When it came to defending the pass in 2016, the New York Jets were abysmal. A guy like Trumaine Johnson can do wonders and fill the blatant hole at cornerback this upcoming year.
The New York Jets are in an obvious pickle on the defensive side of the ball. Their secondary as a whole is poor, but it all starts at the cornerback position. They allowed 3,898 yards and 30 touchdowns while totaling just eight interceptions in 2016 and it’s not hard to see why. Darrelle Revis lost his mojo, Buster Skrine struggled on the outside and Marcus Williams missed multiple games. There’s a good chance one of those three could be gone in the near future as well.
Williams is a restricted free agent, cutting Skrine would save $2.96M and releasing Revis would save roughly $8.8M if the Jets are aggressive enough to do it, according to Over The Cap. With one of them likely to hit the road, this is where free agency comes into play. The man they need to go after is Trumaine Johnson.
The 27-year-old has slowly developed into one of most underrated corners in the NFL. At 6’2,” he competes with some of the league’s tallest receivers by limiting big plays in the red zone and along the sideline. He finished the 2016 campaign with 57 tackles, one interception, 11 pass deflections and a fumble recovery in 14 games on 954 snaps.
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On Pro Football Focus, he earned an overall grade of 81, which ranks 27th out of the 113 cornerbacks who received at least 300 snaps. His coverage grade was an 81.7, which ranks 26th out of the 203 cornerbacks who saw the field. His run defense grade, on the other hand, is dreadful (39.2) and ranks 196th out of those 203 corners. Luckily for the Jets and their stout front-seven, that wouldn’t mean too much. They stuff the run just fine as we all know.
The question everyone probably has in their head is how in the world could they afford Johnson. Well, Gang Green is a few moves away from getting themselves under the cap. Releasing Skrine, Ryan Clady, Breno Giacomini, Erin Henderson, Marcus Gilchrist and trading Sheldon Richardson would give them slightly north of $22.6M in room per OTC. Tack on a couple pay cuts from the overpriced players and they would have over $30M to spend.
What could end up shying general manager Mike Maccagnan away from the 2012 third-rounder is his market value. He won’t be paid like his former teammate Janoris Jenkins was last spring, but he won’t be a bargain. Johnson was kept on the franchise tag ($13,952,000) in 2016. If the Rams were okay with paying him that kind of money, you’d have to figure he’s worth about $10-12M on a multi-year contract. That’s a deal New York should try to strike.
Let’s face it, the Jets don’t have a No. 1 corner. Revis admitted to being out of shape and his minimal production backed up that statement. Pulling the trigger on Johnson would allow them to move Revis to free safety where he wouldn’t be in one-on-one coverage. The unit as a whole would improve and the edge rushers would have an easier time pressuring the quarterback. Lorenzo Mauldin and Jordan Jenkins are two guys who could make huge jumps as a result.
The opportunity is there for Maccagnan and the Jets. Reaching for a corner at sixth overall isn’t smart and the free agent pool at the position happens to be weak besides a handful of players. They simply have to be willing to spend to fix the gaping hole in the defense. Johnson is the answer here.