The NFL free agency landscape received a considerable shift following the March 9th franchise tag deadline. Several top-tier players either received the tag or agreed to a long-term deal with their respective franchises.
However, there were also a surprising number of talents who were allowed to enter free agency.
The NY Jets, who happen to have the second-most available cap space at over $69 million at the time of writing, are assuredly monitoring these names.
One of these newly-anointed free agents would address a major positional need for the Jets — former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Shaquill Griffin.
The NY Jets’ need
New York’s pass defense was ranked as the fifth-worst in the league in terms of passing yards allowed per game (at 275.6).
While they have a substantial amount of cap space and draft capital to address this need, the franchise is currently slated to start Bryce Hall and Blessuan Austin as their starting cornerbacks.
This unit must be improved.
Shaquill Griffin’s upside
Griffin is a solid option as a starting cornerback. He was a Pro Bowl selection in 2019 and has established himself as a playmaking threat outside the hash marks. At just 25-years-old, he is also young enough to grow with a younger Jets roster.
The former UCF star has the makeup of a player who could provide value over the course of a multi-year contract. While his market value is expected to be in the neighborhood of $11 million per season, he has the type of ceiling to justify a big payday.
For the sake of context, this would make him the 17th-highest-paid cornerback in the league. It’s a steep price tag. However, players with the potential to be a No. 1 corner are an increasingly rare commodity in the modern NFL.
Perhaps New York can find and develop a gem in the draft. But a signing like Griffin would give the team’s depth chart a proven talent with a Pro Bowl-level ceiling.
It should also be noted that new Jets head coach Robert Saleh rose to the ranks of NFL head coach due to his phenomenal defensive production in San Francisco.
While Griffin has not yet risen to the ranks of a superstar like Richard Sherman, he is one of the best available options to fill this critical CB1 role.
The risk associated with the NY Jets signing Shaquill Griffin
For all of the good things Griffin would bring to the table, there are legitimate reasons for concern. Pro Football Focus, has him listed among their most overrated free agents of 2021.
They point out the fact that, while his 2019 season was spectacular, his 2020 campaign was a bit of a letdown. He surrendered a catch on a whopping 61.8 percent of the times he was targeted.
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There are several factors that could have contributed to this regression. Most obvious was the presence of the COVID-19 pandemic which altered the schedule and routines of every NFL franchise.
Each player also dealt with legitimate concerns for the health and safety of themselves and their loved ones. The weight of this should not be taken lightly.
Additionally, Griffin played for a Seahawks team that averaged the eighth highest point total in the league. The high-powered scoring of superstar Russell Wilson left opponents in a position where they had to throw early and often to keep pace.
The position’s elite can produce regardless of pass attempts again them. But this may have been a factor for the poor statistical metrics.
The entire Seahawks defense underperformed in 2020. It wasn’t just Griffin.
The Jets would be wise to seriously consider a play for Shaquill Griffin. While the aforenoted factors should prevent them from overspending (anything over that $11 million per season mark would be high), New York does have a clear need at the cornerback position.
After recently locking up standout safety Marcus Maye with the franchise tag, the Jets could form the makings of a formattable defensive backfield by adding another top defensive back.
This would be quite helpful for Saleh and his staff as they try to build the next great Jets defense.