5 NY Jets players whose fate could be sealed in the 2023 NFL Draft
By Justin Fried
3. Jordan Whitehead, S, NY Jets
As previously noted, Jordan Whitehead is currently penciled in as one of the Jets' starting safeties alongside newcomer Chuck Clark. There is some optimism that Whitehead will perform better in his second year in the Jets' defensive scheme.
The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety was a relative disappointment in his first year with the Jets. His inconsistencies in both coverage and tackling proved to be an issue at times.
Whitehead is a starting-caliber safety, but he and Clark have occupied similar roles throughout their careers. It might make sense for the Jets to explore adding more of a true free safety at some point.
Unfortunately, the draft doesn't present many true starting-level free safety options. In fact, there's only one safety expected to be drafted on Day 1 — Alabama's Brian Branch.
Branch is a versatile and well-rounded safety, who may not be a perfect fit as a true free safety, but he could still be a target for the Jets, nonetheless. If Branch is the pick in the first round, that could be a direct indication that the Jets are looking to move on from Whitehead.
The Jets could release Whitehead and save $7.25 million in cap space with a dead cap hit of under $3 million. Given his struggles last season, it might just be worth it if the Jets feel they can upgrade.
The team could also explore a trade for a safety on draft day, perhaps a splash trade for someone like Budda Baker. Either way, the Jets could make their intentions clear if they add a high-profile safety during the draft.
If that happens, Whitehead's days in green and white could be numbered.