With the recent hiring of former Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase, the New York Jets’ search for Todd Bowles’ successor has come to an end and the organization’s focus must now shift to preparing for free agency and the NFL draft where general manager Mike Maccagnan will be tasked with improving his roster.
It’s been said time and time again, but the 2018 season was all about Sam Darnold. And once the season concluded and the New York Jets decided to part ways with Todd Bowles, the focus was put on finding the right man to mold and develop Darnold into the franchise quarterback the organization expects him to be.
With the hiring of Adam Gase, acting owner Christopher Johnson and general manager Mike Maccagnan believe they have found that guy. Many, however, immediately disagreed, as an overwhelming amount of fans took to social media to express disappointment.
But the reality of the situation is this: Adam Gase is now the head coach of the New York Jets. It’s time to move on and the focus must now shift to surrounding Darnold with the right talent.
Following an abysmal season that saw the Jets finish with a 4-12 record, it’s clear that the organization has holes to fill – many of them. But with an estimated $100 million in cap space and the third pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, changes and improvements can certainly be made.
Let’s take a look at a few of the Jets’ biggest offseason needs, listed in no particular order:
For years, the Jets have struggled to establish a strong and consistent pass rush, often times failing to put any type of significant pressure on opposing quarterbacks. In fact, the team hasn’t had a legitimate edge rusher since John Abraham, who was drafted in 2000 and totaled 53.5 sacks in six seasons with the Jets.
Heading into the offseason, it’s critical that the Jets address this glaring need and they may be able to do so in free agency, the NFL Draft or both.
In free agency, the Jets could look to target Demarcus Lawrence should the Cowboys elect not to re-sign him, or Jadeveon Clowney if he parts ways with the Texans. Rams edge rusher Dante Fowler could also serve as an option.
In regards to the draft, the Jets currently hold the third pick and they could use it to bolster their pass rush. It’s unlikely that Ohio State’s Nick Bosa will be available, but Kentucky’s Josh Allen certainly could be. Per ESPN, Allen closed out 2018 with 88 total tackles and 17 sacks. He had 31.5 sacks throughout his collegiate career.
Next: Offensive Line
In recent years, the Jets haven’t had the most impressive offensive line and that simply can’t be the case with a below average offense and a young quarterback.
Prior to the start of the 2018 season, the Jets signed center Spencer Long in hopes that he would have a line-wide impact. As it turned out, he had a brutal season, though a significant hand injury seriously hindered his snapping abilities. He did perform better late in the season when he was moved to guard, but the Jets could still elect to move on from him if they choose.
Left guard James Carpenter has likely played his last game for the Jets and the team could also elect to move on from left tackle Kelvin Beachum if a better option presents itself, though he has been a relatively solid player.
Ultimately, the Jets have a few decisions to make regarding the personnel on the offensive line but the focus should be on improving it nonetheless.
In regards to free agency, the Jets could look to target Broncos center Matt Paradis and Rams guard Rodger Saffold. And if the organization wants to address the need in the draft, perhaps Alabama’s Jonah Williams could be an option.
Next: Offensive Weapons
Early on in the 2018 season, it was expected that Sam Darnold would struggle a bit and he did. As the season neared its end, however, the 21-year-old quarterback turned it up a notch and he performed incredibly well over the last few weeks of the season, doing so with an offense that lacked playmakers.
Now, it’s time to surround Darnold with weapons and multiple positions can be focused on to address this.
In terms of wide receivers, the Jets haven’t had a true No. 1 wide receiver in years. Quincy Enunwa, who the Jets recently signed to an extension, is a valuable player when healthy, but he’s more of a No. 2 wide receiver. Similarly, Robby Anderson, who seemed to develop a chemistry with Darnold and improve as the season went on, is talented but not elite.
Unfortunately, the Jets may not have the opportunity to truly address this need during the offseason. Rumors have indicated that Antonio Brown of the Steelers and A.J. Green of the Bengals could potentially be available via trade, but it’s unclear if the Jets could land either one. And in the draft, few top wide receivers are present, though the Jets could potentially look to trade back and add depth at the position.
Moving on, the Jets also lack talent at the running back position. Veteran Bilal Powell likely won’t return after suffering a season-ending neck injury and Isaiah Crowell was essentially a disappointment this season.
Unlike with the wide receiver position, however, the Jets will have an opportunity to address this need and land an elite level running back in free agency and the organization should go all in on targeting Le’Veon Bell.
Despite the fact that he sat out this past season due to a contract dispute with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bell remains in the prime of his career and there are few playmakers in the league quite like him. He would immediately add a significant spark to the Jets offense in addition to serving as an incredible asset to Darnold and his development.