The New York Jets began this offseason in a weird place. They were what many believe is the in-between stage of rebuilding and contending.
Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh had a bumpy first year in East Rutherford. That said, the expectations from the media and the fans are heightened for their second year, and rightfully so. They needed to build a team that is competitive and not just wallowing at the bottom of the NFL.
Joe Douglas has been much more active this year than in 2021. Let’s dive into what he’s done so far.
Re-Sign Braxton Berrios
Many of the returning players on the Jets are depth pieces. Braxton Berrios is expected to be a key contributor to the team on special teams and a gadget player on offense. The Jets re-signed him for two years, $12,000,000. The Jets can get out of the contract after one season, and Berrios can test the market again if he splashes in 2022.
External Free Agency Activity
Guard: Laken Tomlinson, 3 Years, $40 Million
The Jets now finally have five viable starters on the offensive line. Tomlinson is a bruiser in the running game, and he is a much better pass protector than what the Jets have had at right guard in a long time. It was a serious upgrade all-around.
Tight End: C.J. Uzomah, 3 Years, $24 Million & Tyler Conklin, 3 Years, $21 Million
It’s been a long time since the Jets have had a viable starter at tight end, and it’s been even longer since the Jets can say they’ve had a good one. This position is a bugaboo for the franchise.
Not only were they able to land one viable starter, but they got two. Conklin and Uzomah give Zach Wilson viable weapons to throw to that can create yards after the catch, because they are both big guys that are tough to bring down. They are also sure-handed, so Wilson can trust them to catch the football.
Cornerback: D.J. Reed, 3 Years, $33 Million
The franchise needed a No. 1 cornerback, as Bryce Hall performed admirably as a rookie but isn’t ready to be the top corner. That’s where Reed comes in. Reed has allowed a passer rating of 71.0 in his last two seasons. Along with that, he’s only allowed 265 yards after the catch and has had a missed tackle percentage of 5.5%. So, he can make the tackles when needed.
Safety: Jordan Whitehead, 2 Years, $14.5 Million
Douglas and Saleh knew going into this offseason they needed two starting safeties. Last season, the league-wide usage rate of 11 personnel was 61%. Against that personnel group, the Jets would prefer to run the single-high free safety to play centerfield and the strong safety in the box to cover the short passes and the run at what would typically be the WILL linebacker spot.
Whitehead will likely be playing in the box, especially in nickel situations against 11 personnel. He is a sure tackler and good in coverage, just what the Jets need from their box safety.
Edge: Jacob Martin, 3 Years, $13.5 Million
The Jets need a combination of versatility and specialists on this defensive front, as they want to rotate players in and out frequently. On the Jets’ defensive front, John Franklin-Myers led the way in playing time with 60.22% of the snaps. The Jets needed pass-rush help, and Martin’s weakness is against the run.
This signing may give a hint as to what they plan to do in the draft. However, his niche role on the team will be the 9-technique defensive end as a designated pass rusher. Now they have Carl Lawson (hopefully healthy), Bryce Huff, and Martin and their three main players to play 9T defensive end.
Much like grading the draft immediately after makes no sense, grading free agency likewise is an exercise in futility. We haven’t seen the final pieces of the puzzle put in place and into action yet.
That being said, on paper, this looks like the makings of a good roster for how the Jets want to try to win football games. They have the horses up front on both sides of the ball, and they are continuing to build the framework of a successful team.
Depending on what the Jets do in the draft, they can become very competitive in 2022.