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The NY Jets have been fairly active in the free-agent market this offseason signing deals with a total of nine players, at the time of writing.
General manager Joe Douglas and company entered the offseason with the second-most cap space in the NFL trailing only the Jacksonville Jaguars in available funds. And their mini-shopping spree in free agency has been evidence of that.
While they may not have landed every player that they wanted, the Jets made sure to snag two high-profile free agents in Carl Lawson and Corey Davis who should both provide a major boost to two of the weakest position groups on the roster.
They supplemented those signings by landing players such as Sheldon Rankins, Jarrad Davis, and Keelan Cole — three individuals who figure to play important roles in 2020.
And to top it all off, the signings of players like Justin Hardee, Tyler Kroft, Lamarcus Joyner, and Dan Feeney help further fill out the depth on the roster.
The Jets have already done plenty of spending, but with still over $35 million in cap space remaining, they can make a few more signings if they want.
Many of the top names have already been snatched up, but even as we enter the second wave of free agency, there are still a number of quality players out there.
For the sake of this article, we’re going to explore four free agents the Jets could still realistically sign. Not necessarily the players that we’d want (so no Austin Reiter, Richard Sherman, etc.), but realistic, feasible options.
Let’s take a look at the four players we identified.
Next: 4. Malcolm Butler
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4. The NY Jets could realistically target CB Malcolm Butler
The Jets are still searching for a veteran outside cornerback to provide some stability to the group this offseason. They tried to make a run at William Jackson III, but he was quickly signed by the Washington Football Team.
Their options are dwindling, and they don’t appear to be in any hurry to address the position opting more for a draft-heavy approach. However, one player that makes sense is Malcolm Butler.
Butler was one of two starting cornerbacks released by the Tennesse Titans last week along with the recently-signed Adoree Jackson. Jackson has already landed with a team, but Butler is still weighing his options.
At 31-years-old, Butler wouldn’t be a long-term solution. Rather, he would give the Jets a starting-caliber cornerback to have on the roster heading into the 2021 NFL Draft.
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Despite his age, Butler is still playing at a high level having put together arguably his best season since 2016 a year ago. The two-time Super Bowl champion finished with a Pro Football Focus grade of 74.5 in 2020 that ranked him as the No. 15 cornerback in football.
In fact, Butler has never received a PFF grade worse than 65.5 in his entire career. Even as his career winds down, it’s clear that he’s still a very capable NFL cornerback.
The fact that is game has never relied on speed or athleticism is perhaps a predominant reason for that. And it’s why he could find success in a zone-heavy Robert Saleh defense.
It remains to be seen how active the Jets are in the cornerback market from here on out, but Butler is a player they could realistically land for a reasonable price and someone who can fill a major void in the short-term.
Next: 3. Tevin Coleman
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3. The NY Jets could realistically target RB Tevin Coleman
The Jets are still expected to explore the free-agent running back market, although don’t expect them to spend big. They explored Chris Carson’s market, but balked once the price got too high.
Remember, the Jets aren’t going to use any premium assets on a running back this offseason. Not only is that a dying trend in today’s NFL, but it goes against everything a Mike LaFleur offense stands for.
That’s why someone like Tevin Coleman could be a valuable veteran addition for cheap.
Coleman spent the last two seasons with LaFleur and Saleh in San Francisco where he served as a capable rotational back. He’ll be 28-years-old in April and missed half of last season due to injury, but when healthy, he’s been a reliable player.
His speed and one-cut ability make him a great fit for LaFleur’s system and he also offers upside in the passing game as an above-average blocker with soft hands.
Coleman isn’t someone who’s going to touch the ball 150 times. Instead, the Jets could add some stability to the running back room and give them a reliable veteran to lean on in case the likes of Ty Johnson, La’Mical Perine, and Josh Adams don’t get it done.
It’s likely the Jets turn to the middle rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft to address the position as well, but they are interested in adding a veteran back.
If not Coleman, look for any of the other running backs San Francisco deployed over the last few years. Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida are both free agents too and the latter especially could be a very intriguing pickup.
Next: 2. K.J. Wright
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2. The NY Jets could realistically target OLB K.J. Wright
The Jets already addressed linebacker with the addition of Jarrad Davis on Day 1 of the legal tampering period. But their interest in former Pro Bowler Keanu Neal shows they’re not done exploring the linebacker market.
And why should they be?
C.J. Mosley is returning, but it’s hard to say how he’ll look after missing essentially two years of action. He’s been the subject of trade rumors as well.
Davis is a fine addition, but he played primarily inside linebacker in Detroit and is far from a sure thing. After that, it’s essentially Blake Cashman or bust. The Jets need another starting outside linebacker and K.J. Wright fits the bill.
Even at 31-years-old, the longtime Seattle Seahawks linebacker is still going strong. He’s fresh off a 2020 season that saw him earn a 75.7 PFF grade that ranked him seventh out of all off-ball linebackers in the NFL.
That included a near-elite 79.2 coverage grade showing that he can still cover with the best of them despite his age. Adding Wright would do so much for the Jets’ linebacker corps.
It would allow the Jets to play Wright at the weak-side linebacker in the nickel package alongside Mosley giving the team a more capable coverage linebacker on passing downs.
Davis’ speed and athleticism give him coverage-upside, but he only showed glimpses of that in Detroit. Meanwhile, with experience playing both SAM and WILL, Wright would give Saleh another chess piece to play with.
The Jets could drastically overhaul their linebacker depth chart this offseason with the addition of K.J. Wright.
Next: 1. K'Waun Williams
1. The NY Jets could realistically target CB K’Waun Williams
While it’s unclear if the Jets will target a boundary cornerback in free agency, they’re essentially guaranteed to land a starting nickel corner. And the player most often connected to the Jets has been K’Waun Williams.
Williams has spent the last four years of his career in San Francisco and has ample experience playing under Robert Saleh. His play over the last few years has been indicative of his success in such a system.
The Paterson, New Jersey native played just eight games in 2020 as he was one of the many 49ers players who suffered a significant injury. However, when healthy in the past, Williams was among the best nickel cornerbacks in football.
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The 29-year-old finished with a stellar 80.3 PFF grade in 2019 that ranked him as the seventh-best cornerback in the NFL. And yes, his grade was even higher than that of ex-Jets cornerback Brian Poole.
Poole has been excellent for the Jets over the last two years, but he’s one of the players who will be most hurt by the change in scheme. Poole excelled in Gregg Williams’ man-heavy defense playing the best football of his career.
But under Saleh, the Jets will be shifting to more of an off-zone scheme. And it doesn’t seem as though the coaching staff is too high on his potential in that system.
Williams makes sense because of the Saleh connection and because of his high-caliber play in the past.
Of all the players on this list, this one feels like it has the best chance of actually getting done.