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

Three ways the Marqui Christian departure affects the New York Jets

Marqui Christian has reportedly back out of his deal with the New York Jets. How does this affect the team moving forward?

Details are emerging about the Jets’ free agency acquisitions, but it appears that former Los Angeles Rams safety Marqui Christian won’t be joining the green party.

According to a report from Brian Costello of the New York Post, a deal between the Jets and Christian fell through, leaving the Jets relatively shallow in safety depth. ESM takes a look at how Christian’s rejection impacts the remainder of the team’s offseason plans.

Rontez Miles Could Come Back For Yet Another Year

Rontez Miles has flown under the radar through his professional tenure, but, in some ways, he represents the quintessential inspiring NFL story. The safety entered the league as a Division II outcast from California University of Pennsylvania but has gone on to build a sizable and decent career as a reserve safety and special teams maven. He currently stands out as the third-longest tenured member of the team, behind only Bilal Powell and Brian Winters. Last season, Miles’ service was rewarded with a team captaincy. His 16 special teams tackles earned two years prior were tied for third in the league and he has also been used as a personal protector.

Miles, 31, is currently one of the Jets’ remaining free agents. The arrival of Christian might’ve spelled the end for him, but new life has potentially been granted to his Jets career. He has dealt with injuries over the past few seasons, but with the Jets’ perpetual rebuild in perhaps its most hopeful stage yet, they’re going to need some veteran seasoning. Minus Miles and a few free agents, only four members of the active roster are in their 30s. One (Josh Bellamy) could be a cap space casualty and the other (Brett Maher) is a newcomer who could have some competition at camp.

Safeties Shoot Up the Big Board

The Jets’ draft plan for next month is a lot less murky after adding serviceable blockers from elsewhere. Thus, there’s a lot of freedom and flexibility with their eight draft picks. Good thing too, because the Jets have plenty of need left to fill. Secondary depth was near the summit of offseason needs, and they at least took care of things in the cornerback department (Pierre Desir, re-signing Brian Poole and Arthur Maulet). They’re desperate thin at safety behind their strong duo of Adams and Maye. Journeyman Bennett Jackson was re-signed and former CFLer Anthony Cioffi was brought in February. But there’s no doubt the Jets could use some help. Day three of last year’s draft saw them add a local diamond in the secondary rough in the form of Rutgers cornerback Bless Austin.

Where the Jets lack depth, the draft is there to compensate. Several talented solutions could be available. One of ESM’s latest Jets mock drafts has them taking FCS standout Jeremy Chinn from Southern Illinois. A decent week at Mobile’s Senior Bowl put him on the national radar and he followed it up with a decent Combine. Other potential latter-pick options may include the undersized but reputed Minnesota ballhawk Antoine Winfield Jr. (son of the three-time Pro Bowler) or Big Ten run stoppers Antoine Brooks (Maryland) and Khaleke Hudson (Michigan).

The Jets have the draft capital (extra picks earned via trades with the Giants and Chiefs), but if they’d rather focus on more offensive help (i.e. blocking and receiving), further opportunities await…

Free Agency Could Bring Back Familiar Faces

Metropolitan sports fans eager for athletic events of any kind have been partially placated by the local NFL squads making moves. Missing out on Christian ensures that the Jets aren’t done yet. They have just over $32.5 million in cap space left to work with, so it’s not like Joe Douglas and company have to close up shop until draft day.

Fortunately for the Jets, experienced options to deepen the safety depth chart are available. Among them is safety Damarious Randall, who previously worked with Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams during the latter’s helm as interim head coach in Cleveland.  Christian had previously worked with defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator Dennard Wilson in Los Angles. Alternative Wilson alumni from Los Angeles that are on the market include Blake Countess who played six games with the Jets last season.

It’s impossible to deny that the Jets have gotten better during this transaction period, at least on paper. But with less-than-desirable contingency plans behind the  strong pairing of Adams and Maye, the Jets don’t have the luxury of standing idle at this point.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags