The 2019 NFL regular season has, mercilessly, come to an end for the New York Football Jets. Now you will hear the spin of what a great year this really was from a group of beat writers that never really held the two men ultimately responsible for the abject failure that 2019 was (Mike Maccagnan then, Adam Gase now). The Jets had a splashy offseason by any objective measure, after they signed the best offensive and defensive players available. They allowed a below average general manager and a below average head coach to oversee their entire offseason, but there really is minimal need to dwell on that as much because the below average head coach got the below average general manager fired when he realized there could really only be one (kind of a reverse Sith operation, for all you Star Wars fans out there), and the Jets were able to save face by hiring a well respected up and comer named Joe Douglas for GM.
He was hired too late in the offseason to really make much of a difference, but he did make three moves that really paid off for this team by trading DE Leonard Williams for two draft picks, and trading for OG Alex Lewis and CB Nate Hairston. The two draft picks netted for Leo Williams should add more young talent to a roster absolutely devoid of it, while Lewis should start at one of the OG positions next year, and Hairston should compete for corner reps with Arthur Maulet to round out what can only be a better group in year two under Gregg Williams. He, also, brought in Braxton Berrios, who solidified the punt return unit and realistically should be good enough to be the 4th wide receiver on this team going forward.
With all of that said, the Jets just completed the 9th straight season where they did not make the playoffs. 2020 has to be a playoff season, no matter what the aforementioned beat writers try to say. This was not a successful season: no, it did not have to be a championship season to be viewed as a success, but they had to make some tangible progress. Sam Darnold had to look like a top 15 QB, and he unfortunately did not by any measure. Adam Gase did not show he learned anything from his week off before being hired as Jets Head Coach.
Robby Anderson, after a very lackadaisical regular season, really turned it on in the second half but sounded like a man out the door today when speaking to reporters (for the record, he should’ve been signed before the season and both GMs bear the blame if Robby leaves). LeVeon Bell was not used appropriately, Ty Montgomery was not used at all, and it was essentially a lost season for Chris Herndon. CJ Mosley and Avery Williamson did not play together, Quinnen Williams did very little, Trumaine Johnson was bad when he did play, Quincy Enunwa was hurt again, Kelechi Osemele’s tenure ended before it could even begin amidst accusations of mishandling, Darnold had mono, Trevor Sieimien broke his ankle, Kelvin Beachum missed time, and on top of ALL that? Adam Gase was god awful. Here’s the good news: the Jets can make the playoffs next season, and these are 20 moves they should make (except for firing Gase, because they have clearly already made the mistake of retaining him for one more year) to make sure the playoff drought ends and the team is set up for long term success:
Projected Cap Space: 70.8M
|QB: Sam Darnold, David Fales (2)||DE: Quinnen Williams, Henry Anderson, Kyle Phillips, Nathan Shephard, Jordan Willis (5)|
|RB: Leveon Bell, Ty Montgomery, Bilal Powell, Josh Adams (4)||DT: Steve McClendon, Folorunso Fatukasi (2)|
|FB: Trevon Wesco (1)||OLB: Jordan Jenkins, Brandon Copeland, Terrell Basham, Harvey Langi, Frankie Luvu (5)|
|WR: Robby Anderson, Demaryus Thomas, Vyncent Smith, Jamison Crowder, Braxton Barrios, (5)||ILB: CJ Mosley, Avery Williamson, James Burgess, Neville Hewitt, Blake Cashman (5)|
|TE: Ryan Griffin, Chris Herndon, Daniel Brown (3)||CB: Trumaine Johnson, Nate Hairston, Bless Austin, Daryl Roberts, Brian Poole (6)|
|OT: Kelvin Beachum, Brent Qvale, Brandon Shell, Chuma Edoga (4)||S: Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, Matthias Fairley, (3)|
|OG: Brian Winters, Alex Lewis, Conor McDermott, Ben Braden (4)||K: Sam Ficken|
|C: Johnathan Harrison (1)||P: Lachlan Edwards|
|LS: Brand Lundblade|
Lets begin with the releases:
- Cut CB Trumaine Johnson before March 20th, 2020: cutting Johnson is going to eat in a bit to the $70.8M in cap space you have available by $9M (a $12M dead cap charge with $3M in cap savings), leaving you with $61.8M at the time. However, you cannot hold on to him past that date as his entire 2020 salary becomes guaranteed then. Cutting him gets him far away from your roster, as you let some other team try and sign him for the league minimum, and lets you begin to reshape the secondary.
