Grading every move the NY Jets made in the first wave of free agency

NY Jets, Tyler Conklin
NY Jets, Tyler Conklin / Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
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Jordan Whitehead
Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Carolina Panthers / Jared C. Tilton/GettyImages

Jordan Whitehead, S, NY Jets: 2 years, $14.5 million

Going into free agency, the Jets desperately needed a tone-setter on defense. That's exactly what the 25-year old Jordan Whitehead has been in the NFL.

Whitehead is one of the most physical and best open-field tacklers in all of football. It's an area where the Jets embarrassed themselves on the field in 2021. The Jets' defense had struggles getting off the field because of their inability to stop plays before they got started.

Stopping plays before they get started is a Jordan Whitehead specialty. Since he entered the league in 2018 as a fourth-round pick for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Whitehead is fourth amongst all NFL safeties with 18 tackles for loss.

Whitehead has also improved in coverage every year that he has been in the league. He's certainly not your typical man coverage-type player, and the Bucs, who played a lot of man coverage, certainly attempted to cater to Whitehead's strengths by not tasking with those duties.

And statistically, you can see why putting Whitehead in zone is a better usage of his talents.

In zone coverage, Whitehead is simply a better player. It's more suited to his skill set. A year ago, according to Pro Football Focus, Whitehead gave up a 51.8 passer rating in zone coverage, which ranked 11th best in the league out of all starting safeties.

The Jets like to tinker with having their safeties play more man coverage than one would suspect — last year at nearly 30 percent. But overall, Whitehead might be a better fit in the Jets scheme than he was in Tampa.

The Jets' contract with Whitehead is very reasonable for both sides, and the Jets didn't have to break the bank for a player they desperately needed on defense. Whitehead will be the best safety in the box since that other guy who used to wear No. 33 for Gang Green.

A bonus to the Whitehead signing for is that he is the cousin of NFL and team legend Darrelle Revis. Once upon a time, Whitehead was at Revis' draft party when the Jets selected him.

Whitehead followed in Revis' footsteps by playing at the University of Pittsburgh and will now do the same by wearing green and white this coming season. 

Grade: A