It goes without question the New York Jets need substantial work to their roster but when sifting through all their needs, what ones are at the top of the list? Here is a preliminary overview in the early days of the offseason…
1A – Offensive Line
This is an offense dominated league so the two offensive needs are stacked higher than the defensive needs. It all starts upfront and it all starts with protecting Sam Darnold, the most valuable asset in the organization. The Jets have criminally neglected their offensive line over the past four years, selecting zero players before the fifth round and missing on their free agent splurge Spencer Long last season.
As it stands now, they would ideally find a new center (Matt Paradis, Mitch Morse?), a starting guard to replace James Carpenter (Roger Saffold, Quenton Spain?) and make an addition at tackle with Brandon Shell coming off a serious injury. Realistically, it is going to be hard to turn over more than two starting positions on the offensive line in a single offseason but that doesn’t mean the Jets shouldn’t try and also focus on adding better depth throughout the NFL Draft so they aren’t boxed into starting guys like Brent Qvale for multiple weeks. This is also a position nobody would complain about them addressing in the first round of the draft, whether they stay put (Jonah Williams?) or trade back.
1B – Offensive Playmaker
The Jets have not had a 1,000 yard rusher, 1,000 yard receiver or 3,000 yard passer since the 2015 season and all of those players are long gone. It is not rocket science but you need to score points to win the NFL. The Jets are short on top tier playmakers to put around Sam Darnold. Robby Anderson is a nice vertical threat. Quincy Enunwa is a versatile, tough slot weapon. Chris Herndon showed immense promise as a rookie. Elijah McGuire is fine as a backup used in the passing game. They are good complementary weapons, not consistent game changing playmakers.
Le’Veon Bell’s free agency is an anomaly the Jets need to take advantage of, as he would immediately become the best all around offensive player they have had this decade and their top rusher and receiver. Outside of a lead back, they need another starting receiver to put alongside Anderson and Enunwa, depth behind those three so an injury doesn’t derail the offense and a more explosive second tight end behind Herndon, who is likely to be suspended to start the season.
After Bell, the skill position talent in free agency falls off to names like Tevin Coleman, Golden Tate, Adam Humphries, Tyrell Williams, Mark Ingram, Demetrius Harris and Jesse James. The Jets need to use their excess cap space to take multiple swings and build the overall depth and versatility of their offense…also utilizing mid round picks on useful players unlike ArDarius Stewart, Chad Hansen and Nathan Shepherd would be a good thing.
2 – Pass Rusher
Yes, here we are again. Pass rusher is still a legitimate need for this defense as the quest to replace John Abraham enters year 15. Jordan Jenkins is a solid complementary player and edge setter if the Jets stick with a 3-4 and Frankie Luvu/Brandon Copeland are capable backups but the Jets are going to need way more juice off the edge. The free agent market is technically littered with big names but is likely to disappoint thanks to the franchise tag and team’s prioritizing keep their own talent with their available cap space. The top options could end up being JAGs like Shane Ray or Shaq Barrett, a past his prime Zeke Ansah or the overrated Dante Fowler Jr. Hopefully, the Patriots allow Trey Flowers to hit the market and the Jets can be more successful recruiting him than they were Dont’a Hightower (No cupcakes, please).
This will also be a popular pick to mock to the Jets with the third overall pick, particularly if Kentucky’s Josh Allen ends up being available. The Jets are at the point where they need to sign one and draft one, if not sign two and draft one or sign one and draft two…basically, they can’t do enough here this offseason with their available resources.
3 – Cornerback
The current top of the Jets depth chart is as follows (age for 2019 season/rank via PFF):
- Trumaine Johnson: 29 years old, 22nd ranked CB, missed 6.5 games due to injury
- Morris Claiborne: 29 years old, 75th ranked CB, free agent
- Buster Skrine: 30 years old, 107th ranked CB, free agent
So…not good, particularly if the Jets are going to hire Gregg Williams and run a cover zero heavy scheme. The Jets have been trying and repeatedly failing to revamp this position over the past four years and still have work to do.
Johnson will inevitably be here because of his contract. The team has to hope that he will age better than most cornerbacks do and stay healthy next year. He is likely going to need to be hid by the scheme when possible as he showed signs of being unable to hold up on an island in man coverage this past season. The team could theoretically take a swing on the untested Derrick Jones or backup Daryl Roberts replacing Claiborne or run it back with him for another year but all three of those options pose major risks. The free agent market is fairly thin unless they want to kick the tires on names like Jason Verrett, Justin Coleman or Bradley Roby.
Slot corner sticks out the most as it is time for Skrine to move on and second year sixth rounder Parry Nickerson does not appear capable of stepping in full time. He is coming off a major injury but Bryce Callahan could be a free agent target or the Jets are going to need to take some swings at the position in the NFL Draft…before the sixth round.