Which Remaining Free Agents Should Jets Target?

Steve Lichtenstein
May 12, 2020 - 12:16 pm

Joe Douglas’ first offseason as Jets general manager did not conclude with the NFL Draft. To the contrary, New York is still staring at some gaping holes in its depth chart. Fortunately, several prominent free agent players remain unattached and can be had without them affecting next year’s compensatory pick formula.

Kelvin Beachum, Gang Green’s starting left tackle the last three seasons, is one of them, though Douglas’ selection of Louisville’s massive Mekhi Becton with the 11th overall pick in the draft’s first round made Beachum’s re-signing impractical.

So, who would make sense for Douglas to target with his approximately $15 million in salary cap space (not including the undisclosed contract value of recently signed running back Frank Gore or the $11 million in cap relief for the post-June 1 release of cornerback Trumaine Johnson), per overthecap.com? Taking into account the Jets’ areas of weakness, here are a few candidates who would look good in green:

1) Logan Ryan, CB

The former Rutgers cornerback wasn’t asked back by Tennessee after an up-and-down 2019 campaign. Ryan was a playmaker—both ways, as evidenced by the six touchdowns he allowed (eighth-most among cornerbacks, per ProFootballFocus.com) and six defensive penalties. However, Ryan also contributed 4 interceptions, 11 pass breakups, 5 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles. The Jets could use another disruptor on the back end. If Ryan is willing to come down from his reported $9.5 million asking price, Douglas should be piqued. Per Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, that may indeed be true, as he reports the organization feels strong they can get a deal done. Oh, it should also be noted that Ryan, who toiled for four seasons in New England, is quite familiar with the offense of Gang Green’s hated rival—he took quarterback Tom Brady’s last pass as a Patriot to the house in the AFC Wild Card game.

2) Joe Flacco, QB

Backup quarterback wasn’t as much of a no-brainer as I initially thought, thanks to Flacco’s neck surgery that will reportedly keep him out of action until early September. The Jets are already feeling the sting from the loss of wide receiver Quincy Enunwa, who was placed on the PUP list last week after multiple neck surgeries. Neck injuries are scary. Flacco is at least well-known to Douglas from their time together in Baltimore. Douglas allegedly scouted Flacco heavily at Delaware before the Ravens chose him with the 18th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. After winning a Super Bowl title, Flacco moved on to Denver, where he was beaten to a pulp behind a bad offensive line.

Still, the Jets are desperate for someone who can actually play if starter Sam Darnold misses time for a third straight season. Darnold, of course, told ESPN Radio on Monday that he wasn’t worried about being infected with COVID-19. Jets fans: Knock on wood. Hard. Other than Flacco, the pickings are slim. I got into a pointless Twitter argument (aren’t they all?) over whether the Jets should consider former Carolina QB Cam Newton. My view is that Newton is looking for a starting opportunity (New England?), and that ain’t happening here. I agreed that he’d probably be miserable if he had no option but to take the New York backup gig. But, if the Jets’ choice is between Newton at a reasonable contract number or David Fales for three games, I’m taking Newton.

3) Larry Warford, G

Ordinarily, I would pass on the Jets splurging for a guard, but Warford might actually make financial sense for the Jets. Warford, a cap casualty in New Orleans, could easily slip into the space that should have already been vacated by Brian Winters, who hasn’t been the same player since a variety of injuries starting in 2017 hampered his performances. Winters, a highly-regarded warrior in the locker room, tried to play through a damaged left shoulder last season. It gave out for good in the Week 10 victory over the Giants. Still, even at his best Winters, wasn’t Warford, a three-time Pro Bowler and PFF’s 11th-highest graded guard last season (300 snap minimum). Since Warford is reportedly asking for approximately $7 million to play this season and Winters’ $7.2 million cap hit can come off the books free of any dead money, Douglas should pull the trigger on another offensive line upgrade.

Hard Pass: Jadeveon Clowney, DE

Look, the Jets haven’t had a legitimate edge pass rusher since John Abraham left town after 2005. Clowney, though, is just too big of a risk. He reportedly is seeking a long-term deal in the $17-20 annual average value range. I don’t have inside knowledge as to Clowney’s work ethic, which had been called out when he was with Houston. Douglas would presumably dig into whether he was “his kind of player.” I care more that Clowney just doesn’t produce enough at an elite level. His career high in sacks is 9.5 in 2017 and his PFF pressure percentage last season with Seattle was 6.5%, tied for 36th among 57 edge rushers with at least 300 pass rushes. To those who claim that the Seahawks’ scheme limited Clowney’s opportunities, his 2018 pass rush percentage with Houston was 6.2%. For the record, Jordan Jenkins, New York’s 2019 sack leader (8) who was re-signed for $3.75 million guaranteed, had a 6% pressure percentage.   

For a FAN’s perspective of the Nets, Devils and Jets, follow Steve on Twitter @SteveLichtenst1.