New York Jets: Top 5 free agent targets still available

Justin Fried
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 11: T.J. Yeldon #24 of the Jacksonville Jaguars runs the ball during the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 11, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 11: T.J. Yeldon #24 of the Jacksonville Jaguars runs the ball during the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 11, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /
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INDIANAPOLIS, IN – NOVEMBER 11: T.J. Yeldon #24 of the Jacksonville Jaguars runs the ball during the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 11, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. New York Jets free agents (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN – NOVEMBER 11: T.J. Yeldon #24 of the Jacksonville Jaguars runs the ball during the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 11, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. New York Jets free agents (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

While free agency has certainly calmed down over the last couple of weeks, there are still a few free agents available that the New York Jets could look to sign.

The initial rush of free agency could sometimes be difficult to keep stride with, but the uneventful weeks that follow have us often longing to return to that initial wave. But for the New York Jets and the rest of the NFL, the fun doesn’t necessarily have to end.

Even now two weeks after the opening of the free agency period, there still remains plenty of quality free agents who are still unsigned at this moment. Now, you’re not going to find a Le’Veon Bell or a C.J. Mosley at this stage, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still solid players left available.

In fact, sometimes the best bargain deals come at this stage in free agency. The Jets didn’t sign Pro Bowl returner Andre Roberts until over a week and a half after the start of free agency last season. Adrian Peterson rushed for 1,000 yards with the Washington Redskins last season and he wasn’t signed until August.

All of this means that there’s nothing stopping any of the following free agents from making big splashes with their new teams next season, perhaps even with the Jets. With that, let’s take a look at the top five remaining free agent targets for Gang Green.

GREEN BAY, WI – OCTOBER 22: Nick Perry #53 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates after recording a sack in the second quarter against the New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field on October 22, 2017 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. New York Jets free agents (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
GREEN BAY, WI – OCTOBER 22: Nick Perry #53 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates after recording a sack in the second quarter against the New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field on October 22, 2017 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. New York Jets free agents (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

5. Nick Perry, OLB

The Jets may have done a lot of great things in free agency, but they essentially ignored the edge rusher market and failed to improve that position in any way.

They retained reliable edge contributor Brandon Copeland and return de facto starter Jordan Jenkins but it’s hard to get excited about retaining players at a position that was already a major weakness. Elsewhere, the only edge rusher under contract that received any substantial playing time is the undrafted Frankie Luvu, but his play wasn’t necessarily anything special either.

As such, the Jets could still benefit from adding a veteran presence to their edge rusher depth chart and longtime Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Nick Perry could be a great fit. Perry put together the worst season of his seven-year career last year posting just 1.5 sacks in nine games prompting his release just ahead of free agency.

The 28-year-old has had a relatively successful career to this point and recorded a total of 18 sacks over his two prior seasons before faltering in 2018. Perry would step in and give the Jets a reliable veteran presence on the edge, immediately serving as the most experienced and accomplished player on the depth chart.

While he would be far from a true solution — the team would likely still look to the draft — Perry would give the Jets some assurance and come at a very small price, something that will be a common theme on this list.

The Jets could do much worse than giving Perry a cheap, short-term deal to come in and help the team out in the pass rushing department.

Next: 4. Austin Seferian-Jenkins

JACKSONVILLE, FL – AUGUST 25: Austin Seferian-Jenkins #88 of the Jacksonville Jaguars is tackled by Tyson Graham #32 of the Atlanta Falcons during a preseason game at TIAA Bank Field on August 25, 2018 in Jacksonville, Florida. New York Jets free agents (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
JACKSONVILLE, FL – AUGUST 25: Austin Seferian-Jenkins #88 of the Jacksonville Jaguars is tackled by Tyson Graham #32 of the Atlanta Falcons during a preseason game at TIAA Bank Field on August 25, 2018 in Jacksonville, Florida. New York Jets free agents (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) /

4. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE

The Jets have already made a move to bring one member of their 2017 roster back to the team with the signing of kicker Chandler Catanzaro and they will have the opportunity to do it again.

Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins looked well on his way to becoming a draft bust in the NFL due to personal issues that had kept him from reaching his full potential. But the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers second-round pick was able to turn his career, and life, around after being claimed off waivers by the Jets in September of 2016.

While he didn’t exactly play at an All-Pro level, Seferian-Jenkins would have by far the best year of his career in 2017 hauling in 50 catches for 357 yards and three touchdowns. He parlayed his success into a two-year, $10 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars but it’s safe to say his 2018 season didn’t go according to plan.

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Seferian-Jenkins would play just five games before finding himself on the injured reserve due to a core muscle injury. Now back on the open market, Seferian-Jenkins could look to revitalize his career once again with the Jets.

The team’s starting tight end position is currently locked up, hopefully for the distant future with second-year man Chris Herndon but the depth chart behind him is spotty at best. Seferian-Jenkins would serve as an immediate improvement over the likes of Eric Tomlinson, Jordan Leggett, and Daniel Brown giving the Jets a viable option in a two tight end set.

It wouldn’t be a high-impact signing, but it would be a nice story to see Seferian-Jenkins return to the place where he originally revived his career. New York would undoubtedly welcome him back with open arms.

