The New York Jets have been very aggressive during this year’s free agency period in an attempt to set a solid foundation for years to come. Here are the grades for every free agent signing they’ve made.
Coming off of a 5-11 record in 2017, the New York Jets are feeling themselves going into the new league year. Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan have openly stated their feelings about their current roster, stating that they are just a few pieces away from getting to where they want to be, which is to be playing playoff football for the first time since 2010.
There were multiple positions the Jets knew they were going to need to address going into 2018. Such as quarterback, running back, cornerback, kicker, and more. After just one week of free agency, many of these positions have already been handled, putting the Jets in a great position going into the 2018 NFL Draft as well as the rest of free agency.
Here are grades for all of the new acquisitions made by the Jets so far.
The Jets may have failed on their “Plan A” which was to acquire Kirk Cousins, but they may be better off with “Plan B.”
Since Cousins didn’t accept the immense amount of money the Jets offered him to come play in Florham Park, the team instantly locked their eyes on Teddy Bridgewater as their next target. Within 24 hours, Teddy agreed to be a Jet, and it didn’t cost a fully guaranteed $80+ million like it would have for Cousins.
Teddy is a huge question mark going into 2018 considering he hasn’t started a game since 2015. But the Jets are okay with that considering they also brought back veteran Josh McCown. The Jets also had to have felt rather good about their chances of trading up in the draft in order to be in play for a quarterback.
Teddy is still a young player and has proven he can play in the NFL at a high level. If Teddy for some reason doesn’t play, whether it is because he lost a quarterback competition with McCown or a rookie, or if the rookie quarterback the Jets are expected to draft is instantly handed the keys to the franchise, it won’t be the end of the world. Teddy’s current role for the team is uncertain, but his talent and experience will be valued even if it is strictly in a quarterback room with McCown and a rookie.
Teddy’s contract is full of incentives, with only $1 million guaranteed if he makes it to Week 1. If Teddy for some reason isn’t healthy, the Jets can cut him before training camp and only lose $500k. With that being said, it is worth the risk. I expect Teddy to be the Jets starting quarterback going into 2018, and playing well enough to keep his job throughout the year while McCown coaches up whatever other quarterback(s) are on the roster (rookie, Hackenberg, Petty, etc.).
Next: Avery Williamson
Avery Williamson, A-
Anytime you replace a hole on your team with a player playing at a high level in the prime of his career, you have to be satisfied. The Jets reportedly didn’t attempt to bring back Demario Davis who was in his second stint with the Jets and started every game last year at the MLB position.
Davis, who is almost 30 years old, finished 6th in the league in tackles in 2017 with 135. This left a lot of people puzzled at the decision to let Davis walk, but they were simply looking to get a little younger at the linebacker position, as well as wanting to spend their immense cap space in other areas knowing that Davis would be demanding quite a bit of money coming off an outstanding year.
At the end of the day, the Jets spent less money on a younger player, who arguably will fit Bowles’ scheme better as well. This signing was crucial for the Jets because without it there would be a large void in the middle of their defense in which they are trying to build with young playmakers, who preferably are comfortable in Bowles’ aggressive 3-4 style defense.
Next: Trumaine Johnson
Trumaine Johnson, A+
Somebody pinch Bowles because he thinks he’s dreaming. Ever since he left Arizona, he has not been able to play the exact defense he wanted to because he never had more than one great cover corner on the roster. Now, Trumaine Johnson is unlocking the potential of an elite defense.
Bowles, similar to former Jets head coach Rex Ryan, runs an aggressive 3-4 style defense in which you have multiple cornerbacks who are capable of locking up opposing receivers in man coverage. This opens up the blitzing playbook and allows you to rush four, five, six, or possibly more defenders towards the quarterback giving him no other option besides taking the sack, throwing the ball away, or throwing an interception.
Johnson is expected to slide right into the No. 1 corner spot, pushing recently retained cornerback Morris Claiborne to the No. 2 spot which is arguably better for him. Claiborne played well last year covering each opponent’s top receiver week in and week out. But with Johnson coming to the Big Apple, he will now be asked to cover opponents second best receiver, which will benefit him as well as the defense. It is no disrespect to Claiborne abilities, but there is a reason Johnson is being paid $72.5 million.
The Jets acquired the best cornerback on the market and signed him to a five-year, $72.5 million contract. Which seems like a hefty deal, but that is the price you pay for a premier cornerback nowadays. The Jets will have no problem giving Johnson the contract that they did as long as he continues to play at a high level as he did with the Los Angeles Rams the past six years.
Next: Spencer Long
Spencer Long, B-
In 2016, Spencer Long was the co-anchor of an offensive line that allowed the fourth-fewest sacks in the NFL. After battling injuries in 2017, Spencer is ready to get back to dominating the middle of the offense.
Any time you acquire a position of need during free agency, as opposed to addressing it during the draft, it is a great move. The center who held down the fort last year, Wesley Johnson, is an unrestricted free agent which left the Jets without a center going into 2018. Instead of experimenting with a rookie, they plugged in a proven player for a great price.
Spencer was given a four-year, $28 million contract and if he can get back to the level of play he was playing at before injury, this will be a bargain considering the current price of the center market. Spencer getting back and healthy will be vital for the Jets running game which is set to look a bit different without Matt Forte in the mix. He will also be responsible for protecting McCown who has never played more than 14 games in a season, Bridgewater who is coming off a devastating knee injury, and an inexperienced rookie (if they draft one at pick three).
Next: Isaiah Crowell
Isaiah Crowell, C+
With Forte hanging it up, the Jets knew they couldn’t leave Bilal Powell as the premier back on the roster.
Isaiah Crowell is coming off a productive year in an anti-productive offense on the Cleveland Browns. Crowell was the bright spot of the offense, posting 853 yards on 206 carries (4.1 average) as well as scoring two touchdowns on the ground. In an offense that was largely responsible for the Browns historic 0-16 record, Crowell was still able to be very effective.
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After Forte retired, it was expected of the Jets to either pick up a starting caliber running back in free agency or the draft, and the Jets were more than happy to address the position now rather than later.
Although it would have been better to go a little bit younger at the running back position, Crowell and Powell are going to compliment each other very well.
With Crowell being the more physical downfield runner, and Powell being the dynamic third-down back, as well as Elijah McGuire who is looking to improve even more in his second year. Although Crowell is only 25 years old, that isn’t very young for a running back, which usually sees a dramatic drop-off at age 30.
Assuming the Jets were never expecting to be in the run for Saquon Barkley, who is looked at as one of the best running back prospects in recent years, it is extremely beneficial that the Jets to already have the running back situation handled going into the draft. Simply because of the weight of having to draft a quarterback and a running back both in the early rounds of the draft being lifted off of your shoulders, leaves you to focus a majority of your time on selecting the right quarterback of the future.
Next: Cairo Santos
Cairo Santos, B+
If you were to rewind time 365 days, you would arguably put Cairo Santos in your Top 10 list of kickers in the NFL. But all because of a 2017 injury, Santos has been booted out of Kansas City, right into waiting arms of the kicker needy Jets.
Santos appeared in two games with the Chicago Bears last year after being released by the Chiefs in 2017 because of an injury. This resulted in Harrison Butker replacing him as the starting kicker of the Chiefs, even after Santos was fully recovered, simply because Butker seemingly could not miss a field goal in his absence. Santos put up solid numbers in 2016, making 31 of 35 field goals, as well as completing 8 of 9 of those from 40+ yards.
The Jets were clearly in need of a kicker considering they released Chandler Catanzaro after not exceeding any expectations in his lone year in Green and White. It is a fair assumption to say that the Jets walked away with the best kicker on the market, who was simply not granted his job back after getting injured. This is one of the more underrated signings the Jets have made thus far during the free agency period, considering they could have very well just acquired their kicker for the next decade.