2018 will be a defining year for the New York Jets as they’ll have a lot of salary cap money to play with and a decent first round pick. Here’s how much different they could look next season.
The New York Jets current season has been highlighted by rookie development, culture manipulation, and some unexpected accomplishments, making 2017 quite a standout year despite the below average record.
Much of all of that has come from the production of some under-the-radar players who have been reluctant enough to step into the spotlight amidst a season of negative portrayal. It has been a latter movement all the way from the quarterback to the kicker, and to the safeties to the pass rushers. The Jets have flipped a team of no-names into a team of up and coming threats.
But with 2017 nearing its end, how many of these developments will we see on the future roster? While many of the Jets younger pieces are under contract for quite some time, it is still quite possible that we see a major shift in some key positions along the board. Some current Jets with expiring contracts are Josh McCown, Demario Davis, Chandler Catanzaro, Kony Ealy, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and Morris Claiborne.
So with that, let’s go position by position and predict who will be wearing a Green & White uniform come 2018.
The most important position in football, some would say, and the Jets are one of many teams looking to lock down a long-term player for that position. With that being said, it will easily be the Jets’ number one priority come the offseason. It is hard to imagine that the three quarterbacks they currently have on the roster (Josh McCown, Bryce Petty, and Christian Hackenberg) will all be on the Jets roster next year. So who’s in and who’s out? Well, it’s a tough prediction.
With McCown playing quite well this year, the argument could be made that he should be brought back in 2018. It would also make sense to hold onto a veteran quarterback in the situation of drafting a quarterback, thus creating competition and work ethic throughout the offseason.
But it is likely that McCown either takes more money elsewhere or simply retires from the game altogether. Thus leaving the Jets with Petty and Hackenberg. In all reality, Petty has proven to be the more carved out quarterback, in turn making his tenure with the Jets more likely to be extended. Depending on what the Jets do in the draft/free agency, Hackenberg could either be released or cut. At the moment, it doesn’t seem like the Jets see too much of a future in the former Penn State quarterback.
Next: Wide Receiver
The wide receiver position has been one of the most surprising developments for the Jets in 2017. The blossoming of Robby Anderson combined with the acquisition of Jermaine Kearse has paid dividends for the Jets’ overall competitiveness. It’s hard to imagine either of them not in a Jets uniform come 2018.
The position goes deep with the Jets though. Jeremy Kerley, who was recently suspended by the NFL for illegal PED usage, is on a one year deal with the team. While the Jets had hope that the flashy receiver would shine in his second stint in New York, he has underwhelmed exceptionally. The Jets may not bring him back next year, especially with the return of Quincy Enunwa.
Other young developments may stick around, however. Chad Hansen is one that could potentially work his way up the ladder depending on his continued growth through 2017. And I think the Jets see the potential rookie ArDarius Stewart may behold. But others such as Devin Smith and Charone Peake may not be future Jets, especially with the proneness to injury. In that same regard, it wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense for the Jets to carry that many receivers.
Next: Running Back
Another tricky position for the Jets. While the backfield only consists of three backs (Matt Forte, Bilal Powell, and Elijah McGuire), the Jets have been focused on utilizing all three this year, likely to see who will fit well in their future plans.
Earlier in the year, a report came out stating that the Jets had gauged the potential trade market for the veteran Forte. While a trade never occurred, it is easily recognizable that the Jets could be looking to move away from him sooner than later. This may be because of contract situations or simply due to the fact that Forte has already surpassed his prime.
That being said, the Jets have two other stout backs in Powell and McGuire. While Powell continues to be underutilized in the Jets offensive scheme, 2018 may be a breakout year for him, especially if the Jets move on from Forte. This leaving McGuire to handle the backup position, something the team would be very comfortable with as the rookie has shown speedy development.
Next: Tight End
2017 has been an eye-opening season for the Jets and their fans in part because of the increased usage of the tight end position. Newly acquired Austin Seferian-Jenkins has stepped up for Gang Green in big ways this year, and by doing so has solidified himself as a top ten NFL tight end. His effectiveness in both the passing game and blocking attack makes him so versatile, and the Jets should make it a top priority in re-signing him at the end of the year.
