New York Jets: Re-sign or decline EVERY 2019 free agent
By Justin Fried
Before free agency hits, the New York Jets will have decisions to make regarding their in-house free agents. Here’s a list of every Jets free agent with a verdict on each of them.
It’s that time of year again. The calm before the storm, the serenity before the blistering bolt that is NFL free agency.
The New York Jets will have a myriad of holes to fill this offseason with needs at essentially every position on the roster. The process towards filling those holes begins with the free agent period at the beginning of April, but there is an important step that must be taken beforehand.
Prior to any potential offseason acquisitions, the Jets must make decisions on their own soon-to-be free agents and decide who they would like to keep around. Some decisions will be simple ones while others may require some extensive thought and consideration.
Every single Jets player whose contract is expiring this offseason will be covered in this article. This will include unrestricted free agents (typical free agents), restricted free agents (other teams may negotiate with the player but Jets have a chance to match any offer), and exclusive-rights free agents (players who can only negotiate with their current team — up to the team to tender player or not).
With that, let’s take a look and predict which Jets players will re-sign and which will be declined.
Exclusive-Rights Free Agents
Davis Webb, QB — Webb will certainly be back with the team in 2019, likely competing for the backup quarterback job with whoever they bring in. Expect him to fight for a roster spot in preseason.
J.J. Jones, WR — Jones was an undrafted rookie claimed by the Jets late last season. The team will likely tender him but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the 26-year-old cut before preseason.
Deontay Burnett, WR — The most notable player on this list, Burnett will undoubtedly be back in 2019. Expect the former USC standout to compete for a depth receiver spot with the ability to earn an extended role on the offense next season. Not a lock for the final roster, but should be given an edge in regards to his youth and upside.
Eric Smith, OT — Signed off the Patriots practice squad in December, Smith should be tendered but will serve as a long shot to make the 53-man roster next season. But the Jets lack young offensive line depth giving the Virginia product a leg up on the competition.
Frankie Luvu, OLB — Outside of Burnett, Luvu was the only player here to earn significant playing time in 2018. Expect Luvu to be back and maintain a role as a situational pass rusher/special teamer. Even with the expected switch to a 4-3 defensive scheme, he impressed enough in his rookie campaign to secure a roster spot, even if it’s just on special teams.
Anthony Wint, ILB — Wint had a strong preseason and spent most of the year on the Jets practice squad before being promoted to the active roster late in the season. The FIU product will likely compete for a roster spot as a reserve linebacker/special teamer in 2019.
Jeremy Clark, CB/S — The Jets sixth-round pick in 2017, Clark has failed to catch on so far and 2019 may be his last chance to prove his worth. The former Michigan Wolverine should be considered a longshot to make the 53-man roster.
Brandon Bryant, S — Bryant went undrafted in the 2018 Supplemental Draft and spent much of the year on the Jets practice squad. Much like Wint, Bryant will compete for a depth safety spot in 2019, although the competition at that position in surprisingly steep.
Next: Restricted Free Agents
Restricted Free Agents
Robby Anderson, WR — Far and above the most notable restricted free agent, expect the Jets to do what they can to retain Anderson. It’s likely the team will place a second-round tender on him but don’t rule out an extension of some kind.
Eric Tomlinson, TE — Tomlinson will probably be given the lowest tender but he is by no means a lock to make the roster next year. The UTEP product struggled as a blocking tight end in 2018 and the Jets should look to upgrade at that role. Still, it’s unlikely he departs via free agency.
Bronson Kaufusi, DE — A former third-round pick in 2016, Kaufusi spent time with the Baltimore Ravens but never panned out. He is a better fit for the Jets new 4-3 defensive scheme as a five-technique defensive end increasing the chance he has of making the roster next year.
Destiny Vaeao, DE — Vaeao is another player who could benefit from the defensive scheme change. The native of American Samoa fit well as a three-technique defensive tackle with the Philadelphia Eagles, a role he could compete for with the Jets in 2019.
