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The NY Jets may have started off slow, but they finished the first day of free agency with a bang. In total, the Jets made three signings and came away with a few of the top free agents at their respective positions.
The first move came in the afternoon when the team reportedly agreed to sign linebacker Jarrad Davis to a one-year deal worth up to $5.5 million. It was a low-key signing that filled a position of need, but it was hardly the game-changer Jets fans were looking for.
Then came the wave of free agents coming off the board including standout offensive linemen Joe Thuney and Corey Linsley. But finally, as the night began to set in, the Jets made a pair of very notable additions.
First it was wide receiver Corey Davis who the Jets signed for three-years, $37.5 million. Davis gives the Jets a high-end No. 2 receiver with No. 1 potential who is only 26-years-old.
Only around an hour later it was reported that the Jets had signed standout pass-rusher Carl Lawson from the Cincinnati Bengals. Ignore the sack numbers, Lawson was one of the best pass-rushers in football a year ago.
The Jets made some serious moves on day one, but their work is far from over. With holes up and down the roster, general manager Joe Douglas will surely be busy again as the second day of the legal-tampering period begins.
Fortunately, the Jets will have their fair share of prominent targets to choose from. Although they won’t be on this list, the likes of Kenny Golladay, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Richard Sherman, and Hunter Henry — among others — remain on the market.
But which players should the Jets sign on the second day of free agency? We take a look at four worthwhile additions.
Next: 4. Kerry Hyder
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4. The NY Jets should sign DE Kerry Hyder
The Jets made a major boost to their pass-rush in the form of Carl Lawson late Monday night. But their work at the position is far from over.
With the switch to a base 4-3 under new head coach Robert Saleh, the Jets will require some additional depth at defensive end. Lawson will be one of the starting ends, but the Jets don’t really have another.
That’s where someone like Kerry Hyder can step in and make a ton of sense.
An undrafted free agent out of Texas Tech in 2014, Hyder actually signed on with the Jets as a free agent shortly following the conclusion of the draft. While he never played in a game with the team, he did spend the entirety of his rookie season on the practice squad.
Hyder broke out as a rotational pass-rusher with the Detroit Lions in 2016 registering a career-high eight sacks before a torn Achilles wiped out a lot of his 2017 and 2018 seasons.
It wasn’t until this past year when he resurfaced again as a quality edge-rusher leading the Robert Saleh-led San Francisco 49ers with 8.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, and 18 QB hits.
Hyder was the 49ers’ most productive pass-rusher a year ago, and arguably their most productive defensive lineman. And given his familiarity with Saleh’s system, it seems like only a matter of time before the Jets give him a call.
At 29-years-old, he’s hardly a long-term solution. But Hyder is a capable three-down player who could fit in well in the Jets’ defensive line rotation in 2021.
Next: 3. Austin Blythe
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3. The NY Jets should sign C/OG Austin Blythe
The Jets missed out on the big fish in the offensive line market failing to beat Kansas City’s offer for Joe Thuney (let’s be real, no one was beating that offer) and somewhat surprisingly steering clear of the Corey Linsley sweepstakes.
As such, they find themselves in a bit of a predicament as they still plan to upgrade the interior offensive line in the offseason. But with the team reportedly planning to stick with Connor McGovern at center, their options seem rather thin.
David Andrews and Austin Reiter are solid alternatives to Thuney and Linsley, but both are true centers. That leaves the Jets exploring the guard market where a player like Austin Blythe could make some sense.
Blythe has been somewhat overlooked this offseason, partially because the Los Angeles Rams would like to re-sign him, but he’s developed into a quality player who has ample experience starting at both center and right guard.
The 28-year-old finished with a 69.3 Pro Football Focus grade in 2020 that ranked 11th at his position. While he struggled a bit in pass-protection surrendering four sacks, Blythe was tagged for only one penalty and was one of the better run-blocking guards in football.
His versatility will likely be appealing to someone like Joe Douglas and even though he played center last year in Los Angeles, he started the previous two seasons at guard.
If the Jets are set on McGovern playing center, they could opt for one of the older guards on the market. Gabe Jackson is someone who could be intriguing.
But Blythe is younger, more durable, more versatile, and will likely come cheaper. This wouldn’t be a bad move at all.
Next: 2. Shaquill Griffin
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2. The NY Jets should sign CB Shaquill Griffin
The cornerback market has developed incredibly slow this free-agency period and the top names remain on the market. That includes former Bengals’ cornerback William Jackson III and, a player the Jets should target, Shaquill Griffin.
Now, this one does come with a caveat. Griffin’s market could get a bit pricey for the Jets given that he’s just 25-years-old and is a former Pro Bowler.
But for the right price, this is definitely someone the Jets should consider.
Griffin was fantastic in 2019 finishing with a PFF grade of 78.0 that ranked 10th out of all cornerbacks in the NFL. He was rewarded with his first Pro Bowl nod, and at just 24-years-old, he looked like one of the best young defensive backs in football.
Then he took a step back in 2020 falling to a PFF grade of just 64.6 that ranked 49th out of 121 qualifiers. Not bad, and still starting-caliber, but a noticeable drop-off from the year prior.
Griffin is still expected to receive a ton of interest on the open market, including from the Seahawks who would like to re-sign him. But if his market doesn’t grow too pricy, the Jets should get involved.
The Jets need cornerback help with virtually no starting-caliber player on the roster, unless you count Bryce Hall who showed promise down the stretch. They’ll likely address the position in the draft, but targeting a player like Griffin would go a long way as well.
If not Griffin, keep an eye on veteran Richard Sherman reuniting with Robert Saleh in New York. And, of course, nickel cornerback K’Waun Williams — another former 49er — continues to be connected to the Jets.
Next: 1. Curtis Samuel
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1. The NY Jets should sign WR Curtis Samuel
The Jets already upgraded their wide receiver corps with the addition of Corey Davis on Monday. But perhaps the best free-agent target at the wide receiver position remains unsigned going into the second day of free agency.
And no, we’re not talking about Kenny Golladay.
Curtis Samuel has been a dream target for quite a few Jets fans given his dynamic playmaking ability and fit in the team’s new offensive system.
Samuel had a career year in 2020 finishing with 77 catches for 851 yards. While the majority of that production came out of the slot, he has experience playing all over the offense including out wide and in the backfield as a running back.
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In fact, Samuel has 414 rushing yards and five scores on the ground over the last three years. He’s an exciting swiss-army knife who is tailor-made for Mike LaFleur’s offense.
Samuel’s ability to thrive in the underneath passing game makes him exactly the type of wide receiver LaFleur and the Jets are looking for, and just because they signed Davis, doesn’t mean they won’t be interested.
That said, signing Samuel could spell the end of Jamison Crowder’s time with the Jets. New York could move on and save around $10 million — money that could be used to sign Samuel.
Both players would occupy a similar role in the offense making their skill sets a little redundant. Still, it’s hard to argue that it wouldn’t be worth it.
If the Jets are going to make any player a priority on the second day of free agency, it should be Curtis Samuel.
*Honorable mention that wasn’t mentioned — running back Jamaal Williams*