Even after the New York Jets posted their fourth straight losing season, they headed into the following offseason with promises of improvement. The bar was set higher because of several acquisitions and what seemed like an upgraded offensive line.
However, the ship quickly started to sink when the Jets lost Robby Anderson to the Panthers. They failed to replace him with anyone matching his value to the receiving core, instead opting to bring in former Bucs" pass-catcher Breshad Perriman.
This– alongside the unwillingness to invest in pass-rush and trading Jamal Adams–indicated that Joe Douglas wasn’t spending aggressively enough. That is despite having the ability to do that efficiently. Furthermore, he might have set the franchise even further back from contention.
Woes in the Secondary
Nothing proves that more avidly than the club’s latest roster cut. Pierre Desir, a former Colts defensive back, surprised many within the organization in a negative way. The 30-year-old Browns draftee came in as the biggest addition to a unit that became very vulnerable after Jamal Adams was shipped to Seattle for two first-rounders and Bradley McDougal. However, Desir certainly didn’t help one of the NFL’s worst defenses against the pass.
Desir seemed like a signing that would make the Jets front office feel like they’ve allocated their resources efficiently. After all, $3.75 million would be an absolute bargain had he turned into the next big thing at cornerback. Moreover, this would have likely earned him a long-term deal either in Florham Park or elsewhere. In all cases, just under $4 million in guaranteed money is nothing for a cornerback who allowed a passer rating of 96.5 on 74 targets last year. In 2018, this figure was less than 80.0 on 83 targets, which compared fairly well to the top cornerbacks’ numbers. (For instance, Stephon Gilmore had 44.1 on 101 targets as the best corner in the game in 2019.)
An acquisition like Desir’s is meant to be low-risk, high-reward. This means that the worst-case scenario isn’t fatal to your other assets. In contrast, the reality is that the Jets slotted a previously underrated cornerback in a position he had no business in. To be the top-of-the-chart outside corner, alongside Blessuan Austin, was a task out of Desir’s league.
The Lindenwood alum had an abysmal first half of the 2020 season. He surrendered an opposing passer rating of 110.3. In the meantime, he was in coverage for 51 targets, second-most after Austin. 76 percent of the throws against him were completed, good for second-most amongst defensive players with double-digit targets in coverage.
Few questioned the urgency for a new cornerback at that time. Also, most thought that Desir was a cheap guy capable of replicating the success ignored by the rest of the NFL. While the hope was for him to reach his ceiling, experts turned out to be right in criticizing Joe Douglas for passing on Logan Ryan and others.
The Jets were rumored to be reluctant to match Ryan’s demands to over $12 million a year. Yet, the former Titan eventually settled for $7.5 million on a one-year deal with NYG. That means, theoretically, that if both were having an equally bad season, the dead cap for releasing either would be the same. However, Ryan shows no signs of stopping his dominance. Through 43 targets, he has allowed a rating of 75.0 with an interception.
Failure To Replace Departing Assets
The Jets, to this day, still have $30 million in salary-cap space to carry over. However, the secondary wasn’t the only area they stayed reserved from investing in.
Firstly, Joe Douglas brought in four new starters in the offensive line. One of them, Connor McGovern, had turned into a star with the Denver Broncos. Another was Mekhi Becton, the 13th overall pick in the Draft, who has fared considerably well. Those moves have seemingly worked out, so far.
However, Greg Van Roten and George Fant have proven just the opposite. Those two have been the main issues on an offensive line that has allowed 29 sacks in nine games, seventh-most in the league. Not only has the Fant move been underwhelming, but also unnecessarily expensive. That is based on the return, of course. Fant, who had not started regularly in Seattle since 2019, came to New York on a $30 million, three-year deal. Presumably, this was cheaper than the $14 million a year the Browns gave to Jack Conklin. But again, this is no comparison. Conklin has taken part in 100 percent of his team’s offensive snaps in seven of nine games and has committed just one penalty.
Another example of the Jets’ inability to spend efficiently and/or improve was the wide-receiving core. While a strong 2019 campaign established the returning Jamison Crowder as the top receiver, Robby Anderson had his fair share of contributions.
The receiving market wasn’t awfully deep, but instead of getting Anderson back, the Jets sought to sign Breshad Perriman. He had established himself as a long-threat weapon with over 18.0 yards per reception, however, in four years he managed a peak of 69 targets in a season with a 52.2 catch percentage. These numbers discredit his place as a deep threat.
Perriman really went on to struggle before Adam Gase and his staff changed the way he was utilized. He is now a part of the intermediate passing unit, averaging merely 13.7 yards per catch. This has increased his efficiency to 66.7%. He might seem a good deal for just $6 million of guaranteed money. The Jets didn’t get a reasonably better player at a reasonably higher price, though, when had the resources to do so.
The Margin Is Getting Bigger
The 0-9 Jets might face the inevitable fate of finishing the 2020 campaign with a record of 0-16. Should they do so, they will join the so-called "Hall of Shame" with the 2008 Lions and the 2016 Browns. According to many within the industry, the Jets could be the worst team in NFL history, implying that they are worse than both.
If the salary cap drops to the projected $176 million in 2021, the Jets will have around $80 million to spend. Their re-signing needs aren’t very fierce, outside of Perriman and Marcus Maye. Experts seem to be focusing on the team’s record as a catalyst for fueling future success, but now more than ever is it clear that an active free-agent window will get the Jets closer to competing. The draft cannot be the only answer for this team.
The notion that Trevor Lawrence will be a huge upgrade over Sam Darnold doesn’t connect with reality. Darnold has provided a spark when he has had a well-balanced and healthy offense. The Jets would miss out on addressing other needs if they trade Darnold and draft Lawrence.
The Jets, or any team for that matter, often trade away a key player without having a sense of how will work to improve them. The Jamal Adams trade is certainly an example. New York needs to learn from their mistakes and Douglas should make sure they stop the bleeding before they fail to keep up with their competition.
Thanks for reading my article on the tribulations of New York Jets free agency. Follow me on Twitter @TeodorTsenov for more of my content and follow @OT_Heroics!
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