New York Jets: Four Late Free Agents That Should Be Brought Back

The free agent frenzy has mollified, but the New York Jets would be smart to handle matters with a handful of their own unsigned players.

Professional football discussions are currently centered on the draft. The free agency period thus feels like a distant memory, but, for several recent New York Jets, it remains an all-too-current reality.

Entering Thursday, the Jets still have 14 players in the free agency pool. The team has made plenty of moves on the transaction front, but a few more could truly solidify them for the 2020 season…

P Lac Edwards

We spoke about the Jets’ holes in the special teams department earlier this week. Edwards’ lingering free agency is only exacerbating the tenuous situation. Former Steelers summer leg Ian Berryman is currently destined to take the role as the only punter on the roster.

Edwards endured a heavy workload last season (an NFL-high yardage of 3,991 on an equally-high 87 punts), but he tied for eighth in punts inside the 20 (28). It seems like a trivial matter, but a reliable punter is a must-have accessory for an offense that struggles to consistently score. Having built a rapport with long snapper Thomas Hennessy and drawn the praises of special teams coordinator Brant Boyer, Edwards could be an under-the-radar signing that puts both the offense and defense at ease.

S Rontez Miles

Miles is one of the NFL’s most undersung success stories. A California alum…not the Golden Bears of Berkeley, but the California University of Pennsylvania on the Division II level…that entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2013, Miles has built himself a respectable NFL career primarily through special teams exploits. His efforts with the team were rewarded last season with a team captaincy.

Assisting Miles’ case is the Jets’ failed signing of former Los Angeles Ram Marqui Christian. The veteran safety was set to sign with the Jets before a salary dispute caused the deal to fall through. For a team in desperate need of veteran leadership, Miles’ experience could be indispensable.

RB Bilal Powell

Another longtime Jet that has yet to be invited back is Powell, the longest-tenured guy in green at nine seasons. During the Jets’ endless stream of starts on the offensive line, Powell was able to lead the team with a 3.9 rushing average. A decent average has been part of Powell’s repertoire since his 2011 entry. Over the past nine seasons, Powell’s 4.32 ranks 12th in the NFL amongst rushers with at least 800 attempts.

The Jets upgraded their offensive line this offseason, which should allow Bell to at least reach a closer version of Pittsburgh self. Spell options, however, remain slim in the form of Josh Adams, Kenneth Dixon, and Trenton Cannon. With fellow free agent Ty Montgomery failing to find a true spot in the rushing rotation, bringing back the reliable Powell makes a lot of sense.

WR Demaryius Thomas

Renovations on the blocking front have provided a long-sought sense of hope for the Jets’ offense. But there’s no denying that the loss of Robby Anderson was a big blow. For example, whereas Anderson scored 20 touchdowns for the Jets since his 2016 entry, no other Jets receiver reached double-digits. Sam Darnold’s current top target is destined to be Breshad Perriman after a stellar season wrap-up with Tampa Bay. Jamison Crowder returns in the slot, but a whole bunch of uncertainty lies behind him.

Thomas probably isn’t at a level where he can be a reliable top target. But the Jets could his experience and veteran leadership on a roster in desperate need of older help. It may be a lot to ask Thomas to duplicate his stellar numbers from Denver, but a young quarterback like Darnold needs a seasoned veteran to help him out. He recently told Denver radio station 104.3 The Fan (KKFN-FM) that he was very willing to return for an eleventh season.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Jets’ Lachlan Edwards is a top 5 punter in the NFL, and Yes That Matters

New York Jets, Lachlan Edwards

Jets punter Lac Edwards has developed into one of the best punters in the NFL. That makes the team as a whole better.

The punter might be the most underrated position in the NFL. Fans know that the field position battle is huge in the game. The better the field position for you and the worse field position for the opponent the more likely you are to win. However, fans often ignore the role punters have in this. They often focus on returners or the role the offense or defense has on it. However, the player who has the most say in this is the punter.

