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Free Agency

New York Jets: 5 under-the-radar free agent targets

TAMPA, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 30: Adam Humphries #10 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looks for a path after receiving a punt during the second quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at Raymond James Stadium on December 30, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 30: Adam Humphries #10 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looks for a path after receiving a punt during the second quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at Raymond James Stadium on December 30, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
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TAMPA, FLORIDA – DECEMBER 30: Adam Humphries #10 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looks for a path after receiving a punt during the second quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at Raymond James Stadium on December 30, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. New York Jets (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FLORIDA – DECEMBER 30: Adam Humphries #10 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looks for a path after receiving a punt during the second quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at Raymond James Stadium on December 30, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. New York Jets (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

The New York Jets will go into free agency not only looking to sign the big-name players but the lesser-known, under-the-radar players. Here are five potential targets the team could explore.

With all the attention on big-name free agents such as Le’Veon Bell and Matt Paradis, the under-the-radar players tend to — well, fly under the radar. But make no mistake about it, the New York Jets will need to take just as hard of a look at the lesser-known free agents as the high-profile ones.

Free agency isn’t typically a place where you’re going to find star players on bargain deals. Average players get paid like good players and good players get paid like great players in the consistent swindling cycle that is NFL free agency.

For that reason, the best deals typically come via the low-key, under-the-radar signings that may not seem like much at the time, but turn out to be major steals in hindsight. This year’s crop of free agents features plenty of good players who are going to get overpaid but also some quality free agents who may not be receiving the attention that they deserve.

We’re here to shed light on a few names that the Jets could look to sign outside of the obvious, well-known targets. With that, let’s take a look at five under-the-radar free agents the Jets should target.

PITTSBURGH, PA – NOVEMBER 08: Jesse James #81 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs into the end zone for an 8 yard touchdown reception during the third quarter in the game against the Carolina Panthers at Heinz Field on November 8, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. New York Jets (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA – NOVEMBER 08: Jesse James #81 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs into the end zone for an 8 yard touchdown reception during the third quarter in the game against the Carolina Panthers at Heinz Field on November 8, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. New York Jets (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

5. Jesse James — TE

We’re flying really far under-the-radar with our first entry on this list. While tight end may not seem like the most pressing issue on paper, the Jets desperately need depth at the position.

Rookie Chris Herndon excelled in 2018 and emerged as the future at the position for the Jets. But the complimentary pieces around him — mainly Eric Tomlinson and Jordan Leggett — leave little to be desired.

That’s where a player like Jesse James could step in. James is one of the more notable names in a very weak crop of free agent tight ends but still shouldn’t have too large of a market. At the same time, he could provide crucial depth for the Jets and help the team out in multiple facets.

The soon-to-be former Pittsburgh Steeler excels as a blocker posting one of the highest pass blocking grades from Pro Football Focus in 2018 among tight ends while being an excellent run blocker. While he has yet to emerge as a top receiving target, James has posted three consecutive seasons with at least 30 catches and 330 receiving yards.

At just 24-years-old, James is still extremely young and could be one of the better bargain deals in free agency. A potential combination of Herndon and James would give the Jets one of the better tight end duos in the NFL and help out the ground game as well as give the Jets an extra capable receiver in the passing game.

If anything, at least he’ll be an improvement over Tomlinson and Leggett.

Next: 4. Shaquil Barrett

DENVER, CO – SEPTEMBER 16: Linebacker Shaquil Barrett #48 of the Denver Broncos dives to tackle wide receiver Jordy Nelson #82 of the Oakland Raiders in the second quarter of a game at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on September 16, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. New York Jets (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO – SEPTEMBER 16: Linebacker Shaquil Barrett #48 of the Denver Broncos dives to tackle wide receiver Jordy Nelson #82 of the Oakland Raiders in the second quarter of a game at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on September 16, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. New York Jets (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

4. Shaquil Barrett — OLB

Finding a good edge rusher in free agency is a bit like dating in your 50’s — your options are limited and all the good ones have already been taken.

There isn’t going to be a DeMarcus Lawrence or a Frank Clark hitting free agency this year, nor is there usually any year. That means the markets for the average-to-above-average players will subsequently skyrocket forcing teams to overpay to get the guy they want — see Trey Flowers.

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One player that shouldn’t demand a ton of money, however, could be Denver Broncos edge rusher Shaquil Barrett. Barrett has shifted in between being a starter and rotational piece for much of his career and has performed admirably for the most part.

While the sack numbers won’t immediately jump out, 14.0 over four years, Barrett has been able to provide consistent pressure in the face of opposing quarterbacks. Barrett has posted a pass-rush grade of over 70.0 in every year of his career and scored a career-high 82.6 overall grade in 2017, his first year with substantial games started.

Compare that with the Jets 2018 production where Brandon Copeland led the team with a 56.2 pass-rush rating and it’s easy to see how Barrett would be an improvement.

Given the fact that he backed up of Bradley Chubb in 2018 and didn’t blow anyone away with his production, Barrett could be a great, cheaper option if the Jets opted to spend their money elsewhere and instead look to the draft for a top-tier edge rusher.

Because much like that lonely 50-year-old, finding the right pairing at this stage can be quite the tricky task.

