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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won Super Bowl 55 last Sunday, following a dominant 31-9 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
It’s the Buccaneers’ first Super Bowl win since 2002 and comes just six seasons after they finished with the same 2-14 record that the Jets accumulated in 2020.
With the Super Bowl now in the books, the NY Jets offseason is finally upon us.
And while the scoreline on Sunday rightly suggests a completely one-sided affair, there were a lot of takeaways to be made from the displays on both sides.
Here are four things the Jets should do this offseason following the Super Bowl.
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1. The NY Jets must move on from Sam Darnold
As bad as the Kansas City Chiefs were on offense, one man who stood out was, as always — quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Despite the defeat, the Chiefs could have easily scored had dropped catches from the likes of Tyreek Hill, Demarcus Robinson, and Darrel Williams gone their way.
The Jets need this type of superstar to give them a chance of success going forward. Unlike the Chiefs, their roster is nowhere near where it needs to be to contend, but it all starts with getting the quarterback position right.
Elsewhere, the presence and impact of Tom Brady’s arrival at quarterback in Tampa Bay completely changed the culture of the Buccaneers franchise.
One thing that new Jets head coach Robert Saleh will be looking to solve urgently is that winning culture mentality and adding a new quarterback could provide that impact.
Sam Darnold is becoming increasingly likely to leave the Jets. He is a talented player, but he’s ultimately been dealt a poor hand with an inconsistent supporting cast around him and a dreadful coaching situation that has ultimately halted his development.
Entering now his fourth year in the NFL, the feel-good factor surrounding Darnold being a true franchise quarterback for the Jets has well and truly worn off. It’s best for both parties that he moves on.
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A trade for Deshaun Watson, someone who has the ability to create something out of nothing like Mahomes, could have a similar impact on the Jets that Brady’s arrival in Tampa Bay had.
While the Jets’ offensive targets certainly aren’t anywhere near as explosive as the Buccaneers, the impact of adding an elite level playmaker would certainly aid their prospects even in the short term.
Any trade for Watson would obviously come at a high price and the more conventional option for the Jets is looking at the upcoming draft for a quarterback and taking Zach Wilson at No. 2 overall.
Either way, the change in fortunes to the Buccaneers this season, as evident in Sunday’s game, demonstrates how crucial having a star quarterback is in football. Getting that position right is the key piece to becoming more successful.
Next: Protecting their new QB
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2. The NY Jets need to bolster their offensive line
One of the key takeaways of the Bucs win was how much it proved the importance of having a well-built offensive line.
The Chiefs were down to their bare bones with injuries up front, making it easy for the Bucs to create relentless pressure on Patrick Mahomes and his dropbacks, who ended up spending much of his evening running away from Tampa Bay rushers.
The pressure Mahomes faced was an all too familiar sight for the Jets this season, who allowed pressure in 2.5 seconds or less on 28 percent of their dropbacks in 2020 — the worst rate in the whole NFL.
And while their quarterback position takes precedent, they must drastically boost their offensive line this offseason. We’ve explained why the Jets can still take plenty of talent away from the early rounds of the draft without having to select Penei Sewell at No. 2 overall.
Targeting Ohio State guard Wyatt Davis, an athletic interior line prospect who could fit perfectly into a versatile scheme in Mike LaFleur’s future offense, would make a lot of sense to use their second first-round selection on.
They could also target Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater (if he’s still available), who makes up for his lack of size with his quick and powerful athleticism. He could also adapt on the inside at guard in the NFL, making him a more-than-useful option.
In free agency, going for Joe Thuney makes a lot of sense for the Jets as we recently outlined. Corey Linsley, Brandon Scherff, and Alejandro Villaneuva are among other options that could become potential targets this offseason.
The Jets cannot afford to hold back their new quarterback with poor offensive line play in 2021, as the Chiefs did in Super Bowl 55.
Should the Jets keep their early-round picks or any draft ammunition a trade for Darnold could bring, they should strongly consider bolstering with a top offensive lineman, as well as utilizing their extensive salary cap this offseason.
Next: Targeting a Super Bowl winner
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3. The NY Jets should target Shaquil Barrett in free agency
Having one of the best pass rushes in the entire NFL, the Buccaneers defense completely shut down the most explosive offense in football last Sunday.
That mix of youth and experience across their defensive starters against the Chiefs, and throughout the season for that matter, was perfect and Tampa Bay has been hugely successful in complementing their draft selections on defense with some elite free agency signings on short-term deals.
Over the past few years, they’ve managed to acquire a pair in Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul that have become one of the most dangerous pass-rushing duos.
Barrett is available this free agency and will likely demand a significant salary after another dominant season. He played his part in the Bucs defensive performance, and while he wasn’t as statistically explosive as his peers, he still recorded a sack on Mahomes.
After their Super Bowl triumph, Bruce Arians and company will be desperate to keep his team together and bring back Barrett, who will undoubtedly demand a significant salary after another dominant season.
But with the contracts of stars like Chris Godwin and Lavonte David also expiring, they may not be able to afford all three. They enter the offseason without a huge amount of cap space available, so there is a definite possibility that Barrett will be available.
If so, the Jets should make signing Barrett a priority.
Robert Saleh built his 49ers defense around powerful edge rushers. If he wants to run a similar scheme with the Jets, their recruitment in this position is crucially important.
Barrett’s experience would complement any talent drafted early in the upcoming draft, just like it has in Tampa. And considering the progress of Quinnen Williams in 2020, adding an elite edge alongside him could propel his development even further.
Saleh needs a leader off the edge and that is exactly what Barrett would bring to the Jets.
Next: More help on defense
4. The NY Jets should improve their secondary early in the 2021 NFL Draft
Todd Bowles deserves an awful lot of credit for characterizing his Tampa Bay defense on Sunday and a lot of Jets will be pleased about his success.
And while the stats show how well the pass rush performed, the Buccaneers’ secondary completely shut out Kansas City’s receivers.
Looking at their starting defense on Sunday, six members had been taken in the top three rounds of drafts since 2018. Of those six, three were defensive backs — only Jordan Whitehead wasn’t a top-three round pick (taken in the fourth in 2018).
Brian Poole is also set to hit the open market, and despite an injury-riddled 2020, he still managed to rank 10th among cornerbacks this season. He’s a valuable asset to keep around.
Bryce Hall, drafted in the fifth last year, looks to be an integral piece for the Jets secondary moving forward, but other rookies including Ashtyn Davis and Lamar Jackson have been less impressive than expected this year.
Even with the likes of Maye and Poole, no team produced a worse outside coverage grade than the Jets this season.
The Jets were unbelievably poor at cornerback, specifically under Gregg Williams in 2020, and need urgent help in the position. And while they may not re-sign Poole, they must find a way to bolster their secondary in their early selections.
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The Jets haven’t selected a cornerback in the first three rounds since Dexter McDougle in 2014 but have now five picks in those rounds in this year’s draft alone. Changing this is a real priority.
Jaycee Horn has been a player many are highlighting for the Jets to use their first-round pick from Seattle, and we’ve selected the likes of Tyson Campbell and Ifeatu Melifonwu in the middle rounds of mock drafts recently. There are plenty of options available to them.
Overall, the Jets have just $8.4 million currently devoted to their cornerback and safety positions in 2021, the lowest in the league.
Interestingly, the Buccaneers are second lowest at $11.7 million. Many of their recent draft stars in the secondary are still on rookie contracts, and they’ve been built around more experienced pros across their defense.
Considering how successful the Buccaneers were this season, the Jets should learn a thing or two about their strategy.