Ah, we have finally reached the final week of the 2021 NFL season with a terrific Super Bowl 56 matchup.
Either the Cincinnati Bengals will win their first Super Bowl championship in franchise history or the Los Angeles Rams will win their second.
Parity in the championship game is great news for a team like the New York Jets that haven’t participated since the 1968-69 campaign.
In this week’s mailbag featuring our two digital reporters, Paul ‘Boy Green’ Esden Jr and Michael Obermuller, attempt to accelerate the rebuilding process with some sexy free agent and NFL draft additions.
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Draft Nuggets to Consider
1. If you had to guess which Senior Bowl prospect the New York Jets fell in love with down in Mobile, who would it be and why?
Tough one to answer because I think they fell in love with a bunch of them. If I know Robert Saleh and this staff though, Zion Johnson is the guy.
The interior offensive lineman was voted the “practice player of the week” for the extra effort he put in on and off the field. Johnson was the last prospect to leave practice not once, not twice, but all three days. No one even dared to challenge him for the honor because they must have known they’d be out there all night trying to outlast him.
According to Brian Costello, “Jets coaches were impressed with his grasp of the offense” as well. That means he was studying in his spare time. Hard work, diligence, professionalism — Johnson passed Senior Week with flying colors.
Jets head coach Robert Saleh was interviewed before the Senior Bowl by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero and was asked which players he was most excited to watch? Saleh was too smart for that, replying I won’t get into any specific names “that’s part of the secret” winking at the camera.
I’m sure the green and white are absolutely giddy and overflowing with new information coming out of Mobile. Although if I had to put on my investigator hat a few names stand out:
- Trey McBride, tight end, Colorado State
- Trevