(Please note, this is not a ranking of preferred or “best” targets, it is a list of 12 names the Jets are likely to consider and have a somewhat pragmatic chance at…along with a brief background on each player).
1 – Dante Fowler – A long rumored name to the Jets over the past couple of years, there is a chance Fowler ends up getting tagged by the Rams but if he doesn’t, he will command a robust long term deal on the open market. Fowler picked a good time to have a career year as he posted 11.5 sacks last season and looked the part of a more complete player than just a pure, situational pass rusher. He is only 25 years old and was taken third overall for a reason. Can he replicate his production away from Aaron Donald and some of the other key pieces on the Rams defense? Some team is going to pay a ton to find out. This would be a big splurge for the Jets but isn’t off the table as a possible option in the coming weeks.
2 – Markus Golden – A lower cost edge rusher swing. Golden was very good for the Giants last season, racking up 10 sacks. The 28 year old has been productive when healthy but being healthy has been a rarity for him. The two seasons (2019 and 2016) that he’s played 16 games in, he has eclipsed double digit sacks. Yet, he missed 17 games between the 2018 and 2017 seasons. This could potentially be a great value add for the Jets as they look to add more juice off the edge. Let Dave Gettleman spend his money on Leonard Williams instead.
3 – Matt Judon – Similar to Fowler, he could receive the franchise tag still, although he may be a candidate to be traded after receiving it. Judon stepped into the void left by Za’Darius Smith and Terrell Suggs last year and racked up a career best 9.5 sacks. Judon’s production didn’t come out of nowhere, as he had a combined 15 sacks between the 2017 and 2018 seasons while not missing a single game over the past three years. It would be surprising if the Ravens let him walk for nothing and it will be interesting to see if the Jets, or any other team, attempt to build a trade package to acquire him and sign him long term if he does get the tag.
4 – Shaq Lawson – A second tier option at edge rusher. Lawson is still in his prime at 27 years old and is coming off a career high 6.5 sacks for the Buffalo Bills. A solid two way player who could see his production improve in a larger role.
5 – Emmanuel Ogbah – A somewhat similar target to Lawson in free agency. Ogbah had 5.5 sacks last season for the Kansas City Chiefs, matching a career high from his rookie year back in 2016. The 26 year old has enough versatility to be a valuable addition to the Jets linebacker group as they work to expand their athleticism and versatility.
6 – Vinny Curry – An option as one year flier at edge rusher. The 31 year old Curry has been inconsistent in recent years but did grab 5 sacks for the Eagles last season and could be valuable, cheap as a situational pass rusher.
7 – James Bradberry – Arguably the top cornerback option on the market. Bradberry is 26 years old, has excellent size at 6’1, 212 pounds. He came into his own last season for the Panthers and would be a plug and play starter and massive upgrade on the outside for the Jets at corner. This would be a costly addition as most are projecting Bradberry to get around 12-13 million per year but he should be able to solve a long standing need for the next 2-3 years.
8 – Byron Jones – The other big name on the cornerback market. Jones is likely to receive a comparable contract to Bradberry, if not slightly more. There will be a competitive market for both Jones and Bradberry and the Jets may be hesitant to take a big swing at cornerback after what happened with Trumaine Johnson but Jones is younger and should have a higher long term upside.
9 – Trae Waynes – A name that has been floated around the Jets as a prospective trade target in the past. Waynes has been an inconsistent first round pick but has generally stabilized as a competent starter on the outside. He will also be notably cheaper than both Jones and Bradberry. A better option than Arthur Maulet to pair with Blessaun Austin with more of a pedigree.
10 – Ronald Darby – Somehow still only 26 years old, Darby is unquestionably talented but cannot stay healthy. He has missed 20 games over the past three years. Joe Douglas should be more than familiar with Darby and his game. A prospective one year contract target to start on the outside at corner for the Jets.
11 – Jalen Mills – A somewhat similar story to Darby: A talented Eagles cornerback who is still young but has struggled to stay healthy. Mills has good size but has experience working in the slot as well. If the Jets don’t bring back Brian Poole (they should), targeting Mills becomes even more likely.
12 – Mackensie Alexander – A 26 year old second tier option in free agency. He started four games for the Vikings last year and similar to Mills, has experience playing outside and in the slot.