols decompose in Anaheim while eating up a huge chunk of the team’s payroll, and that Josh Hamilton deal worked out great too right? Are the Red Sox still paying Carl Crawford and Pablo Sandoval? How’d the last few years of Arod’s deal work out? Finally, there’s the ghost of Jacoby Ellsbury, may he rest in trainers tape. With those and countless other terrible contracts, I’m confused as to why there’s a mystery as to why teams aren’t interested in long-term big money deals.

Money is earned through consistency:

I know what you want to say “but Manny and Bryce are in their mid-twenties, they’ll produce for the life of their deals” Harper hasn’t consistently had great years the first seven years of his career, do you want to bet 30 million a year on his age 35-37 seasons? Do you want your team paying that much to anyone at that age? As analytics have swept through front offices they’ve finally realized “oh we don’t have to pay superstar salaries to watch these guys circle the drain.” This isn’t collusion, it’s a market correction.

Obviously, prior to free agency, the owners had all the power. Thanks to the reserve clause players were treated, as the great Coop Cooper of the Milwaukee Beers put it, like indentured servants. Then Marvin Miller flipped the script, owners lost their minds and George Steinbrenner of the 1980s happened.

Eventually, though the contracts got out of control and created a small market vs large market issue that threatened competitive balance and the viability of some franchises. Gradually teams started to look for ways to compete on tighter budgets (money ball era A’s, Ray’s earlier in the 2000s etc.) and after seeing their success the smart large market teams began to follow their blueprints. It quickly dried up inefficiencies for teams to exploit but has brought us where we are now.

Why the players are frustrated:

So while I see why players are upset, their arguments sound pretty stupid to me. “Guys that have put up the numbers and produced the way that they have should get long-term deals. I think that’s the way the game always has been. I’m not an analyst; I’m a player. I want players to succeed and get what they deserve.” That’s a quote from Walker Buehler (who hasn’t even had one full good season).  Essentially in the past players would expect a long-term deal based on prior performance, long past when they would still be at that level.  I don’t see how anyone could abide that logic. If you went into your boss and said you wanted a raise, that would be in effect for 10 years but you’d only work at your current level for 3 or 4 they’d think you were insane, but that’s what the MLBPA thinks is right.

I’m sure these players could get the money they want on a 5-year deal, but right now they’re refusing to accept that reality. If they really want to be paid based on the prior season they could sign a one year deal every year but none would do that for fear of injury. That’s what the trade-off has always been, you sacrifice dollars for security. Now the players want both and teams aren’t biting. Do you blame them?

I’m curious to see what deals these players get, and what shape free agency continues to take in the future. I know there are threats from the union about striking over this, it’s hard to see how the public would side with “give us millions while we atrophy over the next decade”. Until then I heard Manny Machado and the Padres had a second meeting, so clearly it’s about winning and not the most money for the longest amount of time.