It’s NFL combine week and that means draft chatter is always at the forefront of our minds, but before April comes March and as the calendar flips a page tonight, we are just about two weeks away from New York Jets free agency.
- Week 28: 2021 free-agent blunders, dream trades & targets, Mekhi Becton future.
- Week 29: Answer at backup QB, Senior Bowl prospects & priority re-signings.
- Week 30: Prospects and veterans to avoid in free agency and the draft.
- Week 31: Senior Bowl favorites, FAs with coaching ties, & positions NYJ will ignore.
- Week 32: How to fix the last-ranked defense, key impending FAs & the Super Bowl.
- Week 33: Bold offseason predictions, first free-agent signings & potential reunions.
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Free Agency Tags & Thefts
1. Name a Jets free-agent target that you really want to sign, but believe will get franchise tagged.
This is the dark cloud every year for Jets fans. After months of speculation and connecting the dots and getting our hopes up, the franchise tag deadline comes crashing down on us to change the free agency picture.
This vicious cycle is set to continue and there was one player that I thought would reach the open market, but am less sure about now. That’s New Orleans Saints safety Marcus Williams, who seemed destined to be available until recent contract restructures and cap adjustments.
Now I’m skeptical that perhaps something is going to change in a negative way. The Jets obviously need help at the position, but it might not come through Williams, sadly.
I recently wrote a full Jets-oriented franchise tag breakdown so feel free to check that out as the deadline approaches on March 8.
The obvious names are Jessie Bates and Davante Adams who feel like they have very little chance of becoming available, but I’ll go with a more obscure target in Haason Reddick. I have no clue if the Jets would be interested in the Carolina Panthers pass rusher but I am.
It feels like Gang Green won’t prioritize linebacker in the draft which is why I love Reddick in free agency. He’s a versatile defender that could play alongside C.J. Mosley and Quincy Williams in a Micah Parsons-type pass rusher role or slot in on the EDGE during passing downs.
His job would be to get to the quarterback, which he does well. The Jets always need more help in that regard — so long as he doesn’t get tagged.
2. AFC East ONLY — give me one free agent that you would love to poach from a division rival.
I’ll give you an underrated one, Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Harrison Phillips.
He is only 26 years old and has been part of the secret sauce to the Bills’ success. The Jets have a need at the position and his age fits Joe Douglas’ M.O. for guys he likes to chase in free agency.
The Spotrac market value is pretty reasonable at $5.4 million per year, which is expected to be significantly less than Foley Fatukasi’s price range in the $7 to $8 million per year range. Not only would you fill a void with a young player, but you’d be stealing a key cog from a division rival — can’t beat that.
Some Jets fans probably want to hear us say J.C. Jackson but I think Paul and I are pretty united in avoiding the talented cornerback that comes with too many red flags. Another big name is tight end Mike Gesicki but I don’t like him for the Green & White either because he doesn’t block.
Miami Dolphins edge rusher Emmanuel Ogbah did cross my mind too but instead, I’ll go with Bills cornerback Levi Wallace who I feel is a better fit. The 26-year old is the much safer option to Jackson that can start without hesitation.
Wallace knows how to play within the system and has become a reliable cog for Buffalo across from Tre White since 2018. I’m stealing the Alabama product and slotting him in opposite Bryce Hall. Then you can still select a corner later in the draft if there’s someone you like but this allows you to spend the premium assets on more important positions.
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Controversial Draft Decisions
3. Notre Dame “safety” Kyle Hamilton seems to be the most polarizing name in the draft for Jets fans, where do you stand on potentially selecting the prospect?
I’m a huge NFL draft nerd but as much as I know heading into an offseason, I always keep an open mind just in case someone way smarter than myself can change it.
I went into the offseason saying no way in hell would I want Hamilton, look at what just happened with Jamal Adams. However, as a Notre Dame fan and someone that has listened to a dozen NFL draft people pound the table for him as a generational prospect, maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
With that being said, I’m fine taking him at No. 10 overall but No. 4 overall at this point is not up for debate. I’m taking an EDGE rusher there or the best OL on the board. I can’t justify the safety spot at that mark. If it happens I will rationalize it and sell myself on it, but right now that is hard to do.
