NY Jets: 2 free agent signings land on ESPN’s best value deals list

NY Jets (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

The NY Jets made a number of free-agent signings this offseason and two of those signings made it on ESPN’s recently-released top value deals list.

The NY Jets have done an excellent job of scoring bargain deals this offseason. New general manager Joe Douglas has refused to overpay for the top free agents in stark contrast to the ideology of the previous regime.

As opposed to the high-profile splashes former general manager Mike Maccagnan would make, Douglas has opted for a more low-key approach. It remains to be seen if it will pay off long-term, but it has landed the team a few steals in the process.

So much so that they’re beginning to receive leaguewide praise.

ESPN recently released a list of their five best value signings of the offseason and the Jets managed to make the list twice. The two signings that made the list were Brian Poole and Alex Lewis — both of which were re-signed.

Poole was one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks last season receiving a 79.0 grade from Pro Football Focus which ranked ninth among all cornerbacks. That figure also ranked as the No. 1 slot cornerback in the league playing alongside a very thin cornerback group.

Yet despite this, Poole received just a $2 million pay raise from his 2018 salary of $3 million. The Jets paid the 27-year-old a one-year, $5 million contract despite a superb level of play last season.

ESPN contributed to Poole’s praise by sharing the following statistic.

“Based on NFL Next Gen Stats’ completion probability, Poole allowed minus-98 air yards over expectation (CAYOE) last season, which trailed only Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson for best among cornerbacks — and it was the best overall among slot corners.”

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It’s pretty astonishing that Poole was signed to such a modest deal and it most definitely is one of the steals of the offseason.

But while more focus has been placed on the excellent value of deals to players like Jordan Jenkins and Pierre Desir, ESPN insists that not only was Alex Lewis’ contract one of the best on the Jets, but it was one of the best value signings in the entire league.

Lewis was signed to a three-year, $18.6 million contract that includes an out clause after the first season. Essentially, the veteran guard has a $3 million cap hit in 2020 and the Jets could move on after just one season with only $1.6 million in dead cap.

Given his quality of play last season, that’s pretty impressive.

Lewis was an instant upgrade over Kelechi Osemele at left guard and while his play tailed off as the season went on, he showed enough promise to be considered a starting-caliber player going into 2020.

ESPN had some high praise for the former Baltimore Ravens draft pick citing his high pass-block win rate.

“[Lewis] ranked 12th in PBWR among guards and second among guards in the last year of their contract, behind only New England’s Joe Thuney (who was assigned the franchise tag by the Patriots). It was an improvement from the season prior, but he was still pretty solid in 2018, too. With Baltimore that season, he was a roughly average pass-blocker.”

Jets fans might remember Joe Thuney as the team’s top target in free agency this offseason before he was snatched up by the New England Patriots. To be talked about in the same sentence as the 2019 All-Pro is quite the honor.

Both Poole and Lewis are evidence of a changing of the guards of sorts on One Jets Drive. This is a new era under Joe Douglas and whether it fails or not, at least we could be assured that he won’t be regretting too many of his free-agent signings.

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Perhaps instead of free-agent busts, we’ll be talking more about free-agent steals.