The grand rebuild continues during the 2022 offseason for the New York Jets. Three years after taking a quarterback within the top three overall picks, the Jets did it again in 2021 with BYU’s Zach Wilson. After a four-win season this year, the priority for New York in the coming months is to continue building around Wilson on offense. At the same time, the Jets will need to bolster what was the NFL’s worst scoring defense in 2021. Both of those are tasks easier said than done, but the Jets are actually in a great position to work on both in the offseason. Their general manager, Joe Douglas, has just under $50 million to work with in cap space as well as some of the best draft capital of any NFL team. All nine of their picks are in the first five rounds of the draft, and they’ve got two picks in the top 10. With so much good draft capital and cap space to work with in New York, here are six free agents the Jets should target this offseason.
Alex Cappa, OG, Tampa Bay BuccaneersThe sexy name at guard during this upcoming free agency period is the Commanders’ Brandon Scherff. However, Scherff has demonstrated an inability to stay healthy over the last few years. He hasn’t played a full season since 2016, his second year in the league, and he hasn’t even played in more than 11 games in three of the last four years. Cappa is the next best option in free agency at this position. He started all 33 games for the Buccaneers over the last two years, and in that two-year span, he was only penalized twice. Tampa Bay’s prowess on the offensive line made Tom Brady the least pressured quarterback in the league in 2021. Adding an interior lineman who was a part of that effort and pairing him with a top offensive tackle in this year’s draft would be a huge help in getting Wilson more protection up front.
Dalton Schultz, TE, Dallas CowboysNew York rolled into the 2021 season with newcomer free agent Tyler Kroft as their leading tight end. Kroft had only surpassed 129 receiving yards in a season just once in his career before posting 173 yards in 2021. Schultz is the best tight end on the free-agent market this offseason. With money to spend, there’s no reason the Jets shouldn’t try to sign him. After a rookie year in which he served as a blocker primarily and a sophomore campaign stuck behind no-longer-retired Jason Witten, Schultz put up a couple of monster years. Over the last two seasons, the Cowboy has 1,423 yards and 12 touchdowns on 141 catches. Importantly, he’s also stayed healthy and never missed a game in the last two seasons. Adding a talented, big-bodied pass-catcher could never hurt when you’ve got a young quarterback to build around.
Allen Robinson, WR, Chicago BearsOf the Jets’ 10 wide receivers currently on their roster, four of them are set to hit free agency when the new league year begins in March. That includes Jamison Crowder, Keelan Cole, and Braxton Berrios, all of whom had solid seasons as they built chemistry with their rookie quarterback. New York will still have 2021 rookie Elijah Moore and free-agent signee Corey Davis slotted in as starters, but they could use a third guy to round out their receiving trio. That’s where Robinson comes in. The Bears receiver had put up back-to-back seasons with more than 1,100 yards in 2019 and 2020 before failing to breach even 500 yards in 2021. Such a disappointing season would lower Robinson’s cost a bit, and he may be willing to take a one-year “prove it” deal if the Jets don’t want to make a long-term commitment. Saving money on a Robinson signing could also open the door to bring back Crowder, Cole, or Berrios if the Jets so choose.
J.C. Jackson, CB, New England PatriotsOh, boy. If the Jets really want to go in and splurge on one big area of need, it’s gotta be their secondary. Bryce Hall looked great as an outside cornerback option this year, but outside of him, the cornerback position is clearly one that could use a big facelift. The Patriots’ star cornerback would be a perfect option, though it’s possible he’ll end up with a franchise tag. Otherwise, he’ll be expensive, yes, but he’d be worth it. Jackson has improved every year he’s been in the league, and he was a complete lockdown defender in 2021. His eight interceptions were second to only Trevon Diggs this year, and he led the NFL with 23 passes defended. When targeted, he allowed a completion rate under 50% and his efforts this season earned him a Pro Bowl nod and All-Pro second-team recognition. Adding a stud defender like Jackson to the Jets’ roster would be a sweet upgrade in and of itself. Stealing one from the Patriots? Perfection.
Jordan Whitehead, S, Tampa Bay BuccaneersThe Jets may try to bring back pending free agent safety Marcus Maye or fill his position in the draft (Kyle Hamilton, perhaps?), but they could use all the secondary help/depth they can get. If New York doesn’t get Maye, Whitehead is a perfect pick. He’d fulfill a similar role and add a certified playmaker to the Jets’ secondary. The Buccaneer finished 2021 with two interceptions and eight passes defended in pass coverage, as well as five tackles for a loss and a QB hit. Whitehead would provide a solid upgrade and wouldn’t break the bank, perhaps freeing up more space for New York to make a splash signing to fill another need.
Uchenna Nwosu, EDGE, Los Angeles ChargersIt’s possible the Jets fill this need with a guy they like in the draft. With the fourth and 10th picks, they could potentially take Kayvon Thibodeaux, Travon Walker, or David Ojabo if they’re on the board. But since it’s more likely they address other needs—namely their offensive line and secondary—in the first round, edge rusher is a spot they could fill in free agency. Nwosu is another player that’s improved in every year of his rookie contract. He capped off four great years with the Chargers with career-bests in sacks (5), tackles for a loss (8), QB hits (17), forced fumbles (2), and even tallied his first career interception. Nwosu thrived rushing opposite Joey Bosa in Los Angeles, so there’s no reason to think he wouldn’t be able to do the same across from a healthy Carl Lawson in New York next season.
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