This list is tailored to the New York Jets and their needs, and includes current Jets free agents not yet back with the team. Players are ranked by talent and fit with some bias toward players who are long-term options…
Players that have been struck out have either been hit with the franchise tag or signed with other teams. Players in green have signed with the Jets. Last updated 3/31/16.
Von Miller, OLB, Denver Broncos– The best OLB in the league is an elite pass rusher, run defender and has even shown the ability to run with receivers in coverage. True franchise player. Josh Norman, CB, Carolina Panthers– Elite cover guys are at a premium in today’s NFL, and Josh Norman was the best of the bunch.
- Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, New York Jets – Wilkerson’s impact to anyone reading this is obvious. He’s one of a few elite players slated currently to hit free agency.
Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears– The premier offensive player currently set to hit free agency, Jeffery is a player you can build a passing offense around. Kelechi Osemele, OG, Baltimore Ravens– He’s been one of the most dominant interior run blockers in the league over the past few seasons, competently played some tackle this year, and is only 26. He could be made the highest paid guard in the league next month. Olivier Vernon, OLB, Miami Dolphins– Buyer beware? Went on an absolute pass rushing tear over the second half of this season, but is he just turning it on at the right time? At just 25 years old, someone is going to pay him like a franchise pass rusher. Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins– It was just one good year (where there are still plenty of doubts), but one that has caught a lot of attention. At just 27-years-old, maybe the best is yet to come. Sam Bradford, QB, Philadelphia Eagles– Bradford ended up getting much less help from the Eagles offense than anybody could have expected, but toward the second half of the season started to find his feet. Not a definite answer, but has shown enough to hope he could be in the right situation. Cordy Glenn, OT, Buffalo Bills– A durable, quality left tackle who is both a competent pass protector and run blocker. At just 26-years-old, he’ll be a rock on the blindside of a team’s line for a long while yet. Damon Harrison, NT, New York Jets– The position is somewhat of a dying breed but Harrison’s play here has been dominant. It’s not often the far-and-away best player at a position in his prime is set to hit the market. Mitchell Schwartz, OT, Cleveland Browns– Schwartz is arguably the best right tackle in the league and probably will be paid like it. He’s never missed a snap in his four year career. Danny Trevathan, ILB, Denver Broncos– The premier inside linebacker on the market would be the ideal upgrade on Demario Davis and be the coverage-comfortable linebacker the Jets are dying for.
- Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, New York Jets – There are no illusions to what Ryan Fitzpatrick is, and that’s a journeyman veteran quarterback that finds his best-case scenario in New York. With the system comfort, excellent receiver duo and the respect of players and coaches, Fitzpatrick seems a lock to be back with the Jets.
Tamba Hali, OLB, Kansas City Chiefs– Hali even into his early thirties is one of the most well-rounded linebackers in the league. Lamar Miller, HB, Miami Dolphins– Miller has made it clear he wants to be a feature back, something it seems everyone but Miami’s coaching staff last year thought he should be. At just 25-years-old, he looks destined to be the type of player that finds his greatest successes with his second team. Doug Martin, HB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers– Back to his best as a pure runner and just 27-years-old, but still carries the mysteries of 2013-2014 and question marks of whether he’s the complete package. Richie Incognito, OG, Buffalo Bills– Scandal behind him, he returned after sitting out 2014-15 to have a career year with Buffalo. Malik Jackson, DE, Denver Broncos– A very good player hitting free agency at the right time. This low only based on Jets’ need at the position. Eric Berry, FS, Kansas City Chiefs– The NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year beat cancer to return as one of the best safeties in the league. Mario Williams, DE, Buffalo Bills– He had a terrible 2015, but there’s enough belief that it was a question of fit under Rex Ryan rather than signs of aging for somebody to take a risk. Donald Penn, OT, Oakland Raiders– A stopgap player at 32-years-old but under-appreciated. He’d be the best tackle on the Jets by a decent margin if he avoids a drop in play. Kelvin Beachum, OT, Pittsburgh Steelers– Beachum shined in his only full year as a starter in 2014, third in the league in PFF’s pass blocking efficiency stat. He’s recovering from a torn ACL however suffered in October. Brandon Brooks, OG, Houston Texans– Brooks is a mammoth at 6’5 335 pounds and an immediate boost to any run game. Texans runs behind RG averaged 5.6 YPC in 2013, and 5.2 YPC in 2014 on runs designated “middle right,” according to PFF. Ian Williams, NT, San Francisco 49ers– A team doesn’t necessarily have to go all-in on Damon Harrison to stop their run stuffing woes. While a notch below “Snacks” and more compact than a behemoth, Williams is a good player in his own right just entering his prime. Evan Mathis, OG, Denver Broncos– He’ll be 35 midway through the 2016 season, but proved in Denver that he’s still one of the best interior linemen in the league. Bruce Irvin, OLB, Seattle Seahawks– Irvin is a solid all-around OLB with a few good years left, but is more Calvin Pace than a pure pass rusher.
- Matt Forte, HB, Chicago Bears – You have to wonder how much Forte has left, but he’s been one of the best all-around backs in the league his entire career. He could be this year’s version of 2010 Ladainian Tomlinson.
Russell Okung, OT, Seahawks– Probably destined for a bigger deal than he’s worth, Okung is a talented pass protector but has never started the full 16 games in his six year career. Trumaine Johnson, CB, Los Angeles Rams– The 26-year-old was the Rams’ best corner in an underrated Rams secondary. His 55 passer rating against was bested only by Josh Norman. Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins– Griffin is the ultimate reclamation project. For a team desperate for a quarterback upgrade, the Griffin gamble will be alluring. Robert Ayers, EDGE, New York Giants– Ayers is the definition of a late bloomer, having his two most impressive years as a pass rusher his two seasons in New York. Not necessarily a three-down option, but an immediate upgrade in the pass rushing department. Chris Ivory, HB, New York Jets– One of the best pure runners in the league, but too unreliable. Is he coming into his own, or is he another Marion Barber? Rolando McClain, ILB, Dallas Cowboys– Since finding a home in Dallas in 2014, McClain has been one of the better cover linebackers in the NFL. He’s still carries some level of risk, but there’s a good chance you’re getting a solid starter for a few seasons. Derrick Johnson, ILB, Kansas City Chiefs– Still going strong at 33, Johnson was the best linebacker charted in PFF’s yards-per-coverage-snap metric. Marvin Jones, WR, Cincinnati Bengals– Jones could be this year’s Golden Tate. Essentially the number three receiver behind A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert, Jones is likely to sign for a team where he’ll be given a bigger spotlight.
- Terrance Knighton, NT, Washington Redskins – If you miss out on Harrison or Williams, Knighton is a solid stopgap to plug in the middle of a defense.
Jerrell Freeman, ILB, Indianapolis Colts– Freeman was quietly one of the best run-stuffing linebackers in the league this past season, finishing in the fop five in PFF’s run stop percentage and tackling efficiency metrics. Travis Benjamin, WR, Cleveland Browns– Benjamin had a bigger impact at receiver than expected this season, particularly as a deep threat. Most important to the Jets though, he’s an explosive returner. Ramon Foster, OG, Pittsburgh Steelers– A capable guard with plenty of starting experience. Entering his thirties, but showing no signs of dipping. Sean Smith, CB, Kansas City Chiefs– Smith is a king-sized starting caliber corner who has made a living in the league as a solid number two. He’s ranked in the top fifteen of PFF’s cover-snaps-per-reception-allowed metric the past three seasons. Alex Boone, OG, San Francisco 49ers– He held out a few years ago but was unable to convince the 49ers to give him a big deal. Now hitting the market, he probably won’t see one here either, but is a starting-caliber guard. Prince Amukamara, CB, New York Giants– Durability is a concern with Amukamara, but he’s a solid all-around second corner. He ranked in the top fifteen in PFF’s yards-per-cover-snap metric in 2015 and consistently was one of the better corners in run stop percentage. Joe Barksdale, OT, San Diego Chargers– A shaky 2014 in pass protection (51 total pressures allowed per PFF) saw him linger on the market a while before signing with San Diego for a season. He gave up just 27 pressures in 2013 however, and for San Diego this past season was by far the best lineman of an overall shambolic unit. Still just 27, there’s reason to believe he can find success in the right situation. Janoris Jenkins, CB, Los Angeles Rams– He hasn’t yet lived up to his pre-draft (on field) hype, but Jenkins is an average corner that gets tested a little more than you’d like. Brock Osweiler, QB, Denver Broncos– Osweiler had some impressive moments but it is telling that he was ultimately benched for the reanimated corpse of Peyton Manning. Whether it’s Denver or someone else, whoever signs him should be asking him to earn the starting spot. Dwayne Allen, TE, Indianapolis Colts– Allen displays all the traits of a complete tight end, but has yet to either be healthy enough or featured enough in the Colts offense to develop into one consistently. Akiem Hicks, DL, New England Patriots– At 6’5 324 pounds they do not come much bigger than Hicks. If the Jets are in a position needing to replace Wilkerson or Harrison, Hicks would be a good addition to the rotation. Eric Weddle, FS, San Diego Chargers– Weddle’s been one of the best free safeties in the league over his career. The Jets won’t be in any rush to replace Gilchrist, but Weddle is the better if older player. Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Baltimore Ravens– Upshaw has developed into exactly the type of player the pre-draft wisdom predicted. He’ll set the run as good as any OLB but is a pass rushing liability. Jeff Allen, OL, Kansas City Chiefs– A little like Geoff Schwartz before him, Allen could see a long-term deal after an impressive season where he effectively played at both guard and tackle.
Other Notable Names:
Nick Perry, OLB, Green Bay Packers; Casey Hayward, NCB, Green Bay Packers; Brandon Boykin, NCB, Pittsburgh Steelers; LeGarrette Blount, RB, New England Patriots; Bilal Powell, RB, New York Jets; Haloti Ngata, DL, Detroit Lions; Rishard Matthews, WR, Miami Dolphins; Stefen Wisniewski, C, Jacksonville Jaguars; Jahri Evans, OG, New Orleans Saints; Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers; Geoff Schwartz, OL, New York Giants; Scott Chandler, TE, New England Patriots