Doug Middleton, S — Middleton has shown promise as a special teamer in the past but injuries have kept him from playing in a full season to this point. Expect the Jets to use their lowest tender on him so that he could once again compete for a roster spot in 2019. Although one more injury could be the final nail in the coffin for the Appalachian State product.
Next: Unrestricted Free Agents - Offense
Unrestricted Free Agents – Offense
Josh McCown, QB — McCown came in and exceeded everyone’s expectations with a very solid 2017 campaign but if his 2018 game tape is anything to go off of, it may be time to move on. The Jets could bring back McCown simply for his veteran leadership but it would be wise for the team to go in a different direction for the backup quarterback position. It’s probably more likely he doesn’t return than he does.
Bilal Powell, RB — Powell has had an amazing career with the Jets and he will leave behind an incredible legacy with the team. That being said, it’s very likely we’ve seen his last game in the green and white. Expect the Jets to completely reshape their backfield with only Elijah McGuire and Trenton Cannon sticking around to see another day.
Jermaine Kearse, WR — Kearse had a very solid 2017 campaign but completely underwhelmed in 2018. In what should be one of the easier decisions of the offseason, expect the Jets to move on from Kearse after two seasons of up-and-down play.
Rishard Matthews, WR — Matthews was signed as much needed depth for the Jets after multiple injuries to their receiver core. Despite a considerable track record, Matthews caught just two passes with the team and failed to make an impact of any kind. Expect the two to go their separate ways this offseason.
Andre Roberts, WR/RS — Roberts was one of the team’s biggest surprises of 2018 winning the return job in the preseason en route to a Pro Bowl campaign. While his success will be hard to duplicate, this should be a no-brainer re-signing.
Neal Sterling, TE — Sterling showed potential late in 2017 and performed well enough in the 2018 preseason to earn the starting tight end job to begin the year. Unfortunately, multiple concussions effectively ended his season early and in his absence, rookie Chris Herndon stepped up and locked down the starting job. A victim of unfortunate circumstances, the 27-year-old Sterling will likely be looking for work with a new team in 2019.
Clive Walford, TE — Walford competed for the starting tight end job in preseason but was released during final roster cuts. The former Oakland Raider was brought back for the final game of the season but it’s unlikely he stays around to compete for a roster spot again in 2019.
Brent Qvale, OT — Qvale has managed to stick around for five years as a backup swing tackle and he’s provided pretty solid depth for the team. He will be 28-years-old in March meaning the Jets could look to get younger at the position but I would expect them to offer a small, two or three-year deal with limited guaranteed money to retain the reliable reserve.
Ben Ijalana, OT — Ijalana missed all of 2018 with an injury after re-signing with the Jets this past offseason. Despite spending the last six years as one of the team’s go-to backup offensive linemen, Ijalana will be 30-years-old at the start of the 2019 season making it very unlikely the team opts to re-sign him.
James Carpenter, OG — Carpenter has served the Jets well as a starting guard for four years now but his time in East Rutherford is all but over. The former Seattle Seahawk was an above-average lineman during his first two seasons with the team but his play has slipped significantly in recent years. Expect the Jets to find a new left guard for the 2019 season.
Dakota Dozier, OG — Dozier is another backup lineman who has provided adequate depth for the team for a number of years. The only member of the infamous “Idzik 12” 2014 draft class to have never been released from the team, Dozier should be brought back as added interior depth. His versatility — the Jets even lined him up at fullback late in the season — should help his case for a new contract.
Jonotthan Harrison, C — Harrison filled in at center for the injured Spencer Long and maintained the position even after Long’s return marking two consecutive seasons where he has taken over the starting center job midway through the season. Expect the Jets to try and bring the reliable center back as great depth but there’s a decent chance some team could give him a more appealing offer to compete for a starting job.
Jason Myers, K — Much like the aforementioned Roberts, Myers was a huge part of the revived Jets special teams unit in 2018. The former Jacksonville Jaguar had by far the best year of his career last season even securing a Pro Bowl nod for his stellar play. Again, regression should unquestionably be expected, but if the Jets could get anything close to the same level of performance, they will likely be very happy with the results. Myers will, in all likelihood, be back in 2019.
