The Jets stuck to their word and were busy in free agency this offseason. The team coughed up $187 million in contracts, with $81 million in guarantees upon signing. How could they have enough money to make a splash in 2019?
GM Mike Maccagnan was careful to offer guaranteed money to only two new members of Gang Green in 2019, CB Trumaine Johnson ($8 million) and LB Avery Williamson ($6 million). As of now, DL Leonard Williams projects as the only player to receive an extension. Where does that leave the team? With a league-high $109 million in cap space next offseason.
Marquee names flood the 2019 free agent-class with the likes of Le’Veon Bell, Odell Beckham Jr., and Aaron Donald. Yes, these players could receive pricey extensions or even the franchise tag. However, we’d like to think that New York will have the money and market to pry a few from their current teams. Here are just a few of the names that should be on the Jets’ radar:
Donald has yet to sign an extension as the reigning DPOY. As a result, the waters are rough in Los Angeles. The Jets have been desperate for players that can get to the quarterback and you can’t ask much more from a player of Donald’s caliber.
He led interior defenders in 2017 with games including four-plus pressures at 13, according to Pro Football Focus. Over the past four seasons the Pittsburgh product has racked up 41 sacks, 67 hits, and 199 hurries. As one of the most dominant defensive players available in recent history, Donald would be a welcome addition to Todd Bowles’ defense.
Anyone else remember Brandon Graham’s strip sack in the Super Bowl? What Jets fan wouldn’t like the chance to see him go after Brady at least twice a year? Despite a stellar fourth-quarter play, Graham is coming off the best season of his career.
The Eagles DE tallied a career-high 9.5 sacks and a lone touchdown by way of a fumble recovery. Good news for teams wary of the 30-year-old’s pay day; he will be coming off an ankle surgery that could certainly reduce his asking price. Graham is at risk of missing the entire offseason, with his availability Week 1 in question. Look for the veteran defensive end to be a steal come free agency at a discount price.
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) June 7, 2018
It seems like every year fans beg upper management to either draft quality offensive lineman or acquire them via free agency. Fortunately for New York, there will be a few top-tier talents at the tackle and guard positions in 2019. One name, headlining all available tackles, is Taylor Lewan.
The former Wolverine has found a home in Tennessee and, truth be told, it may be near impossible to sway him towards the Big Apple. Since his 2014 rookie season, Lewan has allowed a total of 87 pressures and just 20 sacks. These numbers should raise eyebrows around the league.
The Jets are confident in James Carpenter and Brian Winters holding down the fort at the left and right guard spots. Kelvin Beachum and Brandon Shell raise a few more concerns at tackle. If the Jets look to upgrade the position they would be remiss not to offer Lewan a contract.
Outside linebacker is a position that has baffled Todd Bowles since his arrival in New York. Deprived of talent at the position, as of late, he has taken more of a committee approach to solve the problem. The Jets are in need of consistency in coverage but, more importantly, when getting to the quarterback.
An under-the-radar linebacker that the Jets could target is Denver’s Shaquil Barrett. Expected to receive a respectable contract in 2019, the Colorado State product has put together a quality stint for the Broncos as a part of a defense with so many big names. Being surrounded by so much talent it’s possible that we haven’t even scratched the surface of Barrett’s ability. In New York, the Jets could offer him a contract, with more guaranteed money, and a chance to become a standout in the front seven.
Another wide receiver? Listen, the Jets are absolutely flooding the roster with almost any possible target that could bolster their passing attack. But, who is their No. 1?
Analysts and fans alike will argue that Robby Anderson or Quincy Enunwa are more than capable of bearing that load in 2018. Others just aren’t all that convinced. Anderson is a burner and can scorch a defense when their safety isn’t lurking over the top. However, teams are well aware of his presence deep down the field by now. Odds are he won’t see those opportunities as frequently next season. He’ll need to improve his route running and bulk-up his frame a bit before the Jets declare him a true No. 1. As far as Enunwa, he’s coming off a neck injury that still prohibits him from any activities including his helmet. Last time I checked a player without a helmet isn’t one ready to take the field.
Brandin Cooks is that true No. 1 who acts as a burner as well as a proven route-runner. Traded to the Rams, by the Patriots, he is on the last year of his contract and will be looking for a sizable pay day come 2019. The Jets would be wise to secure a talent like Cooks especially with a young quarterback lurking in Sam Darnold. Can you see the Darnold to Cooks connection yet?