NY Jets: Ranking the best and worst free-agent signings in franchise history

NY Jets Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
NY Jets Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports /
NY Jets
NY Jets /

NY Jets Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021 free agency period has essentially come and passed.

The league’s official start to the year, NFL free agency allows teams who are just a piece or two away from making a deep playoff run to find that missing piece, while teams amidst a rebuild can speed the process along with one or two big names.

The NY Jets added a few big names to the team this offseason, including former first-round picks  Corey Davis and Sheldon Rankins, as well as getting a much-needed pass-rusher in Carl Lawson.

The team is still paying for a few free-agency mistakes, taking away some spending money from this year’s shopping spree. With that in mind, it may be a good idea to look back at some of the best and worst signings the Jets have made throughout the organization’s history.

Teams can overspend on players that don’t match up to the paycheck. A team can sign a small name that ends up being a franchise cornerstone.

The Jets have been on every possible mark on the spectrum. Fans can only hope this year turns out differently.

Nevertheless, as we sit back and enjoy the bidding wars on some of the game’s most elite talent, let’s take a moment to look at some of the free agents that agreed to dawn green and white, and the lasting memory they left with the team.

For better or worse.

Next: BEST: Kevin Mawae

NY Jets (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images) /

NY Jets Free Agency BEST: Kevin Mawae

The Jets have some of the best luck when it comes to centers. After being allowed to leave the Seattle Seahawks in 1998, Kevin Mawae was an immediate upgrade for the Jets. Mawae was invaluable for the offense.

Mawae helped create running lanes for Curtis Martin and was an incremental piece of an offensive line that helped keep their quarterback upright for the majority of his career.

Kevin Mawae earned himself several Pro Bowl nods including six straight from the 1999 season to 2004. Over his career, he was also given All-Pro honors seven times.

Behind their Hall of Fame center, the Jets offense was able to produce at a consistently high rate. Time of possession, total yardage, and rushing yardage made it easy for New York to produce.

Though his time in New York was cut short due to injury, Mawae’s reliability and consistency as a starter were unmatched at the time for the team. Mawae played in 177 consecutive contests, paving the way for future Jets ironmen D’Brickashaw Fergeson and Nick Mangold.

While it’s a shame that Mawae was never able to add a Super Bowl victory to his resume, his contributions to the franchise are nearly impossible to overstate.

Next: WORST: Derrick Mason

NY Jets (Photo by Al Pereira/New York Jets/Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo by Al Pereira/New York Jets/Getty Images) /

NY Jets Free Agency WORST: Derrick Mason

Looking into this drama a bit more, I am glad I did not follow football as closely as I do now at the time of this signing.

It never hurts to have more weapons on offense, so when the Jets signed former Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason, it should have been seen as only boosting the receiving corps.

By the time Mason signed with the Jets, he was already in the twilight of his career. Still, even at 37-years-old, he was just two years removed from a 1,000-yard campaign.

Mason wouldn’t get anywhere close to that in New York.

In just seven games with the Jets, Mason caught six passes for 55 yards. Not a bad stat line for a single game, but rather embarrassing for a free agent acquisition over an entire tenure with the team.

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The lack of production alone wasn’t the only issue. Rumors had surfaced that Mason reportedly criticized the coaching staff.

Mix them together, and you get a receiver being shown the door just a few months after joining the team. The Jets dealt Mason to the Houston Texans for a late-round pick, and New York was forced to walk back with their tail between their legs.

As far as signings go, this might have been the quickest to blow up in their face.

Next: BEST: Vinny Testaverde

NY Jets (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

NY Jets Free Agency BEST: Vinny Testaverde

When it comes to naming all of the solid quarterbacks the Jets have sported in franchise history, it’s less of a laundry list and more of a used napkin.

Thankfully, that isn’t the case for Vinny Testaverde.

By the time that Testaverde joined the Jets in 1998, he had already been established as a journeyman quarterback. With New York being his fourth stop, the former first overall pick brought life to a team at the turn of the century.

1998 was one of the best seasons in Testaverde’s career, seeing a Pro Bowl nod and an AFC Championship Game appearance, where the team fell just shy of the Super Bowl.

Just two years later, Testaverde would play a pivotal role in the Monday Night Miracle, coming back to beat the Miami Dolphins 40-37 in overtime after trailing 30-7 entering the fourth quarter.

It seemed that the Jets and Testaverde were a great match for one another, as the team was able to enjoy some much-needed success before the wheels began to fall off the wagon.

Sadly, injuries and Testaverde’s patented knack for turnovers eventually resulted in the team moving on to Chad Pennington.

Even so, there is hardly any Jets fan out there that holds any malice towards the New York native.

Next: WORST: Darrelle Revis

NY Jets (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images) /

NY Jets Free Agency WORST: Darelle Revis

Darelle Revis has gone down as one of the best cornerbacks to ever play the game, and by extension, one of the best Jets to take the field.

That being said, his contract upon his return to New York makes him simultaneously one of the best and worst additions to the team in history.

Coming off a Super Bowl victory with interdivisional rival New England, Revis returned to the Jets to the tune of a five-year, $70 million dollar contract.

In 2015, the Jets had assembled the best roster in recent history, making them must-watch television every Sunday. Revis returned to the Pro Bowl for the seventh time. However, the joyful return would be short-lived.

By 2016, Revis had regressed to the point that it became painful to watch. The future Hall of Famer was being burnt by receivers week in and week out, losing his ability to lock down his opponents seemingly overnight.

When the disappointing season came to a close, Revis was shown the door — along with a few other faces of the franchise in a hard reset of the roster.

The team hasn’t had a true lockdown corner since.

Next: BEST: Wayne Chrebet

NY Jets (Photo credit should read HENNY RAY ABRAMS/AFP via Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo credit should read HENNY RAY ABRAMS/AFP via Getty Images) /

NY Jets Free Agency BEST: Wayne Chrebet

While technically not a free agent signed in the league-wide bidding war as we know it, Wayne Chrebet was the best undrafted free agent the Jets have ever signed.

Few people expected Chrebet to make it in the league, made clear by the Hofstra product going undrafted in the 1995 NFL Draft.

Chrebet was a fan favorite and is often considered one of the best undrafted free agents of all time. A member of the Jets Ring of Honor, Chrebet remains in the hearts of Jets fans.

While he only notched one 1,000-yard receiving season in his tenure in the league, it was more than anybody expected out of him.

With more than half of his career receptions coming on third down, Chrebet was a prime example of reliability in a receiver — something the Jets of today could stand to have.

No player for the Jets has donned number 80 since the time of Chrebet’s retirement, and with good reason.

Wayne Chrebet may have not been a free-agent addition in the context of players allowed to choose their team after their contract had expired, but his contributions as an undrafted wide receiver were far too great to pass up.

Next: WORST: Trumaine Johnson

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NY Jets /

NY Jets Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

NY Jets Free Agency WORST: Trumaine Johnson

Look away Jets fans.

Not only was the signing of former Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson one of the worst memories in Jets free agency history, but it might also be one of the worst in terms of the NFL.

Following the quick decline of future Hall of Famer Darrelle Revis, the Jets were in desperate need of secondary help. That was former general manager Mike Macagnan’s signal to throw money at the then biggest fish in the free agency pool.

Coming off of a rather successful start to his career with the Rams, Trumaine Johnson was quickly handed a massive five-year $72 million contract to suit up for the team in the 2018 offseason. At that point, it seemed like a massive win for the Jets.

In a defense that consisted of Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, Leonard Wiliams, Avery Williamson, and more, it seemed like the Jets were going to have a decent season.

Fans only had their hopes heightened when their defense took over on Monday Night Football, laying a 48-17 beatdown on the Detroit Lions.

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But from there, it was all downhill.