- Cut WR Quincy Enunwa: the oft-injured fan favorite has no future with the team, as he also clashed with Gase over the handling of an incident during the season around Veterans Day, and cutting him nets you $2.4M in cap space, bringing the total to $64.2M.
- Cut OG Brian Winters: cutting the veteran adds an additional $7.5M in cap space (bringing that number up to $71.7M) and also frees up the other OG spot opposite of presumed starter Alex Lewis.
- Cut ILB Avery Williamson: with this release, you’re now up to $78.2M in cap space, as the emergence of James Burgess at a lower cap number lets you not invest almost $30M in two ILBs.
- Cut CB Daryl Roberts: the ineffective Roberts was paid like a starter by Mike Maccagnan and was eventually phased out for Bless Austin, Nate Hairston, and Arther Maulet. You gain $6M more in cap space ($84.2M now) and move on from someone who just did not play well this season (42 receptions allowed on 65 targets, a burn rate of 65%).
- Cut WR Josh Bellamy: useless player that was outplayed by both Braxton Berriors and Vyncent Smith, and whose release nets you an extra $2.2M in cap space ($86.4M, total).
CB Trumaine Johnson, WR Quincy Enunwa, OG Brian Winters, ILB Avery Williamson, CB Daryl Roberts, WR Josh Bellamy
Cap Space: $86.4M
Now, here’s who you re-sign and for how much:
- Re-sign OT Kelvin Beachum to a 3 year/$27M deal with $16.2M guaranteed: Beachum can play LT, RT, and inside, and he only allowed 4 sacks in 450 pass blocking snaps this year (that’s 1 sack every 112 dropbacks). Bringing him back lets you not be pigeonholed into reaching for an OL in the draft.
- Re-sign OLB/EDGE Jordan Jenkins to a 4 year/$34M deal with $23.8M guaranteed: back to back seasons of 7+ sacks, plus continued good run stopper, means bringing Jenkins back is key for the defense. He’s a young talented player that continues developing into a solid starter.
- Re-sign CB Brian Poole to a 4 year/$20M deal with $12M guaranteed: an underrated Maccagnan signing, Poole did alright in coverage, but really excelled as an extra blitzer for Gregg Williams. Bless Austin appears to have the inside track to one of the CB positions, and keeping Poole lets you focus on adding a veteran and draft pick to your CB group.
- Re-sign WR Robby Anderson to a 4 year/$52M deal with $26M guaranteed: there is no succession plan in place to replace Robby, plus he really turned it on the second half of the season. He is Sam Darnold’s best weapon and you have a good duo to build around with him and Jamison Crowder next year, plus the returning Chris Herndon and Ryan Griffin.
OT Kelvin Beachum, OLB/EDGE Jordan Jenkins, CB Brian Poole, WR Robby Anderson
Cap Space Remaining: $60.4M
Now, on to who I would sign in free agency (using Fanspeak’s great Ultimate GM Mode):
- Yannick Ngakoue (4 years/88M, 44M guaranteed): 37.5 career sacks for the former Maryland Terrapin, Ngakoue would be the premier pass rusher on the market this year. At 24 years old, his best football is undoubtedly behind him, and a front seven that puts him next to CJ Mosley in the role the Jets envisioned for Anthony Barr gives the Jets defense a chance to really go next level.
