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For the NY Jets to achieve greatness, they have to begin with 25 quality starters (including special teams). The focus of these offseason moves should fit the Joe Douglas/Robert Saleh vision for NFL success in 2021 and beyond.
In terms of a core-25, the Jets have left tackle Mekhi Becton, wide receivers Jamison Crowder and Denzel Mims, defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, unsigned safety Marcus Maye, and missing-in-action linebacker C.J. Mosley, along with punter Braden Mann and long snapper Thomas Hennessy.
There are also a few robust role players between defensive linemen Folorunso Fatukasi and John Franklin-Myers, cornerbacks Bryce Hall and Javelin Guidry, linebacker Blake Cashman, center Connor McGovern, running backs La’Mical Perine and Ty Johnson, and wide receiver Braxton Berrios.
Expect at least 30 new players on the 2021 Jets roster, between re-signings, unrestricted free agents, draft picks, and undrafted free agents. That means over half of this current roster is on the bubble.
According to Over The Cap, the Jets are now $75 million under the $180 million projected salary cap. It will take most of that money to entice free agents to fill this team’s most glaring holes.
That means that, in order to re-sign all their top un-contracted players from 2020, the Jets will require more significant cuts.
Other unproductive veterans not long for Florham Park — following Henry Anderson’s departure (the worst re-signing of the Mike Maccagnan ‘error’) — include guards Alex Lewis and Greg Van Roten and tight end Ryan Griffin.
Here’s a battle plan involving all aspects of offseason activity for general manager Joe Douglas to provide head coach Robert Saleh the talent he needs to coach up a storm.
Next: 1. Re-signings
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1. NY Jets’ re-signings
Secondary – Marcus Maye ($12 million), Brian Poole ($5 million), Matthias Farley ($2 million)
Maye is this team’s defensive heart and soul and will eventually get paid to stay — even if that means slapping him with a 2021 franchise tag. Poole is one of the league’s top nickel backs. Farley is a special teams captain.
Linebacker – Neville Hewitt ($5 million), Patrick Onwuasor ($4 million), Frankie Luvu ($2 million)
Hewitt was one of the Jets’ top defenders in 2020. Onwuasor endured an injury-riddled lost season in green and white while the overachieving and undersized Luvu has earned his contract tender. Late-season addition Bryce Hagar also deserves strong consideration.
Offensive Line – Pat Elflein ($5 million)
Neither Joe Thuney nor Brandon Scherff will likely ever play in the swamps of New Jersey. Elflein exhibited his first-round grade after a slow start to his career in Minnesota.
Quarterback – Joe Flacco ($3 million)
Don’t forget the Jets’ best in-game quarterback in 2020. The Delaware product moved the ball down the field with the same lack of offensive tools as Darnold. No matter who steps under center, the Jets need a reliable veteran backup.
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Running Back – Josh Adams ($2 million)
The former Notre Dame star is another solid roster talent worthy of a contract tender. Like last season, he’d likely start 2021 on the practice squad before getting his shot in new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur’s system.
Wide Receiver – Jeff Smith ($2 million)
The former Boston College QB flashed explosive skills in training camp the past two years before injuries, and a lack of reps derailed it all. The Jets retain exclusive rights and would be wise to keep him on the roster.
Next: 2. Free Agency
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2. NY Jets’ free-agent signings
Wide Receiver – T.Y. Hilton ($13 million) and Curtis Samuel ($13 million)
It’s hard to imagine Joe Douglas giving $20 million per year to Allen Robinson or JuJu Smith-Schuster. Indianapolis’ Hilton would provide a powerful veteran presence paired with Mims and Crowder. Samuel has been a versatile game-changer for the Panthers.
Running Back – Jerick McKinnon ($4 million)
The 49ers’running back is the closest thing the Jets have had since Brad Smith, versatile enough to either line up in the slot or under center as QB. His talent projects as this team’s opening game starter.
Fullback – Kyle Juszczyk ($4 million)
The Jets haven’t had a legit fullback since Lex Hilliard and Tommy Bohannon’s glory days. That was also the last time this franchise had a competent running game. Plus he’s another ex-Niner.
Offensive Line – Corey Linsley ($11 million)
In terms of bolstering their offensive line, the Jets’ most substantial move can make them fix two positions by signing the Packers star center and shifting McGovern to guard.
