It has been a strong start to 2021 for the NY Jets and their fans. The work is only just beginning, as New York is almost notorious for winning in the offseason instead of on the field.
General manager Joe Douglas and new head coach Robert Saleh will have their work cut out for them in order to bring the Jets their first playoff appearance in over a decade.
There has been a ton of speculation at positions of need and what to do with draft picks. While there are numerous opinions on how to move forward with the team, here is a selection of do’s and don’ts to hopefully guide the team in the right direction.
As much as there is to look forward to this coming season, there is a lot of uncertainty of what team will take the field come August. It isn’t a terrible thing for the Jets to be a bit unsure, as there are few bad options for the questions they have.
Quarterback remains the biggest question mark for the team, as trade and draft rumors have been the talk of the offseason.
From Deshaun Watson to Zach Wilson, the articles and predictions are seemingly neverending. It’s possible that there is a wrong choice, but the Jets are in a comfortable spot.
Still, what should they prioritize and what should they avoid this coming offseason?
Next: 1. The wide receiver situation
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NY Jets Do: Add a legitimate wide receiver
The Jets and Joe Douglas are likely still sore over the loss of Robby Anderson in free agency last year. The team does have a few promising receivers on the roster, especially in Denzel Mims. However, the Breshad Perriman experiment is likely over before it truly began.
Be it in free agency or the draft, the Jets need to find a pass-catcher for their quarterback. Thankfully for the team, there are a number of promising wide receivers that could be added to the roster this offseason.
Targets like Allen Robinson could be available for the team to sign, while mid-to-late round steals like Auburn’s Anthony Schwartz will likely fall right in the Jets’ lap come draft day.
Regardless of the players the team add, they must make sure that the receiving corps is not the same as it was in 2020.
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NY Jets Don’t: Be cheap in negotiations
Should the Jets look into Allen Robinson, or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers allow Chris Godwin to walk, Joe Douglas can’t afford to make the same mistake he made with Robby Anderson.
The Jets will have a lot of money to play with come free agency, assuming some expected roster cuts are made.
If Robby Anderson continues to play as well as he has with Teddy Bridgewater in the future, New York and their fans will likely be sick to their stomachs every time his name is mentioned. That is why they cannot afford to repeat history.
Godwin and Robinson clearly top this year’s free agency class of wide receivers. They are exactly the type of players the Jets need and must do whatever it takes to pay them. However, there is a good chance neither player hits the open market.
Ignoring top talent for cheaper options like Will Fuller would only be a retread. The Miami Dolphins spent a boatload of cash last season, even overpaying some players, and were one bad Tua Tagovoiloa game away from the playoffs.
This might not even be a concern. There is little doubt Joe Douglas would repeat the same mistakes.
Next: 2. The cap situation
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NY Jets Do: Make cuts to free up cap space
There are several players expected to be shown the door before the start of the league year, with obvious names in Alex Lewis and Henry Anderson lighting the path. The Jets are expected to be aggressive in free agency, so they will need all the money that they can play with to do so.
With the possibility of reaching over $100 million in spending money, New York should take a deep look at their salaries to see where loose ends could be cut loose. Considering the team is fresh off of a 2-14 season, there is a lot of room for improvement.
It’s an easy decision to make. If the team wants to bring in better talent, they will need to shell out the money to do so. Even if there are some small cap hits in the process, there is no harm in cutting loose players in order to bring in some that are better.
Building a strong roster on paper is a good place to start.
NY Jets Don’t: Cut Jamison Crowder
Remember that need at wide receiver? Jamison Crowder seemed to struggle to stay healthy last season, but almost all of the 2020 roster could say the same thing. Without a doubt, Crowder was the most productive player on offense.
While Adam Gase’s wide receiver screens will give any Jets fan flashbacks, Crowder was the one who could consistently turn them into big plays.
The argument for cutting Crowder is that, with $1 million in dead cap, New York would receive almost $10 million added to their cap space. That would make buying better talent that much easier.
Which is why I say don’t cut Jamison Crowder — trade him.
The Jets would likely not have much leverage in the situation, but a team who could use Crowder’s talents would come calling for the 27-year-old veteran. Crowder is a consistent playmaker whose biggest weakness is staying healthy.
But if the team can get a pick out of it, or just keep a reliable pair of hands on the roster for their quarterback, it’s better than cutting him for another team to pick up for less.
Next: 3. The running back situation
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NY Jets Do: Draft a young running back
NFL free agency is an exciting time, but the running back class this season is a bit underwhelming. The most attractive running backs are Kenyan Drake and Aaron Jones, who are likely closing in on their final days in their prime.
The Jets’ running back depth chart isn’t exactly screaming elite either, with the likes of Ty Johnson, Josh Adams, and La’Mical Perine set to be the current rotation.
As expected, the Jets are lucky enough to have an upcoming NFL Draft with a deep running back group.