Next: 3. T.J. Yeldon

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – NOVEMBER 11: T.J. Yeldon #24 of the Jacksonville Jaguars runs the ball against Indianapolis Colts in the fourth quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 11, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. New York Jets free agents (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN – NOVEMBER 11: T.J. Yeldon #24 of the Jacksonville Jaguars runs the ball against Indianapolis Colts in the fourth quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 11, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. New York Jets free agents (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

3. T.J. Yeldon, RB

The Jets may have snagged their star running back in free agency, but that doesn’t mean that their work is done. While Le’Veon Bell remains one of the few true bell cow (no pun intended) running backs in the NFL, it would still be helpful to acquire a reliable back to spell him from time to time.

Currently, third-year running back Elijah McGuire is slated to be the team’s top backup option. While he has shown some promise in the past, it’s hard to count on him as a true No. 2 running back. The Jets also have now second-year man Trenton Cannon under contract but he remains unproven as a running back and more of a special teamer at the moment.

As a result, the team could benefit from giving former Jacksonville Jaguars back T.J. Yeldon a small contract to serve as extra depth behind Bell. Yeldon, a former top-40 selection of the Jaguars, has starting experience and has fared pretty well in reserve duty for Jacksonville.

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While he never really made it as a starter, Yeldon has done a nice job as Leonard Fournette‘s backup over the last couple of years, especially with the latter’s lengthy injury history. The Alabama product has proven himself to be a very capable third-down receiving back with his pass blocking and receiving abilities.

Yeldon would give the Jets a more proven and experienced change-of-pace back behind Bell than the aforementioned McGuire. In fact, both players will be the same age come the start of the 2019 season so it’s not as if they’d be getting older at the position.

If anything, extra depth at the position is always a good thing especially considering the fact that Bell will likely be eased back into playing time after sitting out for a year. Yeldon remains one of the few young, cheap options that possess reasonable upside still on the market.

Hard to pass that up, especially for the expected price.

Next: 2. Aaron Lynch

CHICAGO, IL – November 11: Aaron Lynch #99 of the Chicago Bears rushes against Rick Wagner #71 of the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field on November 11, 2018, in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Lions 34-22. New York Jets free agents (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL – November 11: Aaron Lynch #99 of the Chicago Bears rushes against Rick Wagner #71 of the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field on November 11, 2018, in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Lions 34-22. New York Jets free agents (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

2. Aaron Lynch, OLB

As the old football idiom goes, “you could never have enough pass rushers.” And for the Jets, that certainly hasn’t been their problem over the past few years.

Finding a talented edge rusher has been quite the issue for the Jets for close to a decade now and while finding someone to step in and be an instant-impact starter at this stage is unlikely, they could still find players who will be productive.

Former San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Aaron Lynch is currently an anomaly as he is one of the few relatively young edge rushers with prior production still on the open market. As such, the Jets would be wise to snatch him up before someone else does.

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Lynch spent four seasons mostly as a rotational pass rusher and special teamer with San Francisco even picking up 12.5 sacks over his first two seasons. But the former fifth-round pick suffered through inconsistent play and weight concerns.

After a solid year in Chicago with the Bears last season in which he posted a 73.6 Pro Football Focus grade, good enough for the No. 28 edge in the NFL, Lynch now finds himself back on the open market. Surprisingly, he is still there multiple weeks past the initial wave of free agency despite his age and prior production.

At just 26-years-old, Lynch is the sort of cheap/upside combination that you look for at this stage in free agency and would be a great addition to the Jets edge rusher core. They’d still likely target one in the upcoming draft, but Lynch would give them young depth and special teams ability.

And those are two things that are great to have in the NFL.

Next: 1. John Sullivan

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – JANUARY 20: John Sullivan #65 of the Los Angeles Rams prepares to snap a ball against the New Orleans Saints during the second quarter in the NFC Championship game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 20, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. New York Jets free agents (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – JANUARY 20: John Sullivan #65 of the Los Angeles Rams prepares to snap a ball against the New Orleans Saints during the second quarter in the NFC Championship game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 20, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. New York Jets free agents (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

1. John Sullivan, C

It can be hard and darn near impossible to find a true starting candidate this late in free agency, but one such player could still be available on the market.

Despite being connected to some of the top centers on the open market in Matt Paradis and Mitch Morse, the Jets failed to address the position in free agency and instead sit in a precarious situation.

The team re-signed the versatile Jonotthan Harrison but he remains a better reserve option than an actual starter. It’s likely that the team will draft to fill the need but with no second-round pick, don’t expect that pick to come until the third round, barring any potential trades.

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A combination of Harrison and a third-round rookie could work, but it would be wise for the Jets to acquire a better veteran center in case the rookie isn’t ready to start from Week 1. One such target still available in free agency could be veteran John Sullivan.

Sullivan spent the last two seasons with the Los Angeles Rams after seven seasons with the Minnesota Vikings and a one-year stint with the Washington Redskins. The 34-year-old is far from a long-term solution but could serve as a veteran stop-gap while the Jets figure out the position for the long haul.

If anything, Sullivan represents a better backup option than Harrison who while excellent depth, has not shown any reason to consider him a viable starting candidate. While his 2018 season wasn’t particularly strong, Sullivan was praised for his work in 2017 anchoring one of the better offensive lines in football.

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Despite his age, Sullivan could step in and be the team’s Week 1 starter at center if the Jets draft plans don’t come to fruition. But if nothing else, it’s best to get that level of assurance rather than hoping for the best with what they already had.

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