The New York Jets made their plans very transparent, they wanted the young corners on the roster to get as many reps as possible early.
On the surface that ideology makes a ton of sense. If these inexperienced players are going to make mistakes, you’d rather them do it in May and June as opposed to September. Although things are about to reach another level in late July when the Jets report for training camp.
Head coach Robert Saleh said after mandatory minicamp the team will reassess the cornerback position. In other words, Gang Green will strongly consider adding some much-needed experience to the backend of the defense.
Time to Kick the Tires on a Former First Rounder
Adding another cornerback to this group isn’t a foreign concept. It’s been one of the biggest talking points of the offseason so far for the green and white.
A lot of different names have been brought up. A family reunion with Richard Sherman and coach Saleh from their time in San Francisco. Potentially re-signing Brian Poole to lock up the slot. Or maybe even adding a proven veteran from Pittsburgh in Steven Nelson.
Although there’s one name that is still available that hasn’t been discussed: Gareon Conley.
The 25-year old (will be 26 by the start of the 2021 season) is overflowing with untapped potential. Conley was originally a first-round pick selected No. 24 overall from the 2017 NFL draft out of Ohio State by the then Oakland Raiders.
A few days prior to that draft a woman accused Conley of rape. While the former Buckeye strongly denied the allegations, the uncertainty of the situation affected his draft stock and reputation. Ultimately a grand jury cleared him of any wrongdoing during the summer of 2017, a few months after he was selected in the draft.
Due to an array of injuries that forced him to miss 16 games over the first two years of his career, people have forgotten how good Conley is. Then halfway through 2019, the former Ohio State stud was traded away to the Houston Texans for a 2020 third-rounder.
Sadly the injury bug followed him down to Houston mitigating his potential impact. Conley played in 14 games during 2019 between the two teams but he didn’t get a chance to suit up in 2020. The former first-rounder had “complications from his offseason arthroscopic ankle surgery, rehab didn’t go well” and all of that affected his mobility and his flexibility during the offseason.
A New Year Welcomes New Opportunity
Some may look at his troubling injury history and say thanks but no thanks. While others will see a diamond in the rough that just needs an opportunity.
Conley didn’t get to play last year, but that’s actually a good thing. That means he got over a calendar year to make sure he’s 100 percent heading into 2021.
This would be the perfect kind of Joe Douglas offseason addition. It would be a low risk vs high-reward kind of move.
Considering his extensive injury history, Douglas would be able to sign the talented corner for a well below market value deal. If the durability issues persist in a Jets uniform, you could simply get rid of him ahead of final roster cuts in late August.
Conley is still only 25 years old and was recently named one of the biggest upside-free agents remaining on the market by Bleacher Report.
Why is he that highly thought of? The analytics speak for themselves:
“He’s graded in the 69th percentile in single coverage compared to just the 37th percentile in zone coverage since entering the league. He’s also forced incompletions on 22.2 percent of his targets, the second-best rate in the NFL since 2017.”
Gang Green is going to add a veteran cornerback ahead of training camp, there’s no question about that. The only big question that remains is who that player will be? Conley may not be a media darling right now, but he would be a fantastic addition to this secondary.