“The Jets will be linked to a lot of cornerbacks in the offseason, both in free agency and the draft, but it sounds like coach Robert Saleh is content with his current crew,” wrote the ESPN journalist.
Cimini’s NYJ colleague, Connor Hughes of The Athletic, disagreed with that sentiment while speaking with Heavy on Jets reporter Paul Esden Jr. on January 17. He noted that between Bryce Hall, Brandin Echols and Isaiah Dunn on the outside, the Jets “believe that in that bunch they’ve got a couple [of] pretty good number two corners.”
On February 10, Hughes shared this theory publicly once again.
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Are the Jets in the Market for a Veteran Corner?
After uSTADIUM quote tweeted PFF NY Jets on Twitter, stating, “Hall really became a good player in his first full (healthy) season. #Jets have a budding star at CB. When they add another guy opposite him in free agency, they can focus elsewhere in the draft” — Hughes followed up with some inside information.
The beat reporter replied: “Jets would love to create a situation where they have a proven, ball-hawking corner on one side, then open up a three-way competition between Hall, Echols & Dunn on the other side.”
This surprised many fans on Twitter, who see Hall as a lock to start at one cornerback position, but Hughes has remained steadfast in the belief that Saleh’s staff does not see as much as a difference in talent between the current starting pair.
Whether Echols would actually push Hall for the second starting job is up for debate but let’s focus on the bombshell — Gang Green may finally be in the market for that veteran CB supporters dreamed of last summer.
On the YouTube spot with Esden, Hughes compared this type of move to when the San Francisco 49ers brought in Richard Sherman to head their young secondary just before the Super Bowl run. It does make a ton of sense to bring in some experience on the back-end, but which candidates make the most sense?
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Examining the Veteran CB Market
Pro Football Focus released a list ranking the top free-agent cornerbacks in 2022.
The first player was a name the Jets know all too well, and he certainly fits the description of a “ball-hawking” CB — J.C. Jackson.
The rising New England Patriots star has become a polarizing target. Some fans would love to steal him from Bill Belichick and the bitter division rival. Others are wary that Jackson could be the next Belichick creation on defense that turns into a bust after leaving his system.
One thing is certain, Jackson will get paid this March and the Jets may not be willing to spend big on another free agent with red flags.
Number two is another ex-Patriot and former Buffalo Bills shutdown CB who won the Defensive Player of the Year in 2019. That of course is Stephon Gilmore, who would fit that Sherman mold to a T.
Gilmore turned 31 in September and although he’s exiting his prime, he could be the type of steady veteran hand Douglas and Saleh are looking for.
Next up is 2020 Super Bowl champion Carlton Davis, who would be a very intriguing option. PFF reported that the Jets are expected to be “firmly in the mix” for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers CB in free agency.
Here are some other quality free agents that could hit the open market:
- Darious Williams, Los Angeles Rams, 29 in March.
- Casey Hayward Jr., Las Vegas Raiders, 33 in September.
- Steven Nelson, Philadelphia Eagles, just turned 29. Jets passed on Nelson in 2021.
- Donte Jackson, Carolina Panthers, 27 in November.
- Charvarius Ward, Kansas City Chiefs, 26 in May.
- Joe Haden, Pittsburgh Steelers, 33 in April.
Of course, Douglas can also try and get creative via trade. One player that would make a ton of sense is New York Giants starter James Bradberry, as the cross-rival looks to clear cap space under a new administration.
ESPN insider Jeremy Fowler also wrote that Xavien Howard could be available in Miami, but interdivisional trades are always unlikely.