I tweeted this recently and I will reiterate it now. I don’t get why fans don’t trust Robert Saleh to make this call. If he drafts Hamilton, I know he’ll be using him in some very exciting ways that could totally flip this defense from zero to hero.
He can — (1) help the pass rush in a similar way as the aforementioned Reddick, (2) become a matchup neutralizer in man coverage, (3) provide run gap help as a hybrid linebacker, (4) provide intelligent centralized zone-read coverage, an area our linebackers got killed in last season, and (5) upgrade on our traditional safeties.
I’m not saying he’s my first choice — I agree that EDGE or OL should be the pick at No. 4 — but I also trust Saleh’s final decision here. People forget that Adams was our best player before his personality forced him out of town, and Hamilton is a much better prospect than Adams by all accounts. I will be excited, not upset if the Jets draft Hamilton at 4.
4. An intriguing trade scenario was proposed in a mock draft this week: Jets & Texans swap Nos. 3 & 4 in the first, Jets also send a 3rd and 5th for a Texans 6th. Would you make this trade IF Aidan Hutchinson was on the board? (Neal, Hamilton were the first two picks)
Absolutely not because that means we would be guaranteed to get Hutchinson or Thibodeaux. So no, respectfully, I wouldn’t trade up in this scenario knowing everything.
I have the Oregon pass rusher as my No. 1 overall player on the board and while I like Hutchinson a lot, I’m comfortable with one or the other on the Jets roster. I like the creativity and outside-the-box thinking with the potential move, but this doesn’t make sense.
The Jets have the assets to be aggressive if they want to be, but I don’t want to do something aggressive purely for the point of being aggressive. Although if the Jets pulled the trigger on this, they could trade back from No. 10 to recoup any picks lost, something to think about.
I suppose this all comes down to what you think about Thibodeaux, and that’s where myself and my partner totally disagree on this one. Even if I decide not to make this trade, I don’t draft Thibodeaux at No. 4, I draft Ikem Ekwonu to be my starting right guard and future right tackle if needed.
At this moment in time, there are just too many red flags surrounding Thibodeaux and that worries me. I think of all the busts at edge rusher over the years and I don’t want to make that mistake again.
Hutchinson generally performed against top blocking prospects, Thibodeaux did not. Hutchinson plays with a high motor and has the look of a pass rusher that’s only scratching the surface, Thibodeaux’s motivation and effort level have been questioned publicly.
I’m making this trade in a heartbeat and don’t even worry about those two picks we lose, because like Boy Green noted himself, I’m trading down from No. 10 and getting them back anyway — maybe more if the right quarterback is in play.
Robert Saleh, a Man of the People
5. Robert Saleh addressed the season ticket holders last week, what was your biggest takeaway from the Q&A?
First off, really cool that the Jets did this and the call lasted over an hour. I got a chance to listen to the whole thing, write down a bunch of notes, and cut out my favorite clips/comments on my Twitter timeline (so go check that out fans if and when you get a chance). With that being said, one of my biggest takeaways was his comments on Michael Carter in the backfield.
He said that MC1 is capable of carrying the load, but “ideally they’d like a complimentary back” instead of a committee which I thought was fascinating. There are so many power-backs in this class that would perfectly fit with his skill set.
My draft crush right now — and I wrote about it already for Heavy — is bringing back an old Zach Wilson teammate in Tyler Allgeier. He is big, fast, and is a dynamic playmaker. You can get him in the mid-rounds and have a dynamic 1-2 punch in the backfield.
When head coaches are publicly asked about all kinds of long-term plans they usually keep things pretty close to the vest, but this comment seemed very genuine.
I second Boy Green’s sentiment on this being a very cool move by the organization and Saleh. My answer would have to be his thoughts on enticing free agents to sign here.
Most fans doubt the Jets’ ability to pull in the big names because most times, we never do. It was a very fair question to ask but I did like Saleh’s response.
Saleh called it an “easy sell” based on marketing and his coaching staff and seemed unconcerned. Now you might view this as ignorance from our HC but last spring the vibe felt different and I believe this year could follow suit.
Guys wanted to play for Saleh and this young coaching staff and at the Senior Bowl, prospects went on record stating how much they loved the Jets’ new mentality. The culture is changing in New York and once you alter that perception, who wouldn’t want to play for the “greatest city in the world?”