Nov 22, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals linebacker Dwight Freeney (54) celebrates a sack against Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
The NY Jets have a lot of key positions to lock up during this off-season. One of their most important targets should be a pass rushing linebacker that would bring more youth and speed to the position.
The Jets need to get more pressure on the opposing quarterback than they did this past season. The Jets recorded 39 sacks this season and nine of the 12 playoff teams finished ahead of them in overall sacks.
With free agency not too far ahead, the Jets should be on the lookout to not only re-sign some of their own free agents, but work whatever magic they can in freeing up more salary cap money. While the Jets won’t be having a spending spree like last off-season, they’re definitely in the market for a linebacker to add to their roster.
There are some talented linebackers in this season’s free agent class as of the time of this writing. Adding one of them could very well push the envelope for the Jets heading into next season.
Here are the top five targets the Jets should consider when looking to upgrade at linebacker.
Next: 5. Calvin Pace
Dec 1, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) scrambles during the second half as New York Jets outside linebacker Calvin Pace (97) chases him at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
5. Calvin Pace
Two seasons ago, Calvin Pace had his best season with the Jets. Unfortunately, he was ineffective in 2015.
We know that only one person is undefeated all-time in football. His name is Father Time and is catching up to him.
Time is not on Pace’s side as he showed that this season but he can still be re-signed and brought back to help groom his replacement.
They can sign Pace to a short-term deal at the right price as he still brings leadership and experience to the position. However, it must be for another year or two and if no other options present themselves.
Next: 4. Dwight Freeny
Dec 27, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals linebacker Dwight Freeney (54) sacks Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) and causes a fumble during the second half at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
This season, Freeney showed he can still get to the quarterback. His move to linebacker from defensive end helped in this regard.
This season’s pay was $970K. He might garner a little more next season due to how well he’s been playing in 2015.
However, his age might allow the Jets to get him cheap. That’s key for the Jets this off-season because they have a lot of their own free agents that need to be taken care of.
He can still get to the quarterback and that’s what the Jets really need. He can also be a mentor to anyone the Jets draft as a pass rusher.
Next: 3. Aldon Smith
Nov 8, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) is injured as he is sacked by Oakland Raiders linebacker Aldon Smith (99) during the second half at Heinz Field. The Steelers won the game, 38-35. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
3. Aldon Smith
Most teams may want to stay away from Smith because of his off-the-field issues. This may make it easier for the Jets to acquire him and his talent is worth a one-strike opportunity.
His talent would normally require a large long-term deal. However, his issues actually allow the Jets to acquire him within their budget.
Then can sign him to a one-year deal, while getting a superior talent. He needs to prove to the coaches and front office that he can stay on the field and out of trouble.
With that said, the Jets can’t miss this opportunity for a cheap talent. He may not demand a lot of attention this off-season, but the Jets need to consider him.
Next: 2. Tamba Hali
Nov 15, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) runs out of the pocket under pressure from Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali (91) during the first half at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
2. Tamba Hali
This may be as much of a long-shot as number one on this list, because Hali will command big money. Kansas City’s cap number for 2016 sits at $121.2M at this point in time.
That number is definitely large enough for them to work out a deal for their top free agents. Hali and Eric Berry are the ones the Chiefs will target to keep.
With that said, if the Chiefs somehow let him go, the Jets must absolutely try to sign him. Since 2006, his rookie season, he is 10th in the league in sacks with 86.5.
This would be a welcomed addition to the ferocious Jets’ defense. With Hali’s help, the pressure could allow the Jets to maintain their turnover rate.
Next: 1. Von Miller
Oct 23, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller (58) comes in for the sack on San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) during the first half at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
1. Von Miller
Miller is the best pass rusher in the NFL, period. It’s a pipe-dream for the Jets to get him though.
He’s due to be a free agent. However, the Denver Broncos have a cap number of only $132.3M going into the off-season.
That means, even if they can’t get a long-term deal, they will franchise tag him. There’s also no question it will be the exclusive tag so no one else can negotiate.
If for some reason the Broncos let Miller test the market, there’s no way the Jets shouldn’t at least attempt to land him. The combination of Miller and Wilkerson will make the front seven a force to be reckoned with next season.