NY Jets: 3 best signings of 2021 free agency so far

NY Jets (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) /
NY Jets
NY Jets /

NY Jets Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

The NY Jets have been a fairly active team thus far in free agency signing a total of eight players. And despite what many might seem to think, they’ve been one of the NFL’s biggest spenders too.

Just five teams at the time of writing have spent more than the Jets as general manager Joe Douglas and company have dished out over $100 million in signings through the first six days of free agency.

They missed out on the likes of Joe Thuney and William Jackson III, but that’s just how free agency goes. You can’t sign every player you want.

That said, the Jets have still managed to land quite a few notable players while also solidifying the depth on the roster. Douglas has notoriously believed in a draft-first mentality and that seems to be his approach once again.

Build through the draft. Supplement in free agency. But if the talent is there at the right price, he’s proven this offseason that he isn’t afraid to pounce.

Time will tell if the work Douglas has done this free-agency period will be enough to transform a team that went 2-14 a year ago. The roster still has plenty of holes, but the Jets have done work in free agency to vastly improve it.

That includes adding players at important positions of need while also avoiding the dreaded overpay for a top name on the market, a la Mike Maccagnan.

It’s still early, but we did our best to pinpoint the three best signings that the Jets have made through the first six days of free agency.

Next: 3. Keelan Cole

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3. Keelan Cole, WR, NY Jets

While the signing of Keelan Cole may have gotten lost in the shuffle of last week’s free-agency frenzy, it has a chance to go down as one of the most underrated moves from any team this offseason.

Cole is more than the depth piece he was signed to be. The 27-year-old is a rock-solid NFL receiver complete with big-play ability and crisp route-running that make him an intriguing fit in Mike LaFleur’s offense.

Cole spent four years in Jacksonville bursting on to the scene in his rookie season with 42 catches for a team-leading 748 yards. As an undrafted rookie out of Division-II Kentucky Wesleyan, Cole led his team in receiving.

That doesn’t happen very often.

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While he never took the next step toward stardom that many in Duval County wanted him to, he developed into a reliable, dynamic NFL wideout.

Over the past three seasons, Cole has hauled in 117 catches for 1,494 yards with his best season coming in 2020 when he finished with a career-best 55 catches for 642 yards and five touchdowns.

Impressive production given that he was the No. 2 option in a lackluster Jacksonville passing attack. Cole is a player who would start on more than a handful of NFL rosters, and he’s being asked to be the Jets’ No. 4 wide receiver.

At just $5.5 million, this could be one of the best value deals of the offseason.

Next: 2. Corey Davis

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2. Corey Davis, WR, NY Jets

Cole may be the unheralded wide receiver addition this offseason, but all eyes will be on Corey Davis as the Jets host a new-look wide receiver corps in 2021.

Davis was the Jets’ first big splash of free agency with the team inking him to a three-year, $37.5 million deal on the first day of the legal tampering period. That’s a contract that could look very good once the salary cap inevitably explodes over the next two years.

The former fifth overall pick battled injuries early in his career, but finally broke out in 2020 finishing with 65 catches for 984 yards and five touchdowns, all of which were career-highs.

This was despite the fact that he missed two games and was the No. 2 option in a run-heavy Tennessee Titans offense. Davis is a high-end No. 2 receiver who has a chance to become a true No. 1 with the Jets.

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound wideout is as physical as they come making contested catches seem routine on a weekly basis. He’s also a high-caliber blocker in the run game which should give the Jets two of the best run-blocking wideouts in football when paired with Denzel Mims.

And at only 26-years-old, Davis is just entering his prime. The 2020 version of Davis was the best we have seen so far.

Now imagine what he could do in an offense that places a greater emphasis on the short-to-intermediate passing game where he’s allowed to be a featured target.

Kenny Golladay got the big payday. But Corey Davis could be the better signing when all is said and done.

Next: 1. Carl Lawson

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NY Jets Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

1. Carl Lawson, DE, NY Jets

The Jets have been searching decades for a truly dominant edge-rusher. And in Carl Lawson, their search may finally be over.

Considered one of the best pass-rushers on the market, the Jets signed Lawson to a three-year, $45 million contract that should keep him in New York for the foreseeable future.

Lawson broke out in his rookie season finishing with 8.5 sacks, quickly making a name for himself in the NFL. This came despite playing a part-time role as more of a situational pass-rusher.

However, the next two years were a little underwhelming for Lawson after a torn ACL robbed him of much of his 2018 season. But in 2020, few players were more effective at rushing the passer than Lawson was.

While he only finished with 5.5 sacks, his impact as a pass-rusher was far greater. Lawson’s 64 pressures were fourth-most in the NFL and he led the league in QB knock-downs with 27.

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He also had one of the highest pass-rush win-rates of any edge defender and was an all-round dominant force. Watch any Bengals game from a year ago and it should immediately be clear who the best player on defense is.

And at just 25-years-old, there’s reason to believe that 2020 was just the beginning.

The sack numbers will catch up — after all, that statistic is being looked at as more and more of a “luck” stat as the years go on. What’s important is that Lawson is a genuine game-changer on defense.

A truly dominant pass-rusher who, if healthy, should provide the Jets’ with the dominant edge-rusher they’ve been searching for since the days of John Abraham.

Next. NY Jets: 3 positions the team must still address in free agency

Carl Lawson is the long-awaited answer to the Jets’ pass-rush woes.