New York Jets – Three Free Agents Who Should Be Brought Back

Michael Nania on three internal free agents the New York Jets should bring back in 2018

Most of the attention among New York Jets fans this offseason has gone towards the outside free agents the team should be targeting, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that considering the porous roster they currently have. However, there are a few key pieces from 2017 that are set to hit the market as well. With the extreme amounts of dough Mike Maccagnan and the regime in Florham Park are set to have, they have the wiggle room to play smart in negotiations with their in-house talent. Here are the three they should focus on bringing back:

Demario Davis

It’s been well publicized that no Jet made the Pro Bowl this year. If there was one that was absolutely deserving of a spot, it was Demario Davis.

Davis’ 2017 season was a remarkable story of not only a career renaissance, but an in-season one as well. Many saw his arrival in return for Calvin Pryor as a wash. Davis was inconsistent at best during his time as a starter with the team, and hopes weren’t high for him.

When the Jets started 0-2, they were gashed on the ground by the Bills and Raiders, and Davis was a big part of the problem there. He looked much like the player Jets fans remembered, and the doubters seemed right.

After that, Davis flipped the switch and started playing like a Pro Bowler. He showcased consistent discipline and smarts that allowed him to flourish. Davis finished the year with 15 quarterback hits (most among ILBs), 135 tackles, and 5 sacks while grading as PFF’s 8th-best linebacker.

On the down side, he is getting up there at 29 and is coming off a career year. Can he sustain it? That’s the question. You also have to consider he’s an emotional leader for the team and the definition of a proven locker-room leader. In addition, letting him go creates a hole alongside the slowly progressing, but still highly inconsistent Darron Lee. Are the Jets going to find someone better than Davis to fill his role?

Davis likely isn’t going to get another shot quite like this one to cash in. The Jets need to be smart not to overpay, but he is very important to what they’re doing on defense and they should prioritize him. Spotrac puts his market value at just over $5M per year. If they can get him at that price, I think that is very fair. Looking at how the league’s richest inside linebackers stack up, I’d say it would be fair to go up to around $6M per year, which would put him 8th at the position at the moment.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins

Perhaps we as Jets fans have been groomed to overreact every time a tight end actually does something with a football. That could be the case, but Seferian-Jenkins is another player who would be great to have back.

ASJ posted 50 receptions for 357 yards and 3 touchdowns in 13 games, a 27.5 yard per game average but an awfully low 7.1 yards per reception, lowest among the 45 tight ends with 30+ targets. This is the number that has many fans thinking Seferian-Jenkins isn’t all that great.

I think otherwise. To me, it was the Jets’ utilization of ASJ that led to his low yardage output. They rarely ran him downfield even though he’s shown that he is fully capable of working deep. In his first three seasons in the league, among the 47 tight ends with at least 90 cumulative targets over that period, ASJ ranked 6th in yards per reception at 13.0.

Now, as with any negotiation, the Jets need to hold tight and restrain from overpaying. There were reports out there that Seferian-Jenkins turned down $6M per year from the Jets. In my view, I think that number right there should be a general cap for his value.

ASJ ranked 24th among tight ends in yards per game, and under the 30+ target filter, placed last in yards per reception and yards per target. The previously mentioned $6M average would place him 19th among tight ends. His production in 2017 doesn’t warrant that, but the fact he is still 25 years old, has improved his blocking and has showcased a high ceiling (he was 11th in receiving yards per game and 2nd in yards per reception at the position in 2015) puts his value in that neighborhood. He was also improving steadily year-by-year (his DVOA  saw substantial increases each season in Tampa Bay) and possesses a great story of self turn-around that is welcome in any locker room.

Chandler Catanzaro

Surprise! A kicker sighting on the list!

Now, hear (read) me out. Most of the time, fans want to see veteran kickers gone in favor of a rookie or undrafted kicker, hoping to save a quick buck thinking the production dip would be slight.

However, the young kicker approach has seen its share of backfires lately. The Chargers saw their 2017 season sabotaged by misses from young kickers. The Buccaneers selected Roberto Aguayo in the second round in 2016, now he’s off their team.

To go further into young kickers, those aged 23 and younger this season connected on 81% of their field goals compared to the league average of 84%, also hitting at a below average rate on extra points.  The 23-and-under crowd was significantly below average the previous two seasons as well, and it generally tends that way most seasons. Since 2012, only one qualified kicker under 27 has placed top five in field goal percentage, Dan Bailey in 2013.

Basically, all of that is to say that you aren’t guaranteed to find passable kicker production by just scooping up some college kid. So in the Jets’ case, Chandler Catanzaro proved to be a solid add this past offseason. His 83% rate doesn’t seem world-beating, but almost two-thirds of his attempts were from 40+, one of the highest rates in the league. He also tied for third in extra points made without a miss. All of this added up to the Jets ranking a respectable 13th in placekicking DVOA. Catanzaro also now ranks 8th of 25 qualified active kickers in FG%, and not to mention helped the Jets to 10th in touchback percentage on kickoffs.

My point here is not that the Jets should be panicking to re-sign a solid at best kicker. The point is that a reliable kicker isn’t as easy to find off the scrap heap as it may seem, and it would be worth it to pay an extra $1M or so for someone like Catanzaro over gambling on a younger player.

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Author: Michael Nania

You can follow me on Twitter @Michael_Nania. I'll be hosting the weekly Jets opponent preview podcast, Know Your Foe, starting with the 2018 regular season. I've been writing for Turn On The Jets since January 2018, and you can also check out more of my work on the Jets over at Gang Green Nation.