Though their biggest offseason acquisition was trading for Aaron Rodgers, the New York Jets also made several important moves in NFL free agency. The Jets filled holes at wide receiver and defensive tackle and bolstered their offensive line with several free agent signings.
Wide receivers Allen Lazard and Mecole Hardman were likely the two biggest names added from the free agent market. Signing receiver Randall Cobb, a favorite of Rodgers from their Green Bay Packers days, was a nice addition late in free agency.
— NFL (@NFL) May 31, 2023
Veterans Quinton Jefferson and Al Woods were brought in to replace Sheldon Rankins and Nathan Shephard on the interior of the defensive line. They should fit nicely in a rotation that will include All-Pro Quinnen Williams, Solomon Thomas (re-signed this offseason), John Franklin-Myers and Micheal Clemons (the latter two will play defensive end as well as tackle).
Billy Turner was the key signing on the offensive line. The veteran will compete with Duane Brown and Mekhi Becton for a starting spot and is a nice upgrade as a backup if he’s not a starter. Free agency also brought Wes Schweitzer, Trystan Colon and Yodny Cajuste to provide quality depth on the line.
New York did not overlook special teams, where they re-signed kicker Greg Zuerlein after a solid 2022 season and signed punter Thomas Morstead to replace the inconsistent Braden Mann.
The Jets re-signed center Connor McGovern, their starter the past three seasons, to compete with rookie Joe Tippmann. And they re-signed linebacker Quincy Williams, an important move to bring back the rising star on the defense.
That said, let’s focus on the riskiest free agency decision made by the Jets in the 2023 NFL offseason.
Jets did not replace Kwon Alexander at linebacker
Re-signing Williams to start alongside C.J. Mosley at linebacker was pretty much an absolute must for the Jets. Quinnen’s older brother is coming into his own at 26, starting 28 games the past two seasons and finishing second behind Mosley in tackles with 110 in 2021 and 106 last season.
But the Jets left a hole at their third linebacker position by not re-signing Kwon Alexander nor replacing him in free agency. Alexander played roughly 50 percent of the defensive snaps last season with the Jets often deploying a nickel package that featured an extra corner in Michael Carter II.
Free agent LB Kwon Alexander (@kwon) just released a hype workout video wearing green cleats, w/ his original song underneath w/ #Jets references, & he was wearing a @RealJoeNamath NYJ shirt 👀 🎥 kwon on IG #TakeFlight pic.twitter.com/dCK8bTDtBH
— Paul Andrew Esden Jr (@BoyGreen25) June 1, 2023
Still, Alexander was a valuable leader and solid contributor, especially against the run. Replacing the former Pro Bowl linebacker from within won’t be easy.
Right now, the Jets will trust either Jamien Sherwood or Hamsah Nasirildeen to fill Alexander’s role. Each is a third-year pro and converted safety with limited NFL experience. Sherwood is the better prospect of the two and capably stepped in last season when Williams missed two games.
There’s also rookie sixth-round pick Zaire Barnes, though he’s expected to be a special teams contributor and not in the mix to play a lot of snaps at linebacker.
Of course, even if Sherwood, let’s say, is up to handling the third linebacker role, what happens should Mosley or Williams get injured and miss time? The Jets' depth chart at linebacker in painfully thin, so not addressing the situation could come back to haunt them.
However, there might be a solution out there that still makes sense. Re-sign Alexander. The 28-year-old is still available, wants to return and is a favorite of the coaching staff.
The Jets have a chance to right a wrong. Let’s see what they do before training camp begins next month.