The NY Jets will enter this offseason in a much different situation than in prior years. The Jets enter the offseason with negative $2.8 million in cap space. Joe Douglas will have to get creative to create room for moves this summer.
Between adding a veteran quarterback and adding other players through free agency, the Jets have some players of their own to bring back. Here are five players the Jets must re-sign.
1. Bryce Huff, DE, NY Jets
Bryce Huff is a restricted free agent, so he should be relatively easy to bring back. A second-round tender would only cost $4.3 million, and that is a steal for a player like Huff.
Huff was a victim of the Jets' heavy defensive line rotation, only playing 173 pass-rush snaps but gathering an impressive 4.0 sacks and 36 total pressures in his limited role.
Although Huff did not play enough snaps to qualify, he had a superb 88.0 pass-rush grade from Pro Football Focus, which was the eighth-highest among edge defenders.
With the Jets needing to clear up cap space elsewhere, it's possible that Carl Lawson will be a cap casualty. which would open up more opportunities for Huff.
2. Sheldon Rankins, DT, NY Jets
Speaking of the Jets' defensive line rotation, Sheldon Rankins was an important part of that and should also be back next season.
After a rough first season with the Jets, Rankins had a nice bounce-back season this year. He was a solid run defender and pass rusher, finishing with 4.0 sacks and 25 pressures to go along with a career-high 43 combined tackles.
Rankins should not cost too much to bring back and should be a priority with both Solomon Thomas and Nathan Shepherd slated to hit free agency as well.
3. Kwon Alexander, LB, NY Jets
The Jets will almost certainly re-sign one of their free-agent linebackers, Kwon Alexander or Quincy Williams.
It seems possible that Williams could command a bigger deal than people expect, and with the Jets already paying C.J. Mosley over $21 million in each of the next two seasons, they might not be able to afford it.
This season, Williams had the ninth-highest missed tackle percentage (14%) among linebackers that played over 573 snaps. On passing plays, among linebackers with over 335 coverage snaps, Williams had the highest missed tackle percentage (20.4%).
Williams does do a lot of good things, but barring a restructuring of C.J. Mosley’s contract, it could be hard to justify paying him. Re-signing Alexander and using a Day 2 pick on a linebacker could be a better route to go.
4. Connor McGovern, C, NY Jets
In a season in which the Jets' offensive line was a revolving door, Connor McGovern was a stable presence at center. McGovern played all 17 games and played well, despite the rest of the offensive line's struggles.
McGovern was the 10th-highest-graded center by PFF. Although he did give up five sacks and 24 pressures, McGovern should be better with a more reliable guard and tackle play next season.
The Jets will have a lot of other moves to make to improve the offensive line, but they have a starting-caliber center, and it would be wise for them to keep him around as long as his price tag is reasonable.
5. Greg Zuerlein, K, NY Jets
Last but not least, the Jets should bring back Greg Zuerlein. The Jets brought in Zuerlein last offseason to compete with Eddy Piñeiro; Zuerlein won the job and had a good year.
Zuerlein made all but one extra point, making 28 of 29 attempts. He only converted 30 of 37 field goal attempts, but five of those misses were from 50 yards or further.
Zuerlein wasn't perfect, but he was forced to kick a lot of difficult field goals because of the Jets' offensive struggles. The Jets should bring back Zuerlein and possibly bring in someone else to compete with him.