Lac Edwards is that guy for the Jets. He’s the one responsible for flipping field position for the Jets. Edwards ranks top-10 in average net punt yards and top five in times he’s pinned the opponent inside the 20. That may not seem like a lot, but it means a lot to good teams.

Only four punters in the NFL rank in both the top-10 in average net punt yards and times pinning opponents inside the 20. Lac Edwards, Jake Bailey, Brett Kern, and Thomas Morestead. the Jets are the only team with a punter on that list that has a record under .500.

This is a contract year for Lac Edwards. The Jets don’t have a history of giving long-term contracts to special teams players. Since the Johnsons bought the team only two special teams players have gotten multi-year contract extensions, Ben Graham and Nick Folk. The Jets should be trying to extend Edwards.

Punter is a cheap position that won’t cost the team much in cap space no matter what they do. However, Edwards has proven to be among an elite group of punters in the league and that deserves recognition in the form of a multi-year contract.

Edwards is a big reason why the Jets were the best special teams unit in the NFL in 2018 and are top three again this year. If that’s not worth a contract extension then nothing is.

New York Jets Special Teams’ Coach Brant Boyer is a Miracle Worker

New York Jets, Jason Myers

New York Jets Special Teams coach Brant Boyer may be the best in the NFL.

The Jets hired Brant Boyer to be their special teams’ coach in 2016. It was his first coordinator job in the NFL. He had spent four years with the Colts as the assistant special teams’ coach but had no other coaching experience.

It was a surprise hire, but nobody thought much of it. Special teams don’t really matter in the NFL is a prevailing thought amongst most fans. The Jets and their fans are different though.

They know what it’s like to have an elite special team coach, and how that can change the game. Mike Westhoff is a legendary special teams coach who was with the Jets for 12 seasons. He helped change the culture during his time with the team.

He lived through three coaching changes but retired in 2012 during Rex Ryan‘s tenure. that was the first year of the Jets long playoff drought.

After Westhoff, the Jets went through three special teams’ coaches in three years. In 2016 Boyer became the fourth special teams coordinator in four years. He was tasked with fixing a broken unit. Since Westhoff left the Jets ranked 10th, 16th, and 25th the following three years.

A far cry from the glory days of Westhoff’s unit. When Boyer was brought in for 2016 the Jets lacked so much on special teams. His first move was to fight to get a punter in the draft. He somehow convinced the Jets to draft Australian punter out of Sam Houston State Lac Edwards.

A move that has turned out to be phenomenal. Under Boyer’s guidance, Lac Edwards has developed into a top 10 punter in the NFL. He is also statistically the best punter in New York Jets history. In 2019  Edwards is fifth in the NFL in net punt yards and fourth in punts pinned inside the 20.

Even more impressive is his work with kickers. He has made every kicker he’s worked with over-perform their career averages. Including getting a scrap heap pickup in Jason Myers to second-team all-pro.

After the disaster that was finding a kicker and returner for the 2019 season, Boyer deserves credit. It’s easy to be the top team in special teams DVOA when you have an all-pro kicker and returner in 2018 as Boyer did.

However, it’s another to rank third in special teams DVOA despite losing those players. Not only that, but the guys brought in have equaled or outperformed his former all-pros.

In 2019 Jason Myers has hit just 73.7% of his field goals and 93.1% of his extra points. Meanwhile, the Jets kicker Sam Ficken has hit 70% of field goals and 100% of field goals. Ficken has also not missed a kick of less than 53 yards this year, while Myers is just 81% from inside 50 yards.

As for returners Jets punt returner Braxton Berrios is averaging 7.4 yards per punt return compared to Andre Roberts 6.9 yards in Buffalo this year. On the kick return front, Andre Roberts is averaging 28.4 yards per return, compared to the Jets primary kick returner Vyncint Smith who is averaging 37.8 yards.

It’s time that Brant Boyer got his due. He’s been overlooked for far too long. This man is one of if not the best special teams coach in the NFL.