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A batch of takes and grades on the New York Jets first week of free agency…
1 – Trumaine Johnson – The Jets headline signing of this free agency period so far. Here are the numbers:
Jets CB Trumaine Johnson got a $20 million signing bonus and $34 million over the first 2 years of his five-year, $72.5 million deal. Year-to-year after ’19.
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 16, 2018
Yes, this is a pricey deal but it is hard to complain about with the above contract structure. Johnson was the best available corner on the market and the Jets need to pay a “tax” right now as a team without a franchise QB and who hasn’t made the playoffs in 7 years. This is what you create cap space for. Johnson will aid in the development of Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye, last year’s top two draft picks. The Jets badly needed an infusion of talent at corner and a player with the physical ability to match up against team’s top receivers, Johnson should fit that role despite some inconsistencies over the past few years. The PFF grades were kind of ugly last season but they do not tell the whole story on Johnson’s role within the Rams scheme. Grade: B+
2 – Spencer Long – There is no question Long will be an upgrade over Wesley Johnson, who was one of the worst starting offensive lineman in the NFL last year. Long received a 4 year, 28 million dollar contract which will make him the 13th highest paid center in the NFL. The concern is that Long missed 9 games last season with knee and quad injuries and when he was on the field, he was only the league’s 20th ranked center according to PFF. Despite that, friend of the site and offensive line expert Brandon Thorn believes Long was a strong value signing who will fit well within the Jets scheme. If he can stay healthy and be an average starter, the Jets will have made notable strides at the position. It is fair to question why the Jets opted for Long over Ryan Jensen. Grade C+
3 – Avery Williamson – Instead of overpaying a 29 year old Demario Davis because of 14 outlier games compared to the rest of his career, the Jets smartly signed a comparable player in Williamson who is 3 years younger. Similar to Davis, Williamson is better against the run than the pass and will be most useful on early downs. The only concern is Williamson only played 60% of the Titans snaps last year while Davis played 99% of the Jets snaps. If he can handle the larger role, the Jets made a really nice pivot here. By allowing Davis to walk, Mike Maccagnan is showing a better ability to self-scout his own team. Grade: A-
4 – Teddy Bridgewater – For pennies (only 5 million of his 1 year contract is guaranteed), the Jets are taking a flier on a 25 year old quarterback who has shown signs of being a productive, middle tier starter. This is a smart risk and insurance policy if the NFL Draft turns into a disaster. Bridgewater should not preclude the Jets from drafting a quarterback but it was much smarter to pay him instead of a player like Sam Bradford, Mike Glennon or Chase Daniel because of his potential upside. Grade: A
5 – Isiah Crowell – Crowell has been a competent back for Cleveland over the past few years, This is a 3 year, 12 million dollar deal that only has 4 million of guaranteed money and an easy out after the first year. Basically this is a year one contract to see if Crowell can be an effective early down compliment to Bilal Powell (or another back the Jets add in the NFL Draft). This move may have to do with the Jets recognizing they could have less middle round swings on a deep running back class after potentially needing to use their picks to trade up from #6 into the top 3. Overall, Crowell is an okay player at a very replaceable position who is getting a minimal amount of money. Grade: B
6 – Josh McCown – Every snap Coach McCown takes next year is basically a waste of everybody’s time. The Jets are keeping him to mentor whatever quarterback they draft and/or Bridgewater…hopefully. I’m not sure who else was paying 10 million dollars to a 39 year old journeyman but the Jets quickly pivoted to him after Kirk Cousins had no interest in their pitch. I would have just made him the quarterback coach instead of using salary cap space on him. Grade: D+
7 – Morris Claiborne – He struggled during the second half of last season but showed signs of being a quality starter over the first half of the year. On a one year, 7 million dollar contract, the Jets won’t get burned long term by his injury concerns. Claiborne will also fit better as a compliment to Trumaine Johnson rather than being a lead corner. If he can stay healthy, the Jets will be in very good shape with their top two corners and top two safeties. Grade: B
8 – Cairo Santos – The Jets allowed Chandler Catanzaro to walk and may have upgraded the kicker position with Santos, who will be returning from a groin injury. Throughout his career, Santos has been consistent (84.1 career percent) and show good range (22/28 on kicks of 40-49 yards). He also has playoff experience. Grade: B
9 – Ben Ijalana – Just announced today. The Jets are bringing him back to be their top backup at the tackle position. He didn’t play at all last season but the year before was competent enough for a backup at both tackle spots. The Jets are fairly average at tackle overall and Ijalana fits right into that equation. Grade: C
10 – The Rest: The Jets have brought back Terrence Brooks, Rontez Miles, Quincy Enunwa and Lawrence Thomas…all logical (especially in the case of Enunwa) moves. It is somewhat surprising Mike Pennel, Xavier Cooper and Kony Ealy are not under contract yet considering how thin they are on the defensive line.
11 – Overall: The Jets have made strides at cornerback, center and quarterback but there remains plenty of work to do, most specifically at quarterback, defensive line, tight end and linebacker. Right now, they have the makings of a very good secondary but a thin front seven and a talented collection of skill position players without the support of a true answer at quarterback. The good news is they still have roughly 45 million of cap space and 8 draft picks.
12 – Current Depth Chart (Two Deep)
- QB: Josh McCown, Teddy Bridgewater
- HB: Isaiah Crowell, Bilal Powell
- FB: Lawrence Thomas
- TE: Eric Tomlinson, Jordan Leggett
- WR: Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, Jermaine Kearse, Chris Hansen
- OT: Kelvin Beachum, Brandon Shell, Ben Ijalana, Brent Qvale
- OG: James Carpenter, Brian Winters
- C: Spencer Long
- NT: Steve McLendon, Deon Simon
- DE: Leonard Williams, Claude Pelon
- ILB: Avery Williamson, Darron Lee
- OLB: Jordan Jenkins, Josh Martin, Lorenzo Mauldin
- CB: Trumaine Johnson, Morris Claiborne, Buster Skrine, Daryl Roberts
- S: Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, Terrence Brooks, Rontez Miles
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com