North Carolina’s Michael Carter and Buffalo’s Jaret Patterson are prime examples of ball carriers who the Jets could snatch in the later rounds. With bigger needs on the roster, the Jets don’t have the option to spend an early draft pick on a running back.
NY Jets Don’t: Use a first-round pick on a running back
The running backs in the NFL today are a different breed. Players like Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, and Kareem Hunt were all excellent talent taken outside of the first round.
With the possibility of finding a late-round gem this draft, there is no reason for the Jets to spend Seattle’s first-round pick on a running back.
Najee Harris tore up college defenses this season, but he could be gone by the time the Jets are on the clock for the second time. Travis Etienne is a promising running back as well, but as previously mentioned, the Jets have too many needs to take a running back so early.
If New York has the opportunity to address their needs at cornerback, wide receiver, edge rusher, or offensive line with their second first-round pick, they shouldn’t hesitate to skip out on a running back.
Depending on the offensive scheming that new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur creates, there is a chance that the Jets might use a running back committee as opposed to a feature back similar to the offense seen in San Francisco.
There would still be a bit of uneasiness if the Jets decide to draft Etienne with their second-round pick. Wait until late in the draft, and let the pieces fall into place by themselves.
Next: 4. The quarterback situation
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NY Jets Do: Make the right call at quarterback
Without a doubt, the biggest headline for the Jets this offseason has been their ties to a potential trade with the Houston Texans for the elite Deshaun Watson. If the team is able to pull the trigger, the franchise will have its first top-notch quarterback since the days of Broadway Joe.
Even if the team doesn’t make the trade, or loses out on the deal to another bidder, there are two promising quarterbacks that will be available at No. 2 in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Justin Fields was long set to be the second signal-caller off the board, but BYU’s Zach Wilson has slipped into talks of being a strong number two this offseason.
It almost seems like the team cannot go wrong in any situation here. Watson, Fields, and Wilson are all talented players.
They have their ups and downs, and the process of building a team becomes much different depending on which is added in hopes of ending the Jets’ decades-long quarterback hunt.
There is no more important position than quarterback in the modern-day NFL. Even average teams can become elite with the right piece inserted into the offense.
Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh must be sure of who they want when the time comes to decide.
NY Jets Don’t: Stick with Sam Darnold
My opinion on Sam Darnold has changed rapidly since his days at USC. From being a bitter Penn State fan following his incredible Rose Bowl comeback to being an excited New York fan after his promising first start against the Detroit Lions in 2018.
Sadly, things did not play out so well.
Three years later, Darnold has likely taken his last snap for the Jets. For both sides, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Darnold is still incredibly young and has shown his ability to make big plays. However, to be a true boom or bust quarterback, the boom has to outweigh the bust.
If Darnold isn’t running 80 yards before throwing a perfect dart to a practice squad receiver, he’s likely forcing a duck ball into triple coverage. Yes, the hiring of Adam Gase stunted his growth. But like any deteriorating relationship, it’s best for both parties to go their separate ways.
I believe Sam Darnold still has the potential to be a good quarterback, but he has to be on the right team. San Francisco, New Orleans, or even spending a year behind Tom Brady in Tampa Bay would be ideal situations for Darnold.
He has a bright future ahead. Just not in New York.
Next: 5. A Deshaun Watson trade
NY Jets Do: Make a strong push for Deshaun Watson
The biggest story of the offseason around the NFL has been Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson requesting a trade from the Texans.
With the amount of draft capital the Jets have thanks to the Jamal Adams trade with Seattle, they immediately become a frontrunner to land the talented Clemson product. Considering they will miss out on Trevor Lawrence, it’s not a bad consolation prize.
Watson had an incredible season, despite being surrounded with little to no talent. Houston teammate J.J. Watt was allowed to find his own team not long ago, and Watson could easily be next.
If the Jets have the chance, Joe Douglas should do everything in his power to land Watson. Considering the Dolphins are also rumored to be interested in trading for Watson, Douglas cannot allow for a divisional rival to edge him out.
Forget about a stepping stone. If New York lands Deshaun Watson, they could easily become contenders.
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NY Jets Don’t: Trade Quinnen Williams
Perhaps a bit of a controversial take, but Quinnen Williams should be removed from any trade talk surrounding Deshaun Watson. After a slow start in year one, Williams turned up huge for New York under Gregg Williams in his second year.
So much for a sophomore slump.
With Williams gone, Robert Saleh must be salivating at the opportunity to turn Williams into one of the NFL’s best defensive tackles. That’s why Williams cannot be traded to any team, even if Watson is involved.
The Jets have an up-and-coming defensive line. With an edge rusher and cornerbacks, the team could easily put a league-best defense on the field. It’s no coincidence that the line has improved significantly once Williams took a giant leap in development.
If Williams is traded away, the Jets would be forced to watch him become an absolute game-wrecker somewhere else. Yes, the team would obtain their first real quarterback since Joe Namath, but Quinnen Williams is something special himself.
Keep him a Jet as long as possible.