The New York Jets can win the offseason by having a master plan that involves signing Kirk Cousins and building around him through the 2018 NFL Draft.
The New York Jets are in a very peculiar position going into the offseason. They need several new starters at several positions, and with a projected $100 million dollars to spend in free agency, and three draft picks in the first 52 selections, this is the most important offseason for general manager Mike Maccagnan.
Step 1: Free Agency
The Jets are going to make a major run at potential free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins this offseason, and I think they’ll sign him. Why would Cousins sign with the Jets? Here are a few reasons; he’ll be the King of New York and the second-best quarterback in the AFC East, he’ll get a major payday and the Jets can probably offer him more than the Denver Broncos, and finally, he likes Jeremy Bates, who will most likely end up being the new offensive coordinator for 2018.
In an article written by Darryl Slater of NJ.com, here is what Cousins said about the Jets:
“With the Jets, the first thing that stands out is Jeremy Bates has a connection to coach Shanahan. Both Mike, Kyle, that whole system I played in. Sean McVay comes from that tree. I just think so highly of them as play callers, as offensive gurus if you will. Because Jeremy comes from that tree, it would be exciting to think about working with someone like that, knowing how important Xs and Os and game planning is and having the right play caller.”
Cousins would be comfortable in the Jets system, and everything will be built around him, something that other teams cannot guarantee. This is a huge factor in the decision Cousins might make if he does indeed hit free agency.
The Jets need to exit free agency with either a starting quarterback or the realization that they need to draft a quarterback with the 6th pick in the 2018 NFL draft. Cousins would be a huge risk, but easily the best quarterback the Jets have had on the roster since Brett Favre or Chad Pennington. With Cousins, the Jets would be able to add weapons around him in the draft instead of “wasting” a pick on a young quarterback that may or may not succeed.
The Jets have gone down that route way too many times, they drafted and then ruined, Mark Sanchez. Geno Smith never had a real shot after getting punched by a teammate as his career spiraled downward. Bryce Petty is awful and shouldn’t be on the roster come Week 1 of the 2018 season. Also, let’s not forget about Christian Hackenberg who may be ready to take the field by 2025, so clearly, the Jets are not good at finding quarterbacks in the draft. That’s why the Jets need to offer a lot and sign Cousins if he’s available this offseason.
Besides Cousins, the Jets need to aggressively go after the best centers, cornerbacks, and defensive tackles available in free agency. You win football games in the trenches and the Jets offensive line has been pathetic in the past few seasons. Defensively, the pass rush has been poor and adding veteran presence up the middle will allow the Jets to get more creative on defense and use players like Leonard Williams and Josh Martin on the edge more.
The Jets should add a pass rusher in either keeping Kony Ealy or adding Alex Okafor and adding guys like Jeremy Hill and Taylor Gabriel to give them something they need on offense, more weapons. Realistically, the Jets won’t be able to keep all of their own free agents, and they shouldn’t be overpaying Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who had the 9th worst yards-per-catch in the NFL. Trey Burton is explosive after the catch and more likely than not, the better option over ASJ.
Free agency will be fun for Jets fans, yet they could lose out on a lot of the top free agents, and be in a worse position than prior to free agency. If the Jets follow the plan above and sign Cousins with supporting talent around him, they’re already in a much better position than they are right now.
More from The Jet Press
- NY Jets: Why the team should target cornerback Shaquill Griffin
- NY Jets reportedly non-tendering linebacker Harvey Langi
- NY Jets: Why the team should not cut Jamison Crowder
- NY Jets should try to sign Kenny Golladay in free agency
- NY Jets: Jonnu Smith would be a smart free-agent target
Step 2: NFL Draft
The Jets have to have their best draft of this decade to improve their team with youth. You can’t rely on free agency to bring your team to the Super Bowl, you also have to draft well. I’m going to assume the Jets are going to sign Cousins for the sake of the article. Here are the top targets with the 6th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft: Running back Saquon Barkley (Penn State), guard Quenton Nelson (Notre Dame), cornerback Denzel Ward (Ohio State), linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (Virginia Tech).
Barkley, who probably won’t be on the board, is a must draft if he is on the board, especially if Cousins is the quarterback for the Jets. He is the best running back in the draft, and in my opinion, a bigger version of Barry Sanders. Nelson isn’t an attractive pick but would be a starter on the offensive line for the next 10 years. Ward could be the quickest player at the NFL Combine and his ball skills are incredible. Edmunds is a solid outside linebacker, a position the Jets haven’t been good at since the Rex Ryan era.
If the Jets got any of these guys with the 6th pick, I’d be content, and moving forward in the draft the Jets should add guys at the following positions: OT, DT, DE, OLB, CB, TE, WR, RB, KR/PR. The Jets need to have weapons on offense but also need to upgrade their pass rush on defense, and the pass protectors for Cousins (in this scenario).
The Jets have had really poor special teams since Mike Westhoff left and adding a return man like Braxton Berrios out of Miami or Dante Pettis out of Washington would give them a legitimate threat in the return game, something they desperately need.
Finally, the Jets should draft a kicker, Catanzaro wasn’t awful but isn’t worth the extra money. Daniel Carlson, the Kicker out of Auburn, has made 13 career field goals longer than 50+ and would be a 5th or 6th round steal for the Jets. There is nothing wrong with drafting a kicker in the 5th round or later, especially if he is one of the best in the draft.
Recap: Jets add a franchise quarterback and build around him
Adding Cousins, center Ryan Jensen, cornerback Trumaine Johnson, and running back Saquon Barkley this offseason would make the Jets more likely to make the playoffs in the weaker AFC. I’m not saying the Jets can go a different route and it won’t work, but this is the safest route with the current Jets roster, draft position, and projected money they will have prior to free agency.