- Anthony Castanzo (3 years/36M, 25.2M guaranteed): on 621 pass block snaps played, the veteran Costanzo allowed 3 sacks. That is one sack allowed every 207 dropbacks. He allowed 34 total QB pressures, or one pressure every 34 dropbacks. There is talk that the veteran may retire this offseason but if he does not and he hits the market, adding the durable Colts LT (he’s started all 16 games in six of nine seasons and has appeared in 140 out of 152 games) and moving Kelvin Beachum to RT really gives Sam Darnold an incredible bookend of tackles to keep him upright.
- Byron Jones (5 years/95M, 47.5M guaranteed): The Cowboys have 3 guys that need to get paid this offseason, and Byron Jones is ALWAYS the one that hits free agency when ive done these mock offseasons. He was targeted 53 times in 579 coverage snaps (once every 11 snaps) and gave up one catch every 19 coverage snaps. He will be 28 during the first year of his deal, and a deal where his guaranteed money is tied into his 28, 29, and 30 year old seasons is smart. Jones is an ascending player, and the Jets need a top corner in this defense so Bless Austin can be the 2nd outside corner. Jones completes the overhaul of the defense for Gregg Williams.
- Andrus Peat (5 years/50M, 25M guaranteed): 26 year old guards do not typically hit the market, but the former tackle turned guard hits the market here, and the Jets would be wise to pounce. With the emergence of Nick Easton, the Saints may opt to et the young OL go. Peat allowed 3 sacks over 350 pass block snaps played and would solidify the interior of the OL opposite Alex Lewis. Him, in combination with the signing of Costanzo, really locks in the OL for Darnold entering year 3.
- Jalen Richard (4 years/16M, 10M guaranteed): I know what you’re thinking: another RB for Adam Gase to not use, but Richard is very good in pass protection and is a good weapon out of the backfield. If you believe that Adam Gase has talked to Leveon Bell about different ways to use him (I don’t), then he’s going to need another back to keep Bell fresh. Richard would be that guy in this offense, paired with the back I draft for the team below.
Cap Space: $15.7M left
Now, lastly, this is how I attack the draft, and in this simumalutor the Giants let Leonard Williams hit free agency, so the picks reflect that:
- Stay at 11, and draft WR Ceedee Lamb: WR1 to those not familiar, the 6’2” WR doesn’t have elite speed, but in this offense that’s Robby’s job. Lamb can still grow as a route runner, which should be really scary for the NFL, but automatically becomes that number one WR that Sam Darnold needs. A true gamebreaking talent, paired with Robby, Jamison, TEs Ryan Griffin and Chris Herndon, Bell, Richard, and the offensive line above? Sign us up.
- Stay at 48, and draft RB Travis Etienne: by far my favorite RB in the 2020 draft class, Etienne has the potential to take a carry or a pass to the house whenever he touches the ball. With the Jets not moving on from Leveon Bell this offseason, but beginning to prepare for life once they do, Etienne is the perfect back to learn behind Bell and join Richard to create a potent backfield for the Jets offense. Etienne can, also, grow with Darnold since their rookie deals line up (Sam in year 3, Etienne in year 1).
- Trade the 4th pick in the 3rd round to the Oakland Raiders for the 16th and 17th picks in the 3rd round, giving you three straight 3rd round picks, and draft G Ben Bredeson, LB Monty Rice, and S Jarius Morehead: Joe Douglas’s first tradeback would net him an additional pick, and would allow him to add more young talent to this roster. Bredeson becomes both insurance if Peat is injured and competition for Lewis during training camp, who has raw power and will only continue to get better. Monty Rice, at 6’1” and 235 pounds, is an explosive player who can stand to improve at how he processes the plays developing in front of him. Rice is an elite athlete who could start next to CJ Mosley by the end of 2020. Lastly, taking the North Carolina State safety with your third 3rd round pick allows you to add another playmaker that Gregg can start to rotate in on three-safety looks who can also play the deep cover safety he was using Marcus Maye on.