Johnson would play only 17 games for the Jets over the next two years. A large portion of his time was spent either injured or getting beat in coverage.

When human pass interference machine Buster Skrine looked better than Trumaine Johnson at points, you knew there would be a huge problem.

After just two years, the Jets released Trumaine Johnson. The team is still eating money from the dead cap, roughly to the tune of around $8 million in 2021.

At least by 2022, the team will have washed away the bad taste that Johnson left in their mouths.

Next: Free Agency BEST: Honorable Mentions

NY Jets (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images) /

NY Jets Free Agency BEST: Honorable Mentions

Though the rhetoric is that the Jets aren’t the best at free agency acquisitions — or adding talent in general — the team has had some success in the players they bring on to the roster.

Alan Faneca

The former Pittsburgh Steelers guard will widely be remembered for the contributions he made in black and yellow.

His stint with the Jets was rather short-lived, but he was one of the most important pieces of an offensive line that paved the way for extremely effective rushing attacks during the late 2000s.

Eric Decker

Eric Decker is just on the fringe of being one of the best free agency signings for the Jets, with longevity and injuries being the only issues holding him back.

Decker joined the team in 2014, but his career with the Jets will always be remembered for his game-winning touchdown against the new England Patriots in 2015.

His pairing with Brandon Marshall made for the last time the Jets had a truly intimidating offense.

Brandon Moore

Another dependable offensive lineman during the Jets’ heyday, Moore is unfortunately remembered for his contribution to the Butt Fumble, rather than his historic career at guard.

141 straight games is nothing to sneeze at.

Next: Free Agency WORST: Dishonorable Mentions

NY Jets (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /

NY Jets Free Agency WORST: Dishonorable Mentions

Sadly, not all deals work out in the long run. At least these few haven’t left an awful taste in the franchise’s mouth, but it may just be bitter enough to haunt our memories.

Spencer Long

It’s hard to replace a generational center like Nick Mangold. Following the team’s departure from the future Hall of Famer, they added Spencer Long to take over snapping duties.

However, it would help if he could effectively snap the football.

Ryan Fitzpatrick

The trade for Ryan Fitzpatrick was a great one, as he now holds the franchise record for passing touchdowns in a season. Re-signing him was an absolutely terrible decision.

That six interception game against the Kansas City Chiefs still haunts my nightmares.

C.J. Mosley

The jury is still out on the former Ravens linebacker. When C.J. Mosley played for the Jets, he has been a dominant force for the defense and even had an interception returned for a touchdown in his first career game for the team.

That’s the problem. It isn’t about how many games Mosley has played for the Jets. It’s how many quarters.

Appearing in just two contests, and finishing neither of them, Mosley hasn’t earned anywhere close to the $85 million on his contract. 2021 can prove to be different, especially with Robert Saleh taking over.

The jury is still out on this one.

Next: BEST: Curtis Martin

NY Jets (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

NY Jets Free Agency BEST: Curtis Martin

Similar to how Trumaine Johnson wasn’t just a bad signing for the Jets, Curtis Martin was one of the best free agency signings in league history.

After leaving the division-rival Patriots for greener pastures (pun intended), the already talented running back built a Hall of Fame profile that included 100 total touchdowns and over 14,000 career rushing yards.

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Though Martin was never able to win a Super Bowl with either New England or the Jets, he was able to earn a gold jacket in 2012 — a year that also saw his number 28 retired by the team. A game I was lucky enough to attend.

Martin was everything you could hope for in a free agent signing and more. Not just a playmaker that could help bolster your team, but one that goes on to create a legacy.

Martin was the Jets’ best player from the early 2000s, a decade that saw some of the better teams since the turn of the century.

When it comes to the best running backs in recent memory, it’s hard to not include Martin in just about any conversation.

Martin remains the only running back in franchise history with over 10,000 career rushing yards, and is the franchise rushing touchdown leader.

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A top-10 rusher in league history, Curtis Martin is easily the best free agent the Jets have ever signed.