Fresh off the Teddy Bridgewater trade, the New York Jets are now armed with 3 top 100 picks in next year’s NFL Draft. With their franchise QB in tow, it is now time for Mike Maccagnan o turn their eyes towards filling the last major need this team has, and that is an edge rusher.
Some will argue that the Jets need a left tackle:, they do not seeing as how Kelvin Beachum is the starter with one year left under contract and has been fine when healthy. An injury can change that, but it’s not necessarily a need right now. Others will say that the team should prepare for life after James Carpenter but next year’s free agent offensive line class includes guards Mike Iupati, Andy Levitre, and Jonathan Cooper: I say that to say that it’s possible the Jets bring Carpenter back for one year because he’d be a top four guard available.
With that in mind, what if the team decides they don’t want to wait until next year to try and target Nick Bosa, Clelin Ferrell, or Josh Allen? These are six guys they can try and use their draft capital to acquire now to fill that long-unfilled need.
Khalil Mack, EDGE, Raiders
2017 Stats: 78 tackles; 10.5 sacks
PFF Grade: 90.2 DEF/88.3 Pass Rush/89.6 Run Defense/44.6 Coverage
At worst the second best edge rusher in the league and the third best defensive player in the league, the former Buffalo standout is reportedly on the trade block with a reporter asking price of two first round picks. Mack is the only defensive player in the league that is worth that, because of his age and production. Would an offer of the Jets next two first round picks get the done? Would it be worth it? Absolutely, because he is an absolute game changer on this defense who makes everybody’s job easier. Mack would slot in as an OLB in Todd Bowles’s defense, and would improve an average unit in the league into one of the premier units.
Jadaveon Clowney, OLB, Texans
2017 Stats: 59 tackles, 9.5 sacks
PFF Grade: 75.4 DEF/74.7 Pass Rush/81.1 Run Defense/58.7 Coverage
When JJ Watt went down for the Texans, it was Jadaveon Clowney responsible for keeping the defense afloat. The former top overall pick finished the year with 9.5 sacks and was as stout versus the run as he was as a pass rusher. The Texans picked up his 5th year option, as is the norm, but there has been no movement on a long term deal. Mike Maccagnan is very familiar with Clowney, since he was the Director of College Scouting when the Texans took him first overall, and coming off back to back Pro Bowls and a second team All-Pro in 2016 it seems like Clowney is set for a monster year.
Dante Fowler Jr., EDGE, Jacksonville Jaguars
2017 Stats: 21 tackles, 8 sacks
PFF Grades: 56.5 DEF/66.3 Pass Rush/51.7 RUN DEF/59.3 Coverage
At 24 years old, you would think the Jaguars would have wanted to invest in their former first round pick as a cornerstone of their defense. However, injuries derailed Fowler’s promising rookie year and then limited him to a situational role his second year as he worked himself back. Last year, playing 44.83% of the Jaguars snaps led to his production increase too. There is no reason to think him transitioning to a full time OLB in the Jets scheme wouldn’t yield another jump in production. The Jaguars do not seem interested in paying him, as evidenced by them not picking up his 5th year option, and he has gotten into a few scuffles this summer. He is a better fit as an 3-4 OLB, and would be the team’s best edge rusher in years.
Shane Ray, OLB, Broncos
2017 Stats: 16 tackles, one sack
PFF Grades: 52.6 DEF/62.6 Pass Rush/57.0 Run Defense/47.0 Coverage
Another first round pick who did not have his 5th year option picked up, the undersized Ray was admittedly not a favorite of mine leading up to the 2015 NFL Draft. However, he had a very productive season in 2016 with 8 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries (one for a touchdown), and 33 tackles. With the switch to Vance Joseph’s system coupled with injuries, Ray was not as effective and this led the Broncos to essentially replace him with Bradley Chubb in the 2018 NFL Draft. Is Ray, entering his 4th year, the 8 sack pass rusher from 2him016 or the one that looked overmatched last year? If the Jets are willing to bank on the former, he would come cheaper than the first three names on this list because Denver may just want to get something for .
Shaquil Barrett, EDGE, Denver
2017 Stats: 30 tackles, 4 sacks, two forced fumbles
PFF Grades: 82.7 DEF/79.4 Pass Rush/78.7 Run Defense/61.3 Coverage
Some folks have argued that it was actually Shaquil Barrett’s play, not the selection of Bradley Chubb, that has expedited Shane Ray’s departure from Denver. While Ray had issues fitting into Vance Joseph’s defense, Barrett had no such issues and he showed an ability to cover TEs and RBs that was teased leading up to the NFL Draft. Barrett is entering his 5th year and is set to become a free agent after this year after signing his one year tender this past offseason. He’s scheduled to hit the market at 26 years old, with productive numbers, and the Jets would be trading for him knowing he’d need a new deal. They have the cap space to pay it though.
Brandon Graham, DE, Eagles
2017 Stats: 47 Tackles, 9.5 sacks
PFF Grades: 90.4 DEF/88.0 pass rush/83.4 run defense/69.2 coverage
The only person on this list that’s over the age of 27, the former Michigan Wolverine is recovering from an ankle injury and has seen his team allocate his playing time to Tennessee standout Derek Barnett. Graham is coming off a heat where he played 823 snaps and rewarded the Eagles with 9.5 sacks, which is the most he’s ever had. He is entering his 8th year in the league, and could cost the least out of everyone on this list and be the best edge rusher the Jets have had in a long time (like everyone on this list). Vincent Frank reported that the 49ers called to inquire about the availability of Graham after the Eagles acquired former Super Bowl MVP Michael Bennett. The Jets could swoop in and acquire the guy that averages a pressure generated every 5.8 snaps.