The NY Jets had money to burn this offseason. Thankfully they passed on four players during free agency that’ll pay off in the long run. Here are details.
The NY Jets have a sterling reputation for overpaying players that are either past their prime or bad fits during free agency. On the official start of the new league year on Wednesday, March 18 the Jets experienced a painful reminder of that reputation when they released veteran cornerback Trumaine Johnson.
Heading into the 2018 offseason, Johnson was considered one of the best young lanky corners in the game. He wiggled free from the LA Rams and reached the open market. That’s where he convinced Gang Green that he was worthy of a five-year $72.5 million contract with $34 million guaranteed.
Just a short two years later, the team released Johnson and designated him a June 1 cut which means they’ll spread the damage from his contract over the next two calendar years. He’ll cost $4 million in 2020 and $8 million in 2021.
Heading into this offseason the team has over $50 million in cap space and has already made several key additions to the squad. Although sometimes it’s not about the touchdowns you score, it’s about the mistakes you don’t make.
Thankfully the NY Jets decided to pass on four players during the free agency period that would’ve put the team in a huge bind heading into 2020 and the future. Here are all the details on the mistakes they avoided by passing on these players.
Next: 4. Versatile Patriots stud
4. Kyle Van Noy
When rumors surfaced that the NY Jets were doing their homework on former New England Patriots defensive stud Kyle Van Noy, many fans were intrigued.
The former BYU product was the 40th overall pick in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. He was best known for his ability to make plays whether that be sacks (26), forced fumbles (17), or interceptions (seven) during his collegiate run with the Cougars.
Sadly he battled the injury bug and disappointment in the pros with the Lions which ultimately led him to the trade block. The Patriots swooped in and exchanged some late-round compensation for his services.
He started out as a backup, but eventually worked himself into the starting lineup and became a key cog for Bill Belichick. This offseason he reached unrestricted free agency with two Super Bowl rings and coming off of the best year of his professional career (6.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and 15 quarterback hits).
The NY Jets and other teams were mainly interested in the former New England star because of his versatility. Initially, when we heard the team’s interest it seemed to make a ton of sense. Gang Green desperately needed pass rush and intangibles to boot.
Shortly after the team’s rumored interest, the Miami Dolphins came swinging for the fences and snagged Kyle Van Noy on a four-year $51 million contract that featured $30 million guaranteed.
This would’ve been too rich for my blood and quite frankly a steep overpay.
Van Noy is a good player, but aren’t we all a bit weary when a player leaves the lovely confines of New England? We’ve seen it time after time. A player sucks, goes to New England in their system and looks good, then leaves on a big payday and then sucks again. No thank you.
Next: 3. Overpriced pass rusher
3. Robert Quinn
If you’ve been reading our morning free agency columns over the last several weeks you likely saw us put pass rusher Robert Quinn in the “surprising free agents that could make sense for the NY Jets category.”
The reason why the Jets were so interested on the surface is because of the potential value of adding him to the team. That term “value” goes two-fold:
- Value to the team as a pass rusher.
- Gang Green hasn’t had a pass rusher that opponents had to fear on a consistent basis since John Abraham. That was a very long time ago and since then they’ve had guys step up in spurts, but nothing on that level. Quinn is coming off of his best season since 2014 (11.5 sacks) and would’ve added a dynamic edge presence.
- Value in terms of dollars and cents.
- Ultimately everything comes down to the brass tax, the finances. Robert Quinn just completed his third consecutive season with his third different team (LA Rams, Miami Dolphins, and most recently with the Dallas Cowboys). If you pair the revolving door with his lack of production (only one double-digit sack season in five years), it seemed like his price would be manageable on the open market.
Well safe to say when the final numbers came out on his contract, nearly every fan of the NY Jets and perhaps across the NFL spit out their drink. Quinn signed a record-breaking five-year $70 million contract that featured $30 million guaranteed.
Robert is 29 (will be 30 by the start of the 2020 season) that would’ve been a bad investment by the Jets. Too often people pay players for what they did in the past, not for what they can do in the future.
Next: 2. Versatile OL stud
2. Halapoulivaati Vaitai
Entering year No. 2 for general manager Joe Douglas, we should know who he is and what he’s about. Although this isn’t a typical second year for a general manager.
Douglas, as we’re all aware, entered the fray after the 2019 NFL Draft and free agency last year. This meant that his first imprint on the roster wouldn’t occur until March of 2020.
If the first few days of the legal tampering period and free agency period have taught us anything, it’s Joe Douglas has a plan.
If you study their first few reported signings the term that is the connective tissue to all of these moves is value. Douglas has seemingly drawn a line in the sand on what he’s willing to spend for each prospect that the team is interested in and he won’t go beyond those numbers.
Here are the details:
George Fant, offensive tackle
- Three-year deal worth $27.3 million (max value of $30 million) with minimal guarantees that essentially make it a one-year deal that can extend to multiple years.
Alex Lewis, offensive guard
- Three-year deal worth $18.6 million.
Connor McGovern, center
- Three-year deal worth $27 million that includes $18 million fully guaranteed.
Brian Poole, cornerback
- One-year deal worth $5 million (all of which is fully guaranteed).
Despite addressing a variety of needs, the team refused to overpay anyone. Free agency can be a crazy time where you could be bidding against 31 other teams or you could be bidding against yourself.
One of those bidding wars turned Halapoulivaati Vaitai from a possible target to a distant memory. Vaitai is a versatile offensive tackle, formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles, and when he reached the open market this offseason, a lot of people connected the dots to the Jets.
Joe Douglas worked with the Eagles prior to joining the Jets and the team has a desperate need in the trenches. Again despite those factoids and connections, Joe Douglas stuck to his guns and allowed someone else to overpay and boy did they.
The Detroit Lions handed him a five-year $50 million contract. While the average per year ($10 million) seems rich, the length and guarantees are even more bizarre.
Gang Green was able to pass on this contract and get other versatile linemen that can play multiple positions at a fraction of the cost. That’s what I call good spending.
Next: 1. The entire CB market
1. The entire free-agent cornerback market
Last but certainly not least is the cornerback market as a whole. It was impossible to pick any one contract because the whole lot of them were coo coo for cocoa puffs.
Let’s take a closer look at the most ridiculous deals that were doled out on the open market:
Byron Jones to the Miami Dolphins on a five-year deal for $82 million with $54.5 million fully guaranteed.
Trae Waynes to the Cincinnati Bengals on a three-year deal for $42 million.
Bradley Roby to the Houston Texans on a three-year deal for $36 million.
James Bradberry to the NY Giants on a three-year deal for $45 million with $32 million guaranteed.
At least Byron Jones, when healthy, is considered one of the top five cornerbacks in football. But all of those contracts are bat crazy and have reset the market.
There’s no denying the NY Jets have a huge need at outside corner. The team was rumored in the Jones and Bradberry conversations leading up to free agency, but fans should be glad the team passed.
For example, look at what they did with their own free agent slot corner Brian Poole. He took a flier deal with the Jets after three uneventful years with the Atlanta Falcons. On paper, he cashed in and had an exceptional season with Gang Green. Despite that, he returned on a team-friendly one-year $5 million contract (fully guaranteed).
Just because you have money, that doesn’t mean you should blow it. My fiance always calls me cheap, but I kindly remind her that I’m not cheap, I’m selective. That’s what Joe Douglas has been early throughout the free agency process.
While a few of these players could’ve helped the Jets win a few more games, it simply wasn’t worth the investment long-term. Thanks, Joe Douglas for passing on all these guys!