The position slims down a bit beyond ASJ for the Jets as they currently have Eric Tomlinson, Jordan Leggett, Neal Sterling, and Chris Gragg. The only name that should jump out of those three is Tomlinson, as he has proved to be a potential star in the making. The Jets won’t likely hold onto all five tight ends, so I’d expect either Sterling, Gragg or both to get the cut.
Next: Offensive Line
The Jets offensive line is another unit that will need to be a high priority in terms of offseason fixing up. This year they have been slow, allowing pass rushers to get to McCown often and ultimately leaving the defense to see the field more than they really should.
The two guys that will more likely than not be in a Jets uniform come 2018 are Brian Winters and Kelvin Beachum, who are both signed to multi-year deals. Others who have shined enough for a potential return: Dakota Dozier, Ben Ijalana, and rookie Brandon Shell.
Holes have been evident all across the line this year. James Carpenter, who the Jets were big on re-signing last year, has been a no-show throughout 2017. That has been the case for center Wesley Johnson as well as he ranks last on Pro Football Focus for the Jets offensive line.
The position will, without a doubt, be reworked in the offseason, especially with a potential rookie quarterback under center. Expect players such as Brent Qvale, Jonotthan Harrison, and Wesley Johnson to get the axe. And truly, that may just be a portion of who does.
The position for the Jets has some depth as it also includes Terrence Brooks, Rontez Miles, and Doug Middleton, all who have shown potential in Green & White. It’s a tough position to pick apart when looking toward 2018.
But I don’t think the Jets retain them all. Obviously, Adams and Maye are somewhat untouchable, but one of the other three could land elsewhere. With Brooks being a higher expense and eventual unrestricted free agent in 2018, I could see the Jets letting him walk.
It’s been a roller coaster season for Jets’ cornerbacks. Buster Skrine and Morris Claiborne were supposed to be the two veteran pieces that would lock down opposing threats all season, but that hype was never really lived up to.
Skrine is owed big money in 2018, and with the inexcusable performances he has put on this season, it is more than likely that the Jets will move him. Claiborne, on the other hand, has been decent for the Jets, but as an unrestricted free agent, he may take bigger money elsewhere.
Under that scenario, the Jets would likely be tempted to bring back Juston Burris, Darryl Roberts, and Rashard Robinson, who will all still remain cheap assets with much potential. Depending on how the draft and free agency goes, Derrick Jones could be let go, however. The Jets will likely want to add more young potential while also retaining a veteran somewhere in the mix.
The Jets took a new approach this year when they decided to start the year with a youthful unit of linebackers. Both Darron Lee and Jordan Jenkins have been thrown into the spotlight in their second years and are beginning to make the most of their potential. Josh Martin and Bruce Carter have played decently as well alongside veteran Demario Davis, who is currently having a Pro Bowl type season in 2017.
That being said, the position is looking pretty solid for the Jets, as little work will be needed during the offseason. A priority will be re-signing Davis, who is an unrestricted free agent come 2018, and will likely draw attention from many other teams due to his outstanding performance this year.
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Carter may the most likely to walk, seeing as how he is an unrestricted free agent. Moving him would give the Jets some extra cap space that could be used in areas with more need. Besides that, it’s hard to see the Jets’ linebacker situation looking much different next year.
Next: Defensive Line
In what has been an underwhelming season so far for the Jets defensive line, it is tough to point out who may or may not be a Jet come 2018.
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Muhammad Wilkerson is the elephant in the room in this situation. The Jets are paying him big money, like more than double what they are paying anyone else on the team, and he has not been the player they have expected.
While he is under contract through 2020, the Jets may be eager to move on from him sooner than later. I could see the Jets listening to offers this offseason, and I would think that if the right one came, the Jets would pull the trigger.
Beyond Wilkerson, the Jets D-Line could be in good shape. Leonard Williams and Steve McLendon will both be back as they have become stakeholders in the Jets defensive line. Kony Ealy will likely be hearing offers from other teams as he is an unrestricted free agent, but the Jets should not shy away from offering him the money he wants.
Next: Kickers/Special Teams
Chandler Catanzaro has been somewhat solid for the Jets this season, making the 16 out of his 21 kicks this year.
That being said, he could be better for the money the Jets are paying him. He becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2018, and I don’t know if the Jets will be making it a top priority to re-sign him.
On the flip side, Lac Edwards has been just as good as the Jets punter. He is under contract through 2019 and a cheap asset at that, so I wouldn’t doubt that he would be a Jet come 2018.