I am in an unhealthy relationship with the New York Jets. They get my hopes up every year and 2019 was no different, signing Le’Veon Bell and C.J. Mosley to big deals in hopes of being game-changers on each side of the ball. Well, Mosley got hurt immediately and after missing just three total games in the first five years of his career he missed – and this is just typical Jets luck – FOURTEEN games in 2019. As for Le’Veon, well, it’s hard to find the holes to run through when there are no holes. Oh, and did I mention our quarterback got mono?
But guess what? New offseason, new hope. The Jets have another draft ahead with an extra third-round pick (thank you, Giants) and a lot of cap space, so it’s time to get blinded by hope once again. So let’s do this.
Let’s start with the draft. I’m not going to sit here and do a mini Jets mock draft where I break down every potential pick almost two months from the draft, but let’s just briefly look at the positions of need and how they might be able to fill them.
First and foremost, the Jets need an offensive line. With pick No. 11, the Jets should take the best of the top-four linemen still available. Whether that’s Andrew Thomas, Tristan Wirfs, Mekhi Becton or Jedrick Wills it doesn’t overly matter to me right now, just get whoever the team deems best.
However, if all four of them are gone, they should go in another direction. Yes, this offensive line class is deep, but after the top for it doesn’t look like there’s anyone worth taking that high. They could trade back, but assuming they don’t, if all four top linemen are gone then there’s a good chance the Jets can land either Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb or Henry Ruggs III. Landing any of these wide receivers would give Sam Darnold a serious playmaker to throw to, something he has yet to have in his NFL career. Again, just take whoever they like the best.
In round two, if the Jets landed a lineman at No. 11 they should take a receiver, and vice-a-versa. They should look for another receiver and lineman later in the draft as well and also add a cornerback and edge rusher. But now on to free agency.
According to nj.com, the Jets will have about $65.3 million to spend in free agency before they make cuts, and if they cut Trumaine Johnson, Brian Winters and Josh Bellamy like they should, it moves that total up to about $78 million.
And this is who I think they should spend it on.
Jack Conklin, Right Tackle
Pro Football Talk reported that Conklin was expected to sign with the Jets when free agency began, but that report was quickly refuted by ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Still, Conklin would be the perfect fit for the Jets and should be on the top of their list. Brandon Shell was maddening to watch last year at right tackle, so replacing him with Conklin would be a huge improvement. Pair him with hopefully one of the rookies at left tackle and all of a sudden both tackle spots are significantly better than last season. Spotrac projects Conklin to get about $15 million per year, and that should be a no-brainer. Grab him.
Joe Thuney, Gaurd
Not only should the Jets drop big bucks on one offensive lineman, they should do the same with another. This time though, we’re looking inside. Thuney has quietly been one of the best guards in football in his time with the Patriots, and he would be the perfect person to replace the should-be-cut Winters. He might be the most sought after offensive linemen in this year’s free-agent crop, but if the Jets are serious about protecting Sam this is a must. Spotrac doesn’t have a projected market value for Thuney, but if he gets say, $17 million per year, which would set the record for a guard by almost $3 million, it would be well worth the investment.
Dante Fowler Jr., EDGE
The Jets lacked some serious pressure from their edge rushers last season, and Fowler looks to be the best option of those who could correct that. They could still make a trade for Yannick Ngakoue, who the Jaguars just franchise tagged despite him making it clear he has no intention to continue playing for Jacksonville. The same goes for Matthew Judon of the Ravens and Bud Dupree of the Steelers, both of whom were just also tagged (or, should I say planning to be tagged). This leaves Fowler as the best option, and he is by no means a bad one. Fowler had a career year last season with the Rams, recording 11.5 sacks, tied for No. 9 in the league.
The other option would be Jadeveon Clowney, but he’s too injury prone for me and his name would likely command more money than Fowler, despite having just three sacks in 13 games last season and never once hitting double digits in a season. That’s not to say Fowler will be cheap. Spotrac doesn’t have an expected market value for him, but it wouldn’t be crazy to think he gets around or even more than $15-18 million per year. Still, throw him on the edge and have Williams, McLendonAnderson, Phillips and Fatukasi in the inside and it would round out a very solid pass rush. Either way, Jordan Jenkins is a free agent, so they need to replace him with someone.
Byron Jones, Cornerback
The Cowboys have a dilemma right now. Dak Prescot, Amari Cooper and Jones are all set to become free agents, and all are in line for big deals. One of them is probably going to be franchise tagged and another will get a new contract, but it’s going to be very difficult financially to keep all three – and I think Jones is the odd man out. Simply put, you can’t let your quarterback walk, especially after a season like he just had with nearly 5,000 passing yards, 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. As for Cooper, the Cowboys gave up a first-round pick to acquire him from the Raiders during the 2018 season, so I doubt they’re too keen on it being a rental. So, Jones becomes a free agent. Spotrac projects him to get about $14.1 million per year, which is more than a fair price for a corner of his caliber. While it shouldn’t be the top position on the Jets’ list, it’s certainly one of need and Jones would be a great addition.
Yes, the Jets have other positions of need, namely wide receiver. However, the crop of free-agent wide receivers is just not very good this offseason, and I want to avoid overpaying for someone like Robby Anderson. Sure, I’d love to bring Robby back for no less than $11 million per year, but he’s likely going to get more than that. A couple of small moves like bringing back Demaryius Thomas and maybe a vet like Randall Cobb could suffice, but I expect the Jets to fill this hole mostly through the draft, considering how deep this wide receiver class is. However, if Cooper hits the free-agent market and the Cowboys hold on to Jones instead, I would be very open to making a run at him.
Realistically, I know the Jets aren’t going to get all four of these guys (even though they’ll have the cap for it). Give me one of them and some mid-tier guys and I’ll be content. Give me one of the offensive linemen and one of the defensive guys and I’ll be happy. Give me three of them and I’ll be ecstatic. Give me all four and I don’t even know what I’ll be, because it’s not going to happen.
The Jets should make their first priority offensive line. Even if they get one of Conklin or Thuney, they shouldn’t stop there. Graham Glasgow, Brandon Scherff, Bryan Bulaga, Connor McGovern and Matt Feiler should all be in play. My ideal offseason would be signing two of the guys mentioned above and getting one of the stud offensive linemen in the draft. These next couple of months need – and I mean NEED – to be about protecting Sam. He’s shown flashes of top-tier talent already, so it would be nice to see what he can do when he’s not running for his life every play.
If they actually surprise me and get just a couple of the guys I’ve mentioned in this column, then I can’t wait to trick myself into thinking we’re contenders again. I’m sure this time they won’t let me down.