With the Jets 2017 season nearly in the books, 2018 is beginning to look like an interesting one. It will likely be a defining year for the franchise from top to bottom. Development in the young core will still certainly be in place, but it’s quickly looking like all of the pieces could fall in order.
“Could” is the key word there, however. The Jets are in line to have one of the more intriguing offseasons in recent history. With a slew of important contracts expiring, a possible fair amount of negotiation, and a draft that could result in major changes for this organization, it will certainly be a busy Spring and Summer.
The Jets will need to get their priorities straightened out quickly. Who do they re-sign? Who do they let walk? Which position do they target in the draft? These questions and more will be all of the talk this offseason.
Prior to the draft however, it will be important for the Jets to have some key players locked up. While it may prove difficult to re-sign them all, the Jets will certainly have plenty of cap space to negotiate with it. Their only competition will be the other teams that are willing to match their offer sheets.
But the Jets need to be smart with their money. This hasn’t always been the case in the past. Most recently, the Jets missed the money boat on Muhammad Wilkerson. Rather than putting the franchise tag on him, they re-signed him to a multi-million dollar deal, which has proved to be an ill advised move.
The Jets will hope to avoid a similar fallout this offseason when they meet with a handful of current players who have expiring contracts. Here’s who they should make their top priority when that time comes:
Props to GM Mike Maccagnan. After the Jets let inside linebacker Demario Davis walk after 2015, they were quickly able to bring the veteran back in 2017. A deal with the Cleveland Browns saw former first round pick Calvin Pryor leave for Ohio, and the Jets got back their man.
It was a move that didn’t look too ingenious at the time, but proved to be massive for New York. Davis has been Pro-Bowl worthy in 2017, while Pryor…well he is no longer on an NFL roster.
So far this year, Davis has amassed 110 combined tackles, 29 assists, and five sacks – all of which lead the Jets defense. He has been stellar in getting to opposing quarterbacks, limiting the run game, and even in open coverage.
As an unrestricted free agent in 2018, the veteran will likely up his ante, and the Jets need to listen. His talent and athleticism will be worth every dime, and it could pay dividends for the Jets over the next few years.
Career-high 16 tackles Sunday. On pace for 170 this season (most for a Jet since '05).
— New York Jets (@nyjets) December 14, 2017
You know things are changing for the better when the Jets finally utilize the tight end position. In both 2015 and 2016, the Jets ranked last in the league in tight end receptions. Most people would vouch that the Jets didn’t even have a tight end on their roster, and if they did, you got to feel sorry for that guy.
All kidding aside, the Jets altered their offensive mindset in that regard this year. They gambled on the troublesome ASJ who was released previously from the Buccaneers, and so far it’s been a match made in heaven. Going into Week 15, Seferian-Jenkins holds the number three spot in terms of Jets receiving yards, receptions, and touchdowns.
The Jets were able to sign him to a one year deal for fairly cheap this past offseason, but that likely won’t be the case again this year. The tight end has proved he can be one of the league’s best, and the Jets won’t want to let him take the money elsewhere. He’s been a major factor for the Jets’ recent culture shift, and as a young product, it should be a high priority making sure he’s back in the green and white in 2018.
After being waived by the New England Patriots prior to the start of the season, Ealy was scooped up by the Jets in somewhat unexpected fashion. He had been known for his flashiness in his time with Carolina, especially in the Super Bowl, but presented as ineffective in New England. The Jets saw something in the fourth year defensive end however. And boy has it paid off.
Ealy has been a force among the Jets defensive line. He’s constantly applying pressure to opposing quarterbacks by either putting them in the dirt, or swatting their passes. He’s also made his mark in defending the running game by filling in the necessary holes, and has even recorded an interception. What can’t he do?
Similarly to many of the other Jets with expiring contracts, Ealy was a cheap add for the team. As an unrestricted free agent this offseason, Ealy will likely field many offers. The Jets should be matching every single one.
The ex-Cowboy has solidified his worth this season. He has been a major factor in helping the young Jets secondary develop, and has remained a solid number one corner.
His asking price will likely be high this offseason however. Many teams in need of a go-to corner will have their eyes on the veteran. This will make things tough for the Jets, who may not extend a max offer out to Claiborne with Buster Skrine already slated to make $8.5 million. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try, however. An effective and versatile corner like Clairborne is not easy to come by. If the Jets lose the veteran, they’ll have to look to replace his talent either in the draft, or in shallow free agency.