The New York Jets are soaring into 2018 with a lot of salary cap space to work with. Here are the top five free agents they should go after this offseason.
The last time the New York Jets had this much salary cap space, they were one game away from a Wild Card spot the very next year. With multiple holes to fill, as well as high expectations going into the offseason, it is crucial for the Jets to cash in wisely during the free agency period.
There is an abundance of positions that can be revamped on the New York Jets roster heading into the 2018 season. With there being 15 free agents possibly leaving Florham Park, it is important for Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan to replace them accordingly.
Josh McCown has already said openly that he would like to return as the Jets starting quarterback next season. Which is surprising considering McCown is a 38-year-old journeyman. It goes to show you not only how much he loves the game, but how much he believes in the future of the Jets.
Other free agents have inquired about returning to the Big Apple, but it is nearly impossible for all of these guys to return next season. Here is a list of the top five free agents that the Jets should go after this offseason.
Next: 5. A premier cornerback
5. Cornerback Trumaine Johnson
Last summer, the Los Angeles Rams were not able to reach a long-term deal with Trumaine Johnson before the 2017 season. As a result, the Rams had to franchise tag him, refusing to let him walk away. Johnson is one of the best off-man cover guys in the entire NFL. He shows it not only on film but as well as the stat sheet. Trumaine gathered 57 tackles, 14 pass deflections, and two interceptions in 2017 for the Rams. A solid outing for the six-year veteran out of Montana.
Trumaine has the opportunity to join a Jets team with a ton of potential in the secondary featuring Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, Buster Skrine, and the most recent No.1 corner for the Jets, Morris Claiborne. Claiborne, who is currently a free agent, exceeded expectations in 2017 for the Jets. Posting 34 tackles, eight pass deflections, and one interception, Clairborne lived up to his one-year contract with the Jets, but the addition of Johnson would give Clairborne some breathing room by not being forced to shadow top receivers week after week.
Next: 4. A dynamic wide receiver
4. Wide Receiver Taylor Gabriel
The speedster Taylor Gabriel has been an amazing asset to Atlanta’s high octane offense in recent years. With Julio Jones requiring so much attention defensively, this has given Gabriel many opportunities to shine. Although Gabriel’s production declined in 2017, (thanks, Steve Sarkisian) he has already proved that he is willing to step up whenever his number is called.
Gabriel has an opportunity this offseason to take on a bigger role in a different offense. Joining a wide receiver room with Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson can put this offense over the hump as long as the Jets can find a quarterback for 2018. Gabriel has the potential to be a dynamic offensive player similar to Tyreek Hill if put in the right offense. Under Kyle Shanahan in 2016, Gabriel was able to reel in 35 catches for over 500 yards and six touchdowns.
Next: 3. A quarterback worth taking a risk on
3. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater
It is a true shame what has happened to Teddy Bridgewater the past couple of years. After making a full recovery from a horrific knee injury back in 2016, Teddy has now returned to an over-crowded quarterback room accompanied by Sam Bradford and Case Keenum. While none of these three quarterbacks are under contract, it is expected that the Vikings will place a franchise tag on one of these quarterbacks, while possibly letting the other two walk. The current price for franchise tagging a quarterback is over $20 million. It is safe to say the Vikings will not be spending that type of money on a quarterback who has only played one snap in the past two seasons.
Teddy is only 25 years old and has proven that he has the ability to be a franchise quarterback in the NFL after only two seasons of playing time. Instead of throwing the entire kitchen sink at Kirk Cousins this offseason, why not sign Bridgewater? Teddy is not only younger and more mobile, but we already know what we are going to get with Kirk Cousins. Whereas Teddy has not yet shown everyone what he is truly capable of. In only 30 games, Teddy posted 551 completions for 6,150 yards, averaging a 64.7 completion percentage, as well as being responsible for 32 total touchdowns, and 22 interceptions. Signing Teddy to a short-term deal makes a lot more sense than breaking the bank for Cousins in 2018. The Jets have not had a quarterback start more than four consecutive seasons since Chad Pennington (2002-2007).
Next: 2. A top defensive end
2. Defensive End Ezekiel Ansah
Ziggy Ansah had another breakout year in 2017 after a disappointing outing the year before. Recording 12 sacks and 44 tackles, Ziggy proved his worth in a crucial contract year by increasing his sack total by double digits.
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Although Ziggy thrived in a 4-3 defensive package in Detroit, he has the skill set to dominate in a 3-4 scheme like the Jets. Pairing him with defensive-minded Todd Bowles could automatically make the Jets defensive line the strongest piece of their defense, which also features Leonard Williams and run stuffing Steve McLendon.
This would be a very similar blueprint of what we saw a few years back with the dominant defensive line of Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson, and Damon Harrison. The Jets need to bolster their pass rush this offseason since last year, they didn’t consistently get after the quarterback.
Ansah brings a lot to the table and would be a game-changing pass rusher that would make the Jets defense something to fear once again. Ansah will be expensive but very much worth acquiring if he hits free agency.
Next: 1. An experienced linebacker
1. Linebacker Zach Brown
Zach Brown is the definition of a high motor kind of defender. You will often see Brown running all the way across the field for tackles, and not ever giving up on the play until the whistle is blown. This is the type of linebacker every team dreams of having. In his first year with the Washington Redskins, the six-year veteran gathered 84 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and two pass deflections. Brown is in for a payday, and it is time for someone to finally give him the long-term contract he deserves.
The Jets have struggled over the years primarily in two areas. Covering tight ends, and covering running backs. The Jets drafted Jamal Adams with high hopes of him shutting down big and physical tight ends like Gronk and Travis Kelce, but who is going to cover the sneaky running backs like Dion Lewis and Shady McCoy? I know that Brown isn’t Bobby Wagner or Luke Kuechly, but he is certainly a top tier linebacker in this league. Brown will give the Jets a boost at linebacker simply because of his ability to drop back into coverage when he needs to.
Darron Lee and Demario Davis had exceptional 2017 seasons, but the main reason the Jets had to let Davis walk after the 2015 season was that of his inability to drop back into coverage. If Davis doesn’t return to Gang Green in 2018, it is vital for the Jets to sign someone like Brown to replace him.