Next: 3. Adam Humphries

TAMPA, FL – NOVEMBER 25: Wide receiver Adam Humphries #10 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers reacts after a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Raymond James Stadium on November 25, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. New York Jets (Photo by Will Vragovic/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL – NOVEMBER 25: Wide receiver Adam Humphries #10 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers reacts after a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Raymond James Stadium on November 25, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. New York Jets (Photo by Will Vragovic/Getty Images)

3. Adam Humphries — WR

The New York Jets have a solid receiving core at the top with little to no depth outside of their top two targets. Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa represent two very capable receiving options but after that, the likes of the unproven Deontay Burnett and special-teamers like Andre Roberts and Charone Peake begin to see the field.

That needs to change in 2019 and that will begin with likely at least one free agent signing at the position.

Enunwa did much of his work from the slot in 2018 but he excelled as an outside receiver in 2016 and could benefit from a move back to the boundary. To do that though, the Jets will need to acquire a reliable slot receiver in free agency.

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Adam Humphries could wind up being the best available target for them based on prior production, age, and expected market value. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers wideout is just 26-years-old and has seen his production increase every year of his career thus far.

That concluded with an excellent 76 catches for 816 yards in 2018 as a part of the Buccaneers’ high-powered passing attack. Since he is pigeonholed as a slot receiver, the market isn’t expected to be as high for him despite the fact that teams essentially start three receivers in today’s NFL.

Spotrac estimates his market value at around $10 million a year over four seasons which is very fair for a player of his caliber.

He may not be the No. 1 receiver the Jets have been searching for, but a trio of Anderson, Enunwa, and Humphries could do wonders for the Jets passing game in 2019.

Next: 2. Anthony Barr

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – DECEMBER 16: Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Miami Dolphins is sacked with the ball by Anthony Barr #55 of the Minnesota Vikings in the third quarter of the game at U.S. Bank Stadium on December 16, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. New York Jets (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN – DECEMBER 16: Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Miami Dolphins is sacked with the ball by Anthony Barr #55 of the Minnesota Vikings in the third quarter of the game at U.S. Bank Stadium on December 16, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. New York Jets (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

2. Anthony Barr – OLB

For fans enamored with Kentucky’s Josh Allen in this year’s draft class, look no further than Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr has a possible alternative or even supplement.

Much like Allen, Barr was a 3-4 outside linebacker who excelled as an edge rusher in college. Barr totaled 23.5 sacks over his final two seasons at UCLA while Allen came away with 24.0. Both were seen as true outside linebackers who could succeed as a stand-up pass rusher or an off-ball linebacker due to their versatility.

On top of that, they were each considered athletic freaks who could match up athletically with some of the best in the NFL. Oh, and they both returned for their senior seasons and dramatically improved their draft stock. Soon, once Allen is drafted, they will have each fulfilled their destinies as top-10 NFL draft picks.

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That will likely be where the similarities stop however as Allen is expected to be inserted into a starting lineup as a pass rusher while Barr, who was drafted by the Vikings, was immediately put in an off-ball 4-3 linebacker role. While he has put together an excellent career at that position, having made the Pro Bowl in four of his five NFL seasons, many feel he has yet to reach his full potential.

Various teams have inquired about potentially signing Barr and shifting him to his more natural position as an edge and the Jets should be all over that proposal. Barr has the athleticism and pass rush traits to pull the switch off and while his coverage skills are a bit below-average for an off-ball SAM linebacker, they would be superb for an outside pass rusher.

This would be one of those outside-the-box signings that could provide an excellent return in the end. Barr may be a bit more pricey than some other edge rush options given his Pro Bowl experience, but he has the highest ceiling out of any potential edge on the open market.

Some team may look to sign Barr and keep him at his experienced off-ball linebacker position, but the Jets would be wise to make a run at the 2014 first-round pick to solve their need at edge rusher.

Next: 1. Bryce Callahan

GLENDALE, AZ – SEPTEMBER 23: Cornerback Bryce Callahan #37 of the Chicago Bears celebrates an interception in the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on September 23, 2018 in Glendale, Arizona. The Chicago Bears won 16-14. New York Jets (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ – SEPTEMBER 23: Cornerback Bryce Callahan #37 of the Chicago Bears celebrates an interception in the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on September 23, 2018 in Glendale, Arizona. The Chicago Bears won 16-14. New York Jets (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)

1. Bryce Callahan — CB

With the ever-changing landscape that is the NFL, slot cornerbacks are becoming more and more valuable as each year passes by. Luckily for teams in need of one, it doesn’t appear that the market value has caught up with the times yet.

Bryce Callahan is set to hit the open market this offseason and he should do so as the top-rated nickel corner. Callahan has quickly emerged as one of the more underrated players at his position in the entire NFL.

On a Chicago Bears defense featuring the likes of Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, and Kyle Fuller, Callahan was often overshadowed. But it’s likely that Callahan finally gets the chance to receive some individual recognition this offseason.

The Jets will likely be looking for a new slot corner this year with the team expected not to bring back the aging Buster Skrine. Callahan could give the team a young, very efficient upgrade at a major position of need.

The former undrafted free agent earned coverage grades from PFF of over 77.0 in each of his past two seasons and his 75.6 passer rating when targeted is lightyears better than Skrine’s 124.2. Callahan has dealt with his share of injury concerns that will likely hinder his market as he hasn’t played in more than 13 games in his career.

Still, with a projected market value of just $7 million per year over four years, Callahan represents perhaps the best bargain deal on the free agent market this year.

Next. 5 Jets who won't be on the team in 2019

He may be undervalued by the league, but Callahan should remain a top priority for the New York Jets this offseason.

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