Another regular season has come and gone with the New York Jets missing the playoffs.
It’s been eight years since the Jets last advanced to the NFL postseason. However, the team isn’t far from competing again in the AFC East.
The New England Patriots are nearing the end of their run with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Both the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins are rebuilding. The opportunity is there if the Jets can fill some significant gaps on their roster.
Here is a look at the five biggest needs on the Jets’ roster:
5. Running back
The earmark of good Jets teams in the past have been the running game. That hasn’t been the case for some time.
New York ranked 26th in the NFL in rushing yards (1,622) and 29th in yards per carry (4.0.) Injuries were a problem at the running back position for much of the season with Isaiah Crowell, Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire all missing significant time.
New York needs a multi-faceted, durable running back to serve as the catalyst for the offense. Quarterback Sam Darnold is still developing, and he needs consistent support in the running game if he’s to be successful.
Expect the Jets to address this position early in the draft or pursue Le’Veon Bell aggressively.
4. Wide receiver
The Jets’ receiving corps is in desperate need of an overhaul.
Robby Anderson finished the season as the only Jet with 50 receptions. He also led the team with a mediocre 752 receiving yards. While Anderson possesses the talent to be a solid No. 2 receiver in the NFL, he needs help.
The Jets’ passing game lacks a No. 1 option. The problem is the free agent market lacks a true top receiver, which leaves the draft as the only option for the Jets.
Unfortunately, the Jets don’t have a second round pick to play with. That means New York will likely move down in the first round unless there is a surefire star available with the third pick.
Look for the Jets to hunt for a playmaking wide receiver in the first round.
3. Defensive end
The addition of Gregg Williams as defensive coordinator means pass rushers.
Williams is a 4-3 coach, which means the Jets will need to transition the roster away from the 3-4.
The first thing Williams will do is look for at least one pass rushing defensive end. Detroit Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah would make sense at the right price. His market value is $13.2 million per year according to Spotrac.
The Jets will enter free agency with close to $98 million in cap space, so they can afford to take a shot at Ansah.
The Jets enter the offseason with a linebackers corp requiring a complete rebuild.
The switch to a 4-3 will require an athletic, sturdy middle linebacker. It will also require outside linebackers that can pursue the edges well. Williams loves to rush the passer with his defensive ends, which will require more coverage from the outside linebackers.
Expect the Jets to completely overhaul the linebacker position in the offseason.
Their current roster of linebackers isn’t athletic enough to play the style Williams requires.
The Jets ranked near the bottom of the league in passing yards allowed, pass plays over 20 yards and pass plays over 40 yards in 2018. Their inability to prevent the big play consistently put the offense against the wall early in games and kept the Jets from being competitive through much of the season.
The truth is they have never found the heir apparent to Darrelle Revis.
Both Buster Skrine and Morris Claiborne are free agents, and the Jets could bring them back. However, that would only maintain the status quo.
The Jets need more of a shutdown corner. Unfortunately, there aren’t many options available in free agency, which will likely mean a focus on the position during the draft or possibly a trade.
The Jets don’t have a second round pick, so their options are limited there. Their options on the trade market are limited as well.
New York simply doesn’t have much draft capital.
The Jets have a problem: lots of needs and very little draft capital.
However, they do have a ton of cap space.
With that in mind, expect the Jets to spend big at running back with Le’Veon Bell and the front seven. They will likely focus on wide receiver and cornerback in the draft. Their nearly $100 million in cap space allows the Jets to make invest heavily Bell, if he’s willing to play in New York.
Ansah and Kansas City linebacker Dee Ford would be interesting and expensive signings as well.