With the Jets’ season all but done, it only seems right to start looking ahead to the “what if” scenarios of 2018.
The upcoming offseason should be an exciting one for Gang Green. They will be atop the league in terms of available cap space. It should also be intriguing due to the slew of names that will be up for grabs during the upcoming free agent frenzy.
While the Jets certainly have some positions in need of repair, we went ahead and took a look at possible free agent fits for the Green and White at every position:
Free agent notables courtesy of Spotrac
Quarterback: Kirk Cousins
The Jets will have more than $80 million in cap space this off season, so luring Kirk Cousins to New York shouldn’t be too tough. However, they’ll need to be weary of his asking price. It will likely be extraordinarily high, and could present a huge risk for Gang Green. That being said, they need to be cautious about handing out the (possibly) biggest contract in franchise history for a 30-year-old quarterback. While he presents himself as a guy who could pave the road to success, he has been consistent at ranking anywhere from eighth to 14th in the NFL, depending on perspective.
— Connor Hughes (@Connor_J_Hughes) December 15, 2017
Running back: Carlos Hyde
The soon to be fifth-year running back will likely be hitting free agency this offseason, and the Jets should keep an eye on him. While he is certainly injury prone, Carlos Hyde is a versatile back who can both run and catch the ball with ease. At 27 years old, he is likely at the peak of his prime, and would compliment a young Jets offense with his youth and play style. Over his four seasons in San Francisco, Hyde has totaled 21 touchdowns (18 rush, 3 pass) along with an average of 4.2 yards per rush on an average of 53.9 yards a game.
Wide Receiver: Allen Robinson
The speedy Jaguar, who has been the center of some of the NFL’s most gruesome injuries, is slated to hit free agency this offseason. And while his most recent ACL injury may be of caution to the Jets and other teams, reward may outweigh risk. Allen Robinson, the former Penn State standout, could be a great role model and compliment to Robby Anderson. His athleticism and versatility in both the short and deep passing game could take the Jets offense to the next level. Look for the Jets to put a fair offer on the table for Robinson as his latest injury could limit any competition in negotiations.
Tight End: Jimmy Graham
This, of course, is dependent on whether or not the Jets are able to re-sign Seferian-Jenkins. Jimmy Graham is a top five tight end year after year, and would greatly improve the Jets offense if they are able to sign him. This season with Seattle, Graham has nine touchdown grabs on 53 receptions. He presents a threat in both the passing game and up front as a blocker. The Jets could present a good situation for him as a team more adept to utilizing the tight end position as of late. While it is highly unlikely due to his high asking price and competitive market, the Jets should keep Graham on their radar.
Offensive Line (Tackle): Nate Solder
A New England PATRIOT?! Yup. Nate Solder will likely be the top tackle available this free agency. The Jets, who desperately need some offensive line help, should be looking his way if they aren’t able to find their guy in the draft. Solder has had his ups and downs in New England, but would greatly improve the Jets pass protection for their future quarterback. Like many others, the Jets will need to be weary of his asking price as he is currently on the table for $10+ million this year. The Jets may look to acquire him at a discount.
Offensive Line (Guard): Justin Pugh
The Jets’ MetLife roommates have a few pieces of their offensive line hitting free agency this offseason, and Justin Pugh is one of them. The fifth-year guard has been a useful clog for the Giants’ offensive line despite being injury prone. Now in the end of his rookie contract, he’ll likely be seeking out a long-term deal. The Jets could offer him that fair slate. His athleticism could help support a struggling Jets O-Line, and would offer much better quarterback protection than we’ve seen this year.
Offensive Line (Center): Ryan Jensen
The fifth-year Baltimore center has been a beast on the blocks. Ryan Jensen has been Joe Flacco’s rock for quite some time, and may be the top center available this free agent offseason. For the Jets, they desperately need an upgrade at center as Wesley Johnson has been far less than spectacular. We saw what the kind of dominant offensive line the Jets had with Nick Mangold at the helm, and Jensen could be the next predecessor.
Other notables: Wesley Johnson, Evan Smith, Daniel Kilgore
Defensive Line (End): Ezekiel Ansah
While the once threatening defensive end has had a few down seasons in Detriot, the Jets should still keep their sights on him. Despite battling injury, Ezekiel Ansah could come to the Jets as an instant leader. His athleticism would fill most of, if not all, of the void that Muhammad Wilkerson will leave behind. He’s proved he is capable of racking up multiple sacks every year, and could thrive among a talented Jets defensive line. With his future with Detroit currently in question, the Jets should have Ansah on their list of notable free agents.
Defensive Line (Tackle): Sheldon Richardson
Not a popular take among many Jets fans, but a reunion with Sheldon Richardson feels like it could make a lot of sense for Gang Green. Despite struggling with off-the-field issues and subpar performance, a second stint with the Jets could pay dividends. Richardson is still young and athletic, and with Wilkerson likely gone after 2017, he could come back as a true leader. However, the Jets will need to make sure his one-year rental with Seattle proved to be for the best. His removal from the roster previously stemmed from his “locker room distractions.” If both sides are able to put that behind, than Richardson could be an integral part of the Jets foreseeable future.
Linebacker (Outside): Connor Barwin
The dominant outside linebacker is likely hitting free agency this offseason. While 2017 hasn’t been his best year, Connor Barwin has proved to be one of the best outside linebackers in the NFL. His health is a non-factor as he’s played seven full seasons out of his career nine. Barwin has also been a sack machine, grabbing five or more in six seasons. While the Rams will likely be working to get a deal together before season’s end, the Jets should remain a tempting option if he makes it to free agency.
Linebacker (Inside): Demario Davis
Not much to say about this one. Demario Davis has been stellar in his return to New York this year. Leading the Jets in both tackles and sacks, the Jets should make re-signing Davis a top priority come 2017.
Cornerback: Malcom Butler
Sorry, Jets fans, but yet another Patriot. The 27 year old corner is having a productive year in New England despite some dispute with the team last offseason. While we await to see if Malcom Butler makes it to free agency, the Jets could use his youth and versatility if they are unable to retain both Morris Claiborne and Buster Skrine this offseason. Gang Green may look to target this position further in the draft, but it is likely that they’ll also look to the free agent market if things don’t work out.
Safety: Kenny Vaccaro
It’s not like the Jets will be in desperate need to grab a safety this offseason with Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye showing supreme potential, BUT if they were, Kenny Vaccaro should be the guy they look at. With three interceptions, two sacks and 60 tackles so far this year, he would be an immediate supporting piece to the Jets’ secondary. But again, unlikely they make a strong push for another safety this offseason.
Fullback: Mike Tolbert
The Jets, as of late, haven’t been a team to utilize the fullback position all too much. Lawrence Thomas, the former defensive end, has taken up the position for the Jets this year and has done pretty well. However, Mike Tolbert would come with some great experience and could make the Jets backfield all that more versatile with his hard running ability.
Kicker: Graham Gano
With Chandler Catanzaro also hitting the free agent market this offseason, the Jets may have some extra cash to spend on a kicker. Graham Gano has been solid for Carolina this year, and would be a great substitute for the Jets if Catanzaro moves on from the Green and White in 2018.
Punter: Kevin Huber
Long Snapper: L.P. Laduceur