With this article by ESPN’s Rich Cimini, eyes have now began to turn towards the 2018 offseason and a coffer filled with close to $80 million for the New York Jets. The team does not have many long term contracts, and it is a team that will now sink or swim with Christian Hackenberg, Darron Lee, Leo Williams, Quincy Enunwa, Brian Winters, and the Alpha of this team Jamal Adams. Gone are the veterans of this team, but you get the feeling that the Jets will not ignore free agency next year.
I can almost guarantee that the Jets will look to make a splash, if for no other reason than to meet the spending floor, and that guarantee will most likely be magnified if they decide to clean house one more time and fire their General Manager and Head Coach after only three seasons. Either way, expect them to spend, and here are six guys the Jets could look to target next offseason if they hit the market, who could be wearing a betfair new jersey in 2018.
1. Trumaine Johnson, CB, Rams
The Rams franchise tagged the 26 year old cornerback this past offseason, and the odds of them doing that again are very slim. There is still a chance that the Rams work out a long term deal with their shutdown cornerback, but that becomes less likely the closer we get to free agency. The Jets will have the requisite cap space to sign the then-27 year old cornerback, and his familiarity with new Jets defensive backs coach Dennard Austin might give the Jets an edge for the corner’s services.
The Jets ignored cornerback in this year’s NFL draft, instead opting to sign former first round pick Morris Claiborne to a one year-prove it deal. Johnson had seven interceptions last year, can play in Head Coach Todd Bowles’s man to man scheme but can also play in other schemes should a new coach eb brought in, and is entering the prime of his career right when he hits the market. If Claiborne flashes enough, then signing Johnson gives you your two young corners to pair with your two young safeties. If Claiborne gets hurt or does not produce, then Johnson replaces him while you find the corner to play opposite of him. In any event, Johnson would be a guy I could see the Jets targeting the minute free agency opens and he is young enough to not negatively impact the under 30 philosophy Maccagnan and Bowles are going for.
2. Allen Robinson, WR, Jaguars
2015 saw the former Penn State Nittany Lion finish with 80 catches for 1,400 yards and 14 TDs, but 2016 Allen Robinson was a disappointment as he only finished with 73 catches for 883 yards and just six TDs. However, a lot of that could be attributed to the enigma that is Blake Bortles. With the emergence of Marqise Lee last year, the Jaguars may opt to not pay Robinson the huge contract he will command. Enter the Jets, who just so happen to employ Robinson’s college quarterback Christian Hackenberg. I know a lot of Jets fans will scoff and say “we drafted ArDarius Stewart and Chad Hansen, we don’t need Allen Robinson.”
This is like if the Warriors said they didn’t need Kevin Durant because they drafted James McAdoo. If you want your presumptive franchise QB to succeed, then you need to surround him with as many weapons as possible. Giving him Quincy Enunwa and Robinson gives him a duo that can grow with him. Resign Enunwa, sign Robinson, and let one of either Stewart, Hansen, or Robby Anderson battle it out for the third spot. You can never have enough pass catchers.3. Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals
The emergence of Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, coupled with the development of Jordan Leggett, may make this a moot point but if John Morton really is going to run a system similar to the Saints then they will need a second Tight End to pair with whichever one of the two between Leggett and Sefarian-Jenkins emerges. Tyler Eifert is a matchup nightmare, is only 26 years old, and had 13 touchdowns in 2015. He will be looking to bounce back from an injury-plagued season last year, but the Bengals drafted a potential replacement in Tyler Kroft a couple of years ago. Eifert is another weapon for Hackenburg to grow with, and he is both a polished route runner and a very good run blocker, and due to his injury history the Bengals may opt to not pay him this offseason. The Jets would be wise to add him to what would be a growing stable of pass catchers.
4. Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons
The Jets have an aging Matt Forte, and two running backs better suited to be support backs as oppose to feature backs. The Falcons drafted Tevin Coleman with t he idea that he’d be the bellcow, but he ends up getting hurt and Devonta Freeman takes off. Freeman now wants to be paid like an elite back and after back-to-back 1000+ rushing and 50+ reception seasons he is due for a big contract. He is a versatile three-down back and, say it with me now, gives Hackenburg another weapon to work with. This would allow the Jets to properly use Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire, and would upgrade the Jets running game as a whole. Freeman, lastly, excels in blitz protection (Super Bowl vs Donta Hightower not withstanding) and the Jets could stand to have interchangeable pieces at each of their offensive skill positions. Adding Freeman, Robinson, and Eifert to Hackenburg, Enunwa, Stewart, Hansen, and the offensive line gives the Jets an entire starting offense under the ages of 29. Stealing Freeman from Atlanta also prevents him from going to a team like New England, who is seemingly targeting every offensive player available.
5. Ezekial Ansah, DE, Lions
After posting 30 sacks during his first three seasons, Ezekial Ansah seemed to struggle last year and only registered two. The Jets are in dire need of an edge rusher still (this drought is almost as long as the Bills playoff drought), and Ansah certainly fits the ball. He came in as a very raw pass rusher and registered eight sacks off pure athleticism, and then started to develop into a pass rusher. Year 3 saw him take that next step, and if he has the bounceback season that I expect him to then he may be too rich for the Lions since they have to pay franchise QB Matthew Stafford next offseason as well. Ansah can slot right in as the OLB in Bowles’s 3-4 system, or as a 4-3 DL if a new coach changes systems.
6. Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington
I was very tempted to not include Cousins on this list, but Washington appears like they are in complete dysfunction and may decide to walk away from their QB instead of franchise tagging him a third time. Coming off back to back 4000+ yard seasons and a division title in 2015 for Washington, Cousins will most likely be the best QB on the market if Washington sets him free. The Jets were linked with him during this offseason and last and, if Hackenburg implodes, signing Cousins is the kind of move Woody Johnson would approve of if for nothing else than to finally have a competent QB and to steal headlines. Cousins runs Jay Gruden’s system very well, and he knows the Northeast Media. Adding him to the aforementioned collection of talent you’ve now added would give him the best possible chance to succeed here, on top of being the ultimate win now move to try and end the Super Bowl drought.
Photo Credit: Falcons.com