Next: Unrestricted Free Agents - Defense
Unrestricted Free Agents – Defense
Henry Anderson, DE — Anderson completely exceeded expectations and finished 2018 as the Jets most productive defensive lineman, tying for the team-lead in sacks with seven. Despite this, the two parties sit at a crossroads. Anderson is unlikely to be offered a starting role in the Jets new 4-3 defensive front and he likely won’t sign for a part-time role. Expect the two to go their separate ways in 2019, despite his career year this past season.
Steve McLendon, NT — McLendon has been a defensive leader for the past three seasons but his time with the Jets is likely coming to an end. At 33-years-old, McLendon is one of the oldest players on the roster and the Jets defensive scheme switch should impact him negatively as well. There’s just no need for a true nose tackle in a 4-3 scheme, especially an aging one at that.
Josh Martin, OLB — After being an ace special teamer for years, Martin was finally given the opportunity to play a starting role on defense due to the Jets lack of edge rusher depth. Unfortunately, multiple concussions ended his season before it really began and he spent most of the year on the injured reserve. While a 2019 reunion isn’t out of the question, the Jets may opt to rely on other players to fill his special teams role as they did in 2018.
Brandon Copeland, OLB — A former Arena Football League star, Copeland revived his NFL career in 2018 starting 10 games and securing a career-best five sacks. It would be great to see the Jets give this feel-good story another chapter by re-signing him to compete for a reserve pass rusher spot in 2019.
Jeremiah Attaochu, OLB — Attaochu was signed as much needed pass rusher depth but failed to do much with his limited snaps. A former top-50 draft selection of the Chargers, Attaochu has shown promise but his lack of production speaks volumes. It would be surprising to see the Jets re-sign the Nigerian-born Attaochu for next season.
Emmanuel Lamur, OLB — Lamur was claimed off waivers from Oakland in December and was active for the team’s final game of the season against New England. Despite 81 career games under his belt, don’t expect to see the Jets re-sign Lamur for 2019 unless the market is non-existent.
Neville Hewitt, ILB — Hewitt has long been considered a true special teams ace but he was given the opportunity to start four games late in the season following Darron Lee‘s suspension. The Jets will likely look to bring the former Miami Dolphin back to fulfill his special teams role with an outside chance of earning a spot as the team’s third off-ball linebacker in the 4-3 defense.
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Morris Claiborne, CB — This will be one of the Jets bigger offseason decisions. Despite two solid, but unspectacular seasons with the team, Claiborne could be on the outside looking in as Gregg Williams will look to reshape his defense in 2019. At 29-years-old, the oft-injured Claiborne isn’t getting any younger and the team could look to replace him for a higher caliber starter. Look for the Jets to potentially target Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby in free agency if that happens. A return isn’t off the table, but I’d give it better than 50% odds he’s with a new team next year.
Buster Skrine, CB — The Jets starting nickel cornerback will also be a free agent, although this decision isn’t likely to be as difficult. Skrine has battled inconsistent play for years now and the team will likely move on after four seasons in the green and white. Expect the Jets to turn to free agency or last year’s sixth-round pick, Parry Nickerson, to replace the penalty-prone Skrine.
Darryl Roberts, CB/S — Roberts is one of the most improved players on the entire roster, having capitalized on every opportunity he has been given. The former New England Patriots seventh-round pick excelled when given the chance to start at cornerback and filled in nicely at safety when Marcus Maye went down. The Jets should look to bring back the 28-year-old Marshall product as much-needed secondary depth with the chance to even compete for a starting role depending on what the team does with its second outside corner position.
Rontez Miles, S — Miles has been a locker room favorite and a reliable special teamer for six years now but his tenure in New York may finally be over. At 30-years-old, Miles is one of the older players on the roster and with plenty of competition at the backup safety position, it would be difficult for him to lock down a roster spot next season. Even if the Jets re-sign him, don’t bank on Miles being a part of the 53-man roster come 2019.