Defensive End – Carl Lawson ($10 million)
All the talk about giving $20 million to the Ravens’ erratic headache Matt Judon can make one retch. This Bengals’ free agent would deliver twice the effort for half the price. Do the math.
Linebacker – Denzel Perryman ($7 million)
Don’t be shocked if the Jets draft more than one linebacker. They probably need three or four. Perryman is an old-school punisher whose head-knocking ways with the Chargers would raise excitement levels throughout this organization.
Cornerback – Richard Sherman ($7 million)
Sherman’s veteran leadership, gridiron intelligence, and affection for Saleh all make this aging star a natural addition to this rebuilding roster. The Stanford product would do wonders in the locker room, particularly for the young cornerback unit.
Next: 3. Mock Draft
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3. NY Jets’ 2021 NFL Mock Draft
2nd Overall – Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
We’ve heard about the injuries and the weak competition he’s faced. But those “character issues” are what they would’ve said about Joe Namath or Jim McMahon. Time to reset the clock and enjoy the ride.
Pick 23rd overall – Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
This pick assumes top-tier edge rushers Kwity Paye and Gregory Rousseau will be off the board. Collins would thrive under Saleh with his abilities to attack from across the front-seven, including the edge, and cover tight ends over the middle. If not Collins, Azeez Ojulari would be a great alternative.
34th Overall – Ifeatu Melinfonwu, CB, Syracuse
Most NFL Draft fast-risers wind up as disappointments, usually about as good as their original projection. This Orange crusher may be an exception to the rule, with his size, speed, smarts, and physical presence.
66th Overall – Michael Carter, RB, North Carolina
We know that La’Mical Perine will not lead this team to a Super Bowl. The 5-foot-8 Carter is an electrifying scatback. If not Najee Harris, Travis Etienne, or UNC teammate Javonte Williams at pick 34, get Carter.
86th Overall – Pete Werner, LB, Ohio State
A prototypical NFL high-impact SAM linebacker best suited for a 4-3 defense. His size, power, and athleticism make him a preeminent run-stopper, but he possesses the gridiron instincts to play all three downs.
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107th Overall – Shaun Wade, DB, Ohio State
One of this draft’s most intriguing players, Wade is an instinctive ballhawk able to play anywhere across the defensive backfield. The Buckeyes star can thrive in the slot or lined up next to Maye to disrupt in coverage.
147th Overall – Darius Stills, DT, West Virginia
Joe Douglas has been checking out Stills as a late-round rotational lineman to play along with Quinnen Williams and Folorunso Fatukasi. The Mountaineer mauler — who clogs the middle like ex-Jet Damon Harrison or Chicago’s Bilal Nichols — could project as a 2022 starter.
155th Overall – Ihmir Smith-Marsette, WR, Iowa
While Kevin Stepherson of Jacksonville State likely has the most Day 3 upside, the Jets’ interest in this local Newark product makes much sense. Smith-Marsette is 6-foot-2 and explosive with great hands and a huge chip on his shoulder.
199th Overall – Matt Bushman, TE, BYU
Large and powerful, with a proven dynamic in the passing game with BYU teammate Wilson. The downside is he’s a 25-year-old, recently back from his LDS church mission and multiple injuries, so what you see is what you get.
Next: 4. Undrafted free agents
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4. NY Jets’ undrafted free agent signings
Riley Patterson, K, Memphis
The Jets have not had a competent kicker since the last GM low-balled All-Pro Jason Myers out of town. Such a talent should compete in training camp
Grant Stuard, LB, Houston
An undersized, overachieving headhunter with true leadership skills who could go late Day 3. An ideal practice squad candidate.
Aashari Crosswell, S, Arizona State
Croswell is a physical and versatile back with mad skills. Like LSU’s JaCoby Stevens who has been on the Jets’ radar, Crosswell can be sloppy but delivers with his nasty attitude.
Zach Davidson, TE, Central Missouri
This 6-foot-7 tight end was one of the most dominant small-school athletes ever produced in Warrensburg, MO. Davidson’s also a talented punter.
Jhamon Ausbon, WR, Texas A&M
The Aggies agile leading receiver left the team before the season to prepare for his NFL career. That goal could have advanced by playing, not sitting.