The New York Jets will head into the 2019 off-season with a ton of holes to fill and $100 million of free cap space. This makes New York a potential comfortable landing spot for some star NFL free agents looking for a new home in 2019. With a boatload of cash available, who should they sign?
Reports have indicated that general manager Mike Maccagnan is not on the hot seat. However, if he mismanages this golden opportunity to improve Gang Green, it could set the franchise back for years to come. In order to determine which free agents he should pursue, one would have to first understand the team’s weaknesses.
The analytics I provided in my recent article prove the poor receiving personnel and lack of a pass rush are decimating the team’s momentum. To be clear, these are not the only weaknesses for the team. However, in my opinion, these are vital problems any team must solve as soon as possible in today’s NFL. Since the Jets already have their presumed franchise quarterback, they now need to solve the next most important part of the roster foundation.
Jets should build around QB Sam Darnold
Some analysts believe the next order of business should be to invest into a pass-rusher and a playmaking receiver. While I do agree, I think the Jets should also sign veteran offensive linemen. Shouldn’t their top priority be protecting the future of the franchise, Sam Darnold?
He may not look like a superstar yet, but look how quickly former number one overall pick Jared Goff grew. After a rough rookie season in 2016, the quarterback led an explosive 2017 Los Angeles Rams offense. Since Goff is committed to his rookie deal, he is not eating up a huge chunk of LA’s salary.
Quarterbacks, even mediocre veterans like Sam Bradford, are settling for $20 million annual salaries. So it’s safe to say if you have a decent quarterback signed to a rookie deal, why not go for it all? Is a similar future in the forecast for Darnold and the Jets? Possibly, but Maccagnan must decide if this is the time to be aggressive or is it the time to continue to get younger.
Should the Jets get younger or get aggressive?
Maccagnan’s team does not have a workhorse running back like Todd Gurley. With Le’Veon Bell’s looming free agency, maybe he can be a target? Sure, the signing will make headlines. But one can argue the Jets should not get into a bidding war for a player who didn’t play at all in 2018. Also, Todd Bowles is a defensive minded coach, so maybe an offensive guru needs to be more of a priority this off-season. With that said, I wouldn’t bank on the Jets building a championship-caliber contender for 2019. A goal that must be achieved this offseason is to eventually build a contending team is acquiring a playmaking wide receiver and pass rushers.
They will likely solve a good portion of the team’s needs through the NFL Draft since Maccagnan is very proud of his drafting track record. Confidence is nice, but one can argue his picks haven’t been too much to be prideful of. Which makes signing these key free agents more important for the future of the franchise.
4-3 DE Trey Flowers
Wouldn’t it be something for the New York Jets to stick it to the New England Patriots by signing defensive end Trey Flowers? One of the reasons the Pats always stay in contention is they are able to quickly replace their star players who file for free agency. There have been no reported contract extension negotiations between Flowers and the Patriots. So it’s likely the 26-year-old defensive end will be up for grabs this off-season.
Flowers may not be a household name, but NFL coaches love him. His nickname “Technique” is appropriate with his consistent play and execution. He may not have a high number of sacks, but he still puts tremendous pressure on quarterbacks and the backfield.
In an interview with Forbes, Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy had this to say about Flowers:
“He’s not the quote-unquote ‘big-name guy,’ but he’s the big-name guy amongst the coaching world,” Nagy said of Flowers on his conference callwith New England media this week. “We know who he is and what he can do and we respect him and know he’s a hell of a player.”
With his talent and at the age of 26, this is the type of player the Jets should get. New York can build around him and his work ethic while fixing their pass rush problems. Even though he is a 4-3 defensive end, a player of his stature should be able to transition into a 3-4 outside linebacker or 3-4 defensive end.
3-4 OLB Dee Ford
On paper, upcoming free agent outside linebacker Dee Ford appears to be a risky, but decent potential acquisition for the Jets. After failing his March 2018 physical, Ford was ineligible to test the free agent market. The Kansas City Chief through eleven games in 2018 already sacked opposing quarterbacks a combined nine times. He will likely break his career-high of ten sacks set in 2016. At the age of 27, Ford will want to sign somewhere that can afford to pay him big bucks with a good term.
It would be difficult for the Chiefs to let a talent like Ford get away, but I wouldn’t blame them. In five full seasons, he only played in 34 games. He also missed a majority of 2017 with a back injury. This will be a concern for any prospective team interested in signing Ford.
What would make good business sense?
From a business perspective, if the Chiefs offer him a contract, they should not pay him like a superstar. The risk of injury is too high. It may also be unlikely Ford will want to leave the Super Bowl contending team. Perhaps he could settle for a discounted price to return to KC,
His history of injuries could also drive down the bidding price for him in the free agent market. Taking a gamble on his talent could be worth it because of his Pro Bowl caliber pass rushing abilities. Since the Jets desperately need a pass rusher like Ford, it would be wise to sign him if it’s at a bargain.
The only other top-tier free agent 3-4 outside linebacker is Jadeveon Clowney. He also has a history of injury problems, and he will likely get franchise tagged by the Houston Texans. All factors considered Ford might be the Jets only realistic option at improving their pass rush.
WR Golden Tate
At the age of 31, and failing to deliver for the Philadelphia Eagles after a midseason trade from the Detroit Lions, veteran wide receiver Golden Tate will enter the free agent market with his stock down. It’s possible this gives a team like the Jets a chance to buy Tate at a low price. However if Tate’s agent is good, he will use the Jets desperate need for a receiver as leverage when negotiating a contract.
Is father time finally catching up to Tate? Well, one could think that. Maybe Tate just hasn’t built up chemistry with Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. Also, Eagles tight end Zach Ertz clogs up a good load of targets. This could explain why Tate will not eclipse 90 receptions for the first time since 2013 when he was on the Seattle Seahawks.
If Tate were added to the Jets offense, Darnold would have the proven weapon on offense he desperately needs. Then, I think the Jets needs to draft a wide receiver good enough to start in a three-wideout set. Adding Tate and a young receiver to join Robbie Anderson still isn’t enough, but it’s progress for the Jets.