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The NY Jets are set for a major roster overhaul this offseason. With a new coaching staff and an abundance of assets, the 2021 Jets are likely to look vastly different than the 2020 version of themselves.
The focus this offseason will undoubtedly be on the upcoming free agency period and the subsequent 2021 NFL Draft. Owners of around $70 million in cap space and a boatload of draft capital, the Jets are sure to be one of the most active teams this offseason.
But those aren’t the only routes they could take to explore the roster.
General manager Joe Douglas will surely explore every possibility as he looks to reshape the Jets’ roster this offseason. And that includes the ever-active trade market.
The most popular name connected to the Jets in trade rumors this offseason has been Deshaun Watson, but that’s not who we’re going to talk about today. Nor are we going to focus on the offensive side of the ball as we did a few days ago.
Instead, we’re going to shift our attention to defense and three players the Jets could look to target in a trade this offseason.
The Jets’ defense took a sizable step back in 2020 after a surprisingly impressive 2019 campaign. The hope is that the addition of new head coach Robert Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich will help reignite what was a porous unit this past season.
But the Jets need talent more than anything.
With that, let’s take a look at three realistic trade targets for the Jets on the defensive side of the ball.
Next: 3. Derek Barnett
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3. NY Jets trade target: Derek Barnett, DE, Philadelphia Eagles
Derek Barnett is no stranger to trade rumors. The 2017 first-round pick has failed to live up to expectations in Philadelphia, but remains a quality edge rusher and important piece in their front-seven.
Barnett got off to a quality start in his rookie season tallying five sacks despite playing a part-time role. He earned a very respectable 68.4 Pro Football Focus grade which ranked 59th out of all edge defenders.
Unfortunately, he’s failed to take that next step in the subsequent three seasons. This has partially been due to injury as he’s yet to play a full 16-game season and he was limited to just six games in 2018 as a result of a shoulder injury.
He’s been solid, but unspectacular with the Eagles. And given that he was the 14th overall selection, his lackluster play has been the source of various trade rumors over the past couple of years.
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While there are talks that the Eagles could actually be looking to extend Barnett this offseason, they could save considerable money if they were to trade him. And given their dire cap situation, that might be in their best interest.
At 6-foot-3, 259 pounds, Barnett could fill that prototypical 4-3 defensive end role in Robert Saleh’s defense that the Jets are desperately in need of.
With 12 sacks over the last two years, it’s clear that Barnett has the talent to be a reliable front-seven contributor. He’s not a superstar, but he’d be a worthwhile addition to the Jets’ pass-rush rotation for the right price.
The Jets need pass-rushers, and Barnett could be a capable and affordable one if the price is right.
Next: 2. Bradley Roby
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2. NY Jets trade target: Bradley Roby, CB, Houston Texans
The Jets might be eyeing a different player in a trade with the Houston Texans, but Deshaun Watson isn’t the only player on that roster who could be moved this offseason. Far from it, in fact.
One such player is cornerback Bradley Roby who’s coming off his second year in Houston and his best season since 2017.
The 28-year-old cornerback finished with a very solid 71.6 Pro Football Focus grade which ranked 19th at his position. It was his best grade since 2017 and one that ranked him as the Texans’ best defensive player.
He was, however, limited to just 10 games following a late-season suspension for PEDs that will cost him, as well as former teammate Will Fuller, the first game of the 2021 regular season.
But given the Jets’ need at the cornerback position and Roby’s excellent play in 2020, it might make some sense for the team to target him.
Roby holds a $10 million cap hit in 2021, but could be cut with just $2 million in dead cap. And if they opt to move on after one season, they would be hit with just a $1 million cap charge.
Roby’s flexible contract combined with his still-reliable play make him an interesting target. Especially if the Texans are willing to part ways for nothing more than a fifth or sixth-round pick as has been rumored.
Houston is set to undergo a complete rebuild and Roby could be a casualty of that. The Jets need a reliable veteran cornerback to provide stability at the position going into 2021.
Why not make a move?
Next: 1. Stephon Gilmore
1. NY Jets trade targets: Stephon Gilmore, CB, NY Jets
Admittedly, this one is a longshot for a multitude of reasons. But if the Jets were able to land a player like Stephon Gilmore without having to give up substantial draft capital, it would undoubtedly be worth it.
Gilmore is just two years removed from being named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year and has made three consecutive Pro Bowl appearances. He was pretty unanimously viewed as the best cornerback in football from 2018 to 2019.
But his play slipped a little this past year.
After posting two consecutive elite seasons, Gilmore finished the 2020 campaign with a middling 61.0 Pro Football Focus grade that ranked 61st at his position. He was merely average, despite two years of All-Pro preceding the 2020 season.
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That combined with the fact that the Patriots don’t seem primed to contend this season has led to rampant speculation that the team could look to trade their star cornerback.
Gilmore will be entering the final year of a five-year, $65 million contract he signed with the organization prior to the 2017 season. He will have a pretty hefty cap hit of $15 million, but if the Jets were to get the 2018 or 2019 version of Gilmore, it’s hard to say it wouldn’t be worth it.
That said, there are reasons as to why this trade is unlikely. For starters, the Patriots’ asking price might be more than the Jets are willing to pay for an aging cornerback coming off an average season.
And it’s hard to believe the Patriots would want to send Gilmore to a division rival. The same goes for the Jets who probably wouldn’t prefer sending over significant draft capital to their hated adversaries.
If New England’s asking price were to come down, it’s possible. But don’t count on this one getting done, no matter how star-studded it might appear on paper.