With approximately $30-40 million in cap space, the New York Jets are pegged to be players when the new league year begins on March 3rd, 2014. Today, we look at free agent defensive linemen. Check out our look at Offensive Linemen from last week here. The strength of the New York Jets this past season was the defensive line. Led by the second best defensive lineman in football Muhammed Wilkerson, defensive rookie of the year Sheldon Richardson, and undrafted free agent Damon Harrison, the Jets boast what is arguably the best defensive line in football. Add in DE/OLB Quinton Coples, Kenrick Ellis, and Leger Douzable and you can see what a great job Rex Ryan and Defensive Line Coach Karl Dunbar have done. It is very possible that the Jets defensive line remains the same entering 2014, with the only notable addition being the return of Antwan Barnes. However, with Harrison due to become a Restricted Free Agent in 2015, Douzable a free agent this year, and the Jets possibly looking to trade Kenrick Ellis this offseason, it is possible that the Jets try to add depth. Here are five players the Jets could target this offseason. 1.
2013 Stats: 53 tackles, 4 sacks Analysis: At 6’3″ and 301 pounds and with the versatility to play both DE and DT positions, the 27 year old Jones should have a long line of suitors. The former 5th round pick has put together back to back seasons with at least 4 sacks, and one of those seasons was spent as a backup to Haloti Ngata. Jones is great off the snap and keeps a good anchor against double teams. Jones is big and strong enough to play the NT in a 3-4 scheme. Likelihood: Jones joined the Ravens after Rex Ryan left, so there’s no familiarity there. Yet, Jones would be a great addition to the Jets as competition for Damon Harrison and possible insurance should he leave in 2015. A three year, $6M deal (Jones made $2M this past season) might get it done, so i’ll put this as a 3. 2.
2013 Stats: 2 Games Started, 7 tackles Analysis: The former Crimson Tide DT has battled injuries as a member of the Ravens. When healthy, Cody was utilized by Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees with Jones and Terrell Suggs as the three down linemen. Cody is a monster at 6’4 and 370 pounds and plays a more traditional nose tackle position. He is an exceptional run stuffer but does struggle getting to the QB. Likelihood: We’ve discussed the idea of trading Kenrick Ellis at TOJ and, should the Jets decide to move Ellis, Cody would be an ideal replacement. He’s only 25 and Coach Dunbar could develop his pass rushing skills while improving the run defense of the Jets. If Ellis is dealt, i’d put this as a 9. If not, then i’d leave this as a 3. 3.
2013 Stats: 13 Tackles Analysis: The former first round pick had 10.5 sacks in his third year but has really dropped off the past two seasons. Raji moved from NT to DE last season and played a hybrid, situational role. Dom Capers used him all over the defensive line with minimal results. Raji is 27 and, like Arthur Jones above, is versatile enough to play all three positions across the defensive line. Raji played better as a NT and would be an excellent addition to the team as competition for Damon Harrison. Likelihood: A 5 for now, but this would increase if Raji was willing to be more of a situational player. 4.
2013 Stats: 20 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries Analysis: Keisel is set to become a free agent after 11 years in Pittsburgh. Keisel played well in twelve games and as a mentor to a young Steelers defense. Keisel was an adequate run stuffer and showed much more energy when rushing the passer than in years past. Likelihood: An 8 for the likelihood of the Jets signing Keisel to replace Legar Douzable, should he leave as a free agent. Keisel would be a great mentor to the Jets young defensive line, would add some attitude, and he can still play. Used as a rotational player, similar to Douzable last season, Keisel would be a good signing by Idzik. 5.
2013 Stats: 7 tackles, 1.5 sacks Analysis: Ratliff struggled through his lone season in Chicago, as he wasn’t healthy and only had 1.5 sacks. His best game of the season came against the Cowboys, as he showed that he had a little bit left in the tank when motivated. Likelihood: A 7, due to his familiarity with the Ryan defense (he played under Rob), as well as his versatility. Ratliff would come cheap and would be good depth behind the Sons of Anarchy.