Oct 30, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills offensive tackle Jordan Mills (79) against the New England Patriots at New Era Field. Patriots beat the Bills 41 to 25. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
With free agency approaching, the New York Jets will do their very best to add better talent at areas of opportunity across the team. Here are the top five players they must target.
The New York Jets will continue to make moves to add more speed, power, and youth within their salary cap availability. They need to make sure they make the correct decisions this time around not like they did last offseason.
Thus far, the Jets have gotten rid of old players with big contracts to make room for free agents. This process will continue because it seems like the Jets are in a rebuilding mode and are looking towards the future of this franchise. They will still compete but it will be a few years from now for them to compete for a Super Bowl championship.
There are a few free agents that Gang Green will be looking to focus on to help improve the team next season. The top five areas the Jets need to focus on is the offensive line, wide receiver, cornerback, pass rush and quarterback. These are some areas of what the Jets should look to improve in the free agency market.
Now, let’s take a look at what top five free agents the Jets should look at that could possibly make this team better for next season and beyond.
Next: 5. Safety Tony Jefferson
Dec 4, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Washington Redskins running back Robert Kelley (32) is tackled by Arizona Cardinals safety Tony Jefferson (22) at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Redskins 31-23. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
5. Safety Tony Jefferson
Tony Jefferson has been compared to Troy Polamalu and Donte Whitner which allowed him to get an early selection at the next level. Coach Todd Bowles coached him while he was with the Arizona Cardinals a few years ago. While in college, Jefferson’s role became bigger in his sophomore season. He has been able to play most of his games throughout his collegiate and NFL career.
From 2013-2016, his numbers increased in his production in being very productive whenever his number was called. In 2016, he had a total of 76 tackles, 96 combined tackles, and two forced fumbles. That was his best season as a Cardinal and he will look to continue that success for whatever team he plays for.
He is a tough-minded safety that loves to play all over the field as he could lay the punishment out to make it difficult for opponents. He maintains outside leverage while playing bump and run and he is able to discard opponents poor blocking. On wheel routes from running backs, Jefferson is an excellent defender. He is a very competitive player when it comes to the 50/50 footballs.
He has a certain demeanor that players feed off from that make him a team leader on and off the field. He could be a big upgrade in special teams, for his speed, tackling ability and aggressive play. Jefferson would be a smart acquisition by the Jets.
Next: 4. Tight End Martellus Bennett
Feb 5, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; New England Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett (88) catches a pass against Atlanta Falcons strong safety Keanu Neal (22) during the fourth quarter during Super Bowl LI at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
4. Tight End Martellus Bennett
Bennett could help open the passing game even more with the young receiver core established already. New offensive coordinator John Morton established high scoring offenses for the New Orleans Saints and now will look to do the same for the Jets.
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They could see a big difference in offense with Morton who averaged 30 points per game when he was with the San Francisco 49ers and USC as their offensive coordinator as well. The Jets need to be efficient when scoring touchdowns as Morton should be able to work wonders with the talent already on the Jets. If they had an explosive tight end like Bennett, it would be a huge free agent acquisition.
Bennett has been a very good player for the teams he has played for in his career and has always been productive. With the Jets struggling on offense and not having a consistent tight end in years, it’s time they make a big signing to address it once and for all.
Just this past season, Bennett had 55 receptions, 701 yards in total yards, and seven touchdowns. He would be a massive upgrade at a position that has seemingly been forgotten by the Jets for the past few years.
Next: 3. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore
3. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore
The defense for the Jets was amongst the worst in pass coverage and struggled in depth and leadership. They had too many blown assignments and the players looked lost and didn’t communicate with one another. One player that should be on the radar of the Jets is veteran cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
If the defense wants to improve in the secondary than they need to make that change immediately. Gilmore will help with the deep ball coverage and he would be a very good option to have. Each game he improved his defensive skills for how many yards he gave up throughout the season. With his aggressiveness, it could make the Jets defense tougher and better as a team.
Just this past season, Gilmore had 48 combined tackles and five interceptions. He is a very hard worker and will continue working on improving the details of his game each week.
Next: 2. Offensive Tackle Jordan Mills
Dec 18, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills offensive tackle Jordan Mills (79) against the Cleveland Browns at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
2. Offensive Tackle Jordan Mills
Coming out of college, Mills played multiple positions at left and right tackle early on in his career. Mills has tremendous size coming in at 316 pounds as he has a high football IQ when it comes to stunts and sells play action passes well.
For the defenders who come from the inside, Mills is able to cut them off. He has tremendous size and has great hustle off the line of scrimmage and is an excellent run blocker. From 2013 to 2016, he started in 10 plus games and was excellent in stopping blitz plays.
The Jets need more versatile players that can not only cover various positions on their offensive line but also have the ability to succeed when doing so. Since the Jets are rebuilding this year, it’s important to find players like Mills that have a lot of upside for the future.
Next: 1. Linebacker Dont'a Hightower
Oct 9, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; New England Patriots middle linebacker Dont’a Hightower (54) after the game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Patriots won 33-13. Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
1. Linebacker Dont’a Hightower
Coming in at 6 feet 2 inches tall weighing in at 265 pounds, linebacker Dont’a Hightower has become a stud in his position. Many teams will go after him to help develop the pass rush they have been missing. The Jets especially will need another pass rusher because they need to provide the help to Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson on the line of scrimmage.
For how big of a player Hightower is, he has plenty of athleticism for short and medium range plays. He is a straight-ahead player who doesn’t stop until he hears the whistle. He brings a tough demeanor and leadership that could bring other defensive players hustle to another level.
Hightower is ranked amongst the best in run stopping which is another need the Jets must fill on the roster. He has very good force in the drive to push offensive linemen back. When in space, Hightower has plenty of foot quickness to keep up with any running back.
When is pass coverage, he held up well for his football intelligence and was used in a lot of zone coverage plays. When he had to cover running back routes, he did that very well and it caused opponents offense to change things up. Having him on the Jets would be huge and solidify a defense that is in dire need of an indentity.