General manager Mike Maccagnan has made it known that he likes drafting younger players. The thought is that such an individual might be farther from his ceiling than a 23-year-old, fifth-year senior. The article below takes the same philosophy but applies it to free agency. All of the possible targets are under 25. Players under that age but who seem destined to stay with their team such as Le’Veon Bell are not listed.
24 years old
Tony Jefferson (SS, Arizona Cardinals) — It has been reported that he is a priority free agent for the Cardinals. He should be the same for the Jets. As a pro, he has shown the ability to be reliable as a tackle and in coverage. He has only two interceptions in his career, but the California native is an upgrade against the run and pass compared to the organization’s current safeties.
Kenny Stills (WR, Miami Dolphins) — Wide receiver is one of the few positions the Jets do not need extra help. That could change if the team cuts Brandon Marshall and/or Eric Decker to go into a rebuilding mod, however. Stills, who averaged 17.3 yards per catch, has flashed the potential to be a valuable part of any passing attack with nine touchdowns in 2016. Signing him, though, could mean the end for Devon Smith. Both players have similar measurables, but the former has produced.
25 years old
A.J. Bouye (CB, Houston Texans) — Bill O’Brien said this week he wants the Bouye back and the cornerback stated he would like to return to Houston as well. The undrafted player was one of the best in the league at his position this year and will demand a big a contract.
Duron Harmon (FS, Patriots) — As the team’s fifth defensive back, Harmon has showed the ability to make plays on the ball with seven interceptions in his career. While the Rutgers product roughly plays 50 percent of the snaps, he has closed out several games with interceptions and would be an upgrade over Marcus Gilchrist.
Logan Ryan (CB, New England Patriots) — Another player from Rutgers, Bill Belichick lauded Ryan this week for his ability to play in the slot. In 2015, Pro Football Focus ranked him the No. 11 cornerback in the NFL. While a shaky start to 2016 might lower his value a little, the Jets need help everywhere in the secondary and he is an above-average player.
Corey Lemonier (OLB, New York Jets) — The former third-round pick has not produced in his career. After one sack in his first three seasons, he had two in 2016. He showed good explosion while at Auburn, but also inflexible hips. Perhaps he can find a niche as a Jet.
Luke Joeckel (G/T, Jacksonville Jaguars) — The underperforming tackle was moved to guard, but he tore his ACL, MCL and meniscus this season. Any interest he receives will likely be due to his former draft status (No. 2 overall pick in 2013). He is destined for a one-year prove-it deal to provide competition for some team’s offensive line.
Chance Warmack (G, Tennessee Titans) — Like Joeckel, he finished the season on the injured reserve. For Warmack, it was due to a torn tendon in his hand. Also like Joeckel, however, he has not lived up to his draft status and will be signing a prove-it contract.
Johnathan Hankins (DT, New York Giants) — After losing Damion Harrison to the Giants last offseason, could the Jets take a tackle from them this time? At 6-2, 320 pounds, he has good quickness and was a great against the run in 2015. His prowess in that area was the main reason he ranked No. 25 out of all interior defensive lineman in 2015 according to PFF. That rating dropped to No. 73 this season, though. While Steve McClendon and Deon Simon are solid options already on the roster, the Jets might be able to get an ascending player for half the price of Harrison.
A.J. Klein (LB, Carolina Panthers) — He has yet to be a full-time starter, but he did replace Luke Kuechly following the former’s concussion. While Klein is yet to be great at anything, he has solid instincts and produces. At 6-1, 240 lbs, he has the size to play inside linebacker for the Jets.
Other Notable Free Agents Under 25
Latavius Murray (RB, Oakland Raiders)
Andrew Norwell (G, Carolina Panthers)
Dominique Easely (DT, Los Angeles Rams)
Robert Woods (WR, Buffalo Bills)
Jelani Jenkins (LB, Miami Dolphins)
Cordarrelle Patterson (WR, Minnesota Vikings)
J.C. Tretter (C, Packers)
Dion Sims (TE, Miami Dolphins)
Markus Wheaton (WR, Pittsburgh Steelers)
T.J. McDonald (SS, Los Angeles Rams)
Photo Credit: Patriots.com