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Free Agency

Top 3 in-house free agents Jets must retain immediately

New York Jets (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
New York Jets (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
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EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – SEPTEMBER 24: Jay Cutler #6 of the Miami Dolphins has his pass attempt defended by Kony Ealy #94 of the New York Jets during the first half of an NFL game at MetLife Stadium on September 24, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – SEPTEMBER 24: Jay Cutler #6 of the Miami Dolphins has his pass attempt defended by Kony Ealy #94 of the New York Jets during the first half of an NFL game at MetLife Stadium on September 24, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

General manager Mike Maccagnan evidently made it a priority to retain his in-house free agents of the New York Jets. He cannot afford to forget about these three.

The New York Jets can chalk up this offseason as a successful one. They plugged nearly every hole and positioned themselves to end their perpetual quarterback search. Despite the massive upgrades to the roster, Gang Green’s work should not be finished yet.

They have roughly $35 million in cap space, according to Over The Cap, but that number excludes a handful of contracts yet to be announced. When you estimate those deals and factor in the $8.45 million allotted to the rookie class, the Jets are likely in the range of $13-15 million in spending room.

Their brief pursuit of Ndamukong Suh makes that total even more realistic. The All-Pro accepted a $14 million offer from the Los Angeles Rams, which seems to be almost all of what New York has remaining. With him off the board, they will have to empty their wallet in a different fashion.

Here is where the in-house free agents come into play. General manager Mike Maccagnan returned a chunk of them, although there are some of value still on the market. Let’s take a closer look at that bunch.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – DECEMBER 24: Travis Benjamin #12 of the Los Angeles Chargers is pursued by David Bass #47 of the New York Jets during the first half of an NFL game at MetLife Stadium on December 24, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Ed Mulholland/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – DECEMBER 24: Travis Benjamin #12 of the Los Angeles Chargers is pursued by David Bass #47 of the New York Jets during the first half of an NFL game at MetLife Stadium on December 24, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Ed Mulholland/Getty Images)

3. David Bass, OLB

One of New York’s most underrated defenders in 2017 was David Bass. Season-ending injuries to Lorenzo Mauldin and Dylan Donahue left the Jets shorthanded at outside linebacker, opening the door for auditions. Bass joined the roster ahead of their Week 3 matchup with Miami and fit right into Todd Bowles‘ edge rushing rotation.

The Missouri Western product concluded his Jet campaign with 25 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 13 contests. On Pro Football Focus, he received the unit’s highest run defense grade (81.6) and overall mark (78.7). His pass rushing grade (74.2) was the third-highest on the team.

Mauldin, Donahue, Jordan Jenkins, Josh Martin, Freddie Bishop and Obum Gwacham make up the current group. Bass would have the inside track to beat out Bishop and Gwacham while Donahue could get the axe after his February arrest. At worst, the veteran would be an insurance and locker room guy.

Next: 2. Jonotthan Harrison, OC/OG

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – SEPTEMBER 24: Jonotthan Harrison #78 of the New York Jets walk out of the tunnel prior to an NFL game against the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium on September 24, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – SEPTEMBER 24: Jonotthan Harrison #78 of the New York Jets walk out of the tunnel prior to an NFL game against the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium on September 24, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

2. Jonotthan Harrison, OC/OG

Jonotthan Harrison was Wesley Johnson‘s backup last season and quite honestly should have been the starter. Johnson logged a brutal year that consisted of a 31.1 overall grade to go along with pass and run blocking grades of 25.5 and 36.6 on PFF, respectively. The overall mark ranked dead last out of the 47 centers who earned snaps.

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Harrison was by no means a mauler either with his 39.3 overall grade in a mere 103 snaps, but he supplied depth that New York does not have at the moment. James Carpenter, Spencer Long and Brian Winters are right now the only interior linemen rostered.

Maccagnan would be hard pressed to roll into training camp without an experienced backup who can play center or guard. Long missed nine games in 2017 as a result of a quad injury. Should he be sidelined in 2018, the Jets need to be prepared for it.

Update (as of 3/28/18): The Jets have officially re-signed Harrison to a one-year deal.

Next: 1. Kony Ealy, DE

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – OCTOBER 01: Cam Robinson #74 of the Jacksonville Jaguars in action against Kony Ealy #94 of the New York Jets during their game at MetLife Stadium on October 1, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – OCTOBER 01: Cam Robinson #74 of the Jacksonville Jaguars in action against Kony Ealy #94 of the New York Jets during their game at MetLife Stadium on October 1, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

1. Kony Ealy, DE

It’s surprising that Kony Ealy has yet to find a home. The 2014 second-rounder was released by the New England Patriots in the summer and molded into one of Maccagnan’s prized waiver wire pickups. He filled the shoes of Sheldon Richardson and produced at a high rate even under a 451 snap count.

Ealy racked up 15 tackles, nine batted passes, one sack and an interception in his 15 outings. The nine batted balls ranked second amongst defensive ends league-wide and his 76.4 PFF pass rushing grade was second on the team. Ealy did underwhelm with his 46.7 run defense mark, however, just 31.5 percent of his snaps were dedicated to that department, per PFF.

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The position is shallow as the likes of Leonard Williams, Xavier Cooper, Brandon Copeland and Claude Pelon round out the core. Ealy would come cheap this late in free agency and perhaps cross off the defensive line as an area to address in the 2018 NFL Draft.

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