Citak: Top Remaining Free Agents Jets Could Target

Matt Citak
May 14, 2019 - 2:55 pm
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With player signings no longer affecting the compensatory pick formula, the second wave of NFL free agency is officially underway.

It comes as no surprise that just about every top free agent has already been signed.

However, while the marquee names may be gone, there are still some good football players left on the market that could likely be had at a bargain rate.

The Jets entered the offseason with over $100 million in cap space, one of the highest amounts in the league. General manager Mike Maccagnan made several free agent splashes during the first wave of free agency, landing Le’Veon Bell, C.J. Mosley and Jamison Crowder, among others.

New York is in significantly better shape today than the franchise was a few months ago, but that does not mean the roster is set by any means.

The Jets are projected to have more than $25 million left in cap space, which is more than enough to add a few more valuable pieces. There is no guarantee that Maccagnan will choose to use some of the cap space this offseason. He could save it for after the season gets underway and look to make a trade, or even keep it until next offseason.

If the Jets do decide to add another player or two this summer, here are the top remaining free agents New York could target.

OLB Shane Ray

After striking out on Anthony Barr during the first wave of free agency, the Jets chose not to select an edge rusher until the third round of last month’s draft, when they took Jachai Polite out of Florida. New York has high hopes for Polite, but it’s tough to depend on a third-round pick to contribute in a significant role immediately. The Jets could look towards free agency to add another pass rusher to the group, and if they do, Ray could easily be the club’s top target.

Ray’s last two seasons have been devastated by injuries. The 25-year-old has appeared in just 19 games over the last two seasons while starting in only seven. However, if you look back to his last full season in 2016, the former first-round pick racked up eight sacks and a forced fumble. He’s not going to step in and provide double-digit sacks, but for a team in need of more pass rushers like the Jets, Ray is probably worth the risk.

Signing Ray to a one-year deal is a low-risk, potentially high-reward move that Maccagnan should seriously consider if he wants to put the team’s pass rush in the best possible position.

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C John Sullivan

Heading into the offseason, center was one of the Jets’ biggest needs. Despite this, Maccagnan decided not to seriously pursue either of the top free agent centers available, as Mitch Morse and Matt Paradis signed with Buffalo and Carolina respectively. New York then had the opportunity to add a center during the draft, but instead used its six draft picks to help boost other parts of the roster. Where does this leave Gang Green? It leaves them in the worrisome situation of having to rely on Jonotthan Harrison as the team’s starting center…

The Jets have publicly stated that they are confident in Harrison as the man to snap the ball to franchise QB Sam Darnold, but that doesn’t mean they won’t look to add some insurance at a very important position. Sullivan is coming off a rough year with the Rams, allowing 37 total pressures while starting all 16 games at center. However, the 33-year-old veteran would bring some much-needed experience to the center position for the Jets, as Sullivan has started 125 games over his nine-year career. At the very least, Sullivan could serve as a mentor for Harrison as his backup.

The Jets may feel comfortable rolling with Harrison at center, but adding a veteran like Sullivan would be a smart, savvy move by Maccagnan at this point of free agency.

CB Captain Munnerlyn

Cornerback is another position that the Jets curiously chose not to address that seriously this offseason. Trumaine Johnson will return as the team’s number one corner, but right now the man starting with him would be Darryl Roberts. As much as the Jets may like his potential, Roberts showed a tendency of giving up big plays last season. With Brian Poole as the only other experienced corner on the roster, this is clearly an area that the Jets could afford to add some more talent to.

While Munnerlyn clearly is not the same player he used to be, he would provide a veteran presence to a rather young group. More importantly, throughout his 10-year career, he has never missed more than two games in a season and has appeared in all 16 games six times. Munnerlyn had an interception, two sacks and nine passes defended for the Panthers last year, proving that he still has some gas left in the tank.

Munnerlyn should not be expected to step in and become a shutdown corner for the Jets at 31-years-old, but he would offer defensive coordinator Gregg Williams some necessary insurance at an essential position.

OLB Jamie Collins

It was not too long ago that Collins was a valuable cog in the Patriots’ defense. But after being shipped out to Cleveland for the last 2.5 seasons, Collins’ career took a turn for the worse. In 30 games for the Browns, the 29-year-old picked up just seven sacks, three forced fumbles and two interceptions. To put that into comparison, in 27 games for the Patriots during the 2014 and 2015 seasons, Collins recorded 9.5 sacks, three interceptions and a whopping nine forced fumbles.

The Jets are set at their inside linebacker positions with Mosley and Avery Williamson, but the team’s outside linebacker situation is a lot less certain. Brandon Copeland and Jordan Jenkins are the projected starters there, and adding Collins to that group would at the very least provide great competition during training camp.

Unfortunately for Collins, he was dealt to Cleveland a few years too early. His large 2019 salary made him an easy cut for the Browns, but what was Cleveland’s loss could be the Jets’ gain. Due to his recent struggles, Collins could likely be had at a bargain of a rate. Since the Jets should still be looking to add as much talent to their defense as possible, Collins could prove to be a steal of a signing for Maccagnan.

CB Morris Claiborne

As previously discussed, the Jets could use some more experienced players at the cornerback position. At the end of the day, New York could look to a familiar face in order to address this need. Claiborne has spent the last two seasons with the Jets, starting all 30 games he appeared in. During this stretch, the 29-year-old corner has been average, collecting three interceptions, 22 passes defended and 100 total tackles.

Maccagnan has already stated publicly that he would be open to bringing Claiborne back to East Rutherford, and considering how desperate the Jets should be to add more depth at CB, this seems like a no-brainer. Claiborne is apparently rehabbing an undisclosed injury, but as soon as he proves himself fully healthy, the Jets should not hesitate to bring back the reliable corner.

Claiborne has been forced to sign one-year “prove it” deals in each of the last two offseasons. As much as he would prefer to sign a longer deal, the veteran corner is likely facing an identical situation as last year. There is little-to-no downside to the Jets bringing Mo back on yet another one-year deal.

Matt Citak is a web producer for WFAN. Check him out on Twitter at @MatthewCitak.