- Trade the 14th pick in the 4th round to the Baltimore Ravens for the 32nd and 35th picks in the 4th round, giving you an additional 4th, draft OT Lucas Niang with the 32nd pick in the 4th round and then trade the 35th pick in the 4th round to the Jacksonville Jaguars for the 10th and 26th picks in the 6th round. One of the flaws in the recent drafting for the Jets, no matter the GM, is the not drafting to replenish the middle class of the roster. Drafting Niang (and Bredeson, and one of the 6th round picks coming), after signing Costanzo and re-signing Beachum, goes a way towards fixing that as Niang projects to develop into a long term LT at the NFL. He is a massive man who, under Frank Pollack, will only get better. His hip injury does not appear to be serious. Trading your 2nd 4th round pick gets you two more sixth round picks to continue rounding out this roster.
- Draft EDGE Christian Rector in round 5, and use your three 6th rounders to draft CB Amik Robertson, C Jake Hanson, and TE Chase Allen: Rector is a good depth edge guy to develop, who uses primarily a bull rush and his strength. Robertson is a ballhawk with elite ball skills, and really completes an overhaul of this corner group in one offseason. Hanson is a fundamentally sound C who can push Harrison right away for starter reps. Replacing Daniel Brown on the roster by drafting Chase Allen, a solid blocker and decent pass catcher from the TE position is almost a no-brainer.
R1P11: WR CEEDEE LAMB, OKLAHOMA
R2P16: RB TRAVIS ETIENNE, CLEMSON
R3P15: G BEN BREDESON, MICHIGAN
R3P16: LB MONTY RICE, GEORGIA
R3P17: S JARIUS MOREHEAD, NORTH CAROLINA STATE
R4P32: OT LUCAS NIANG, TCU
R5P12: EDGE CHRISTIAN RECTOR, USC
R6P10: CB AMIK ROBERTSON, LOUISIANA TECH
R6P12: C JAKE HANSON, OREGON
R6P26: TE CHASE ALLEN, IOWA STATE
Top 53 Man Roster heading into training camp:
|QB: Sam Darnold, David Fales (2)||DE: Quinnen Williams, Henry Anderson, Kyle Phillips, Nathan Shephard (4)|
|RB: Leveon Bell, Jalen Richard, Travis Etienne (3)||DT: Steve McClendon, Folorunso Fatukasi (2)|
|FB: Trevon Wesco (1)||OLB: Jordan Jenkins, Yannick Ngakoue, Brandon Copeland, Terrell Basham, Christian Rector (5)|
|WR: CeeDee Lamb, Robby Anderson, Vyncent Smith, Jamison Crowder, Braxton Barrios, (5)||ILB: CJ Mosley, Monty Rice, James Burgess, Blake Cashman (4)|
|TE: Ryan Griffin, Chris Herndon, Chase Allen (3)||CB: Byron Jones, Nate Hairston, Bless Austin, Brian Poole, Arther Maulet, Amik Robertson (6)|
|OT: Anthony Castanzo, Kelvin Beachum, Lucas Niang, Chuma Edoga (4)||S: Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, Jarius Morehead (3)|
|OG: Andrus Peat, Alex Lewis, Conor McDermott, Ben Bredeson (4)||K: Sam Ficken|
|C: Johnathan Harrison, Jake Hanson (2)||P: Lachlan Edwards|
|LS: Brand Lundblade|
With these 20 moves, I believe the New York Jets can be a playoff team in the next year and really create the nucleus that will grow with Sam Darnold as you get ready to pay him in 2021. Signing Peat, drafting Niang/Hanson/Bredeson for the OL, re-signing Robby Anderson, and adding Lamb and Etienne means that the majority of the offense will be on rookie deals as Sam enters his next development stage as a QB. Shoring up the defense with Byron Jones and Yannick Ngakoue, players under the age of 28, while bringing in youth like Robertson, Rice, Rector, and Morehead, means your middle class develops on rookie deals too before guys like Rice, Rector, and Robertson can potentially replace guys like Mosley, Jenkins, and Poole. Joe Douglas has to attack this offseason not just for 2020 but for years 2021-2023 (which are the end of Sam’s rookie deal and beginning of what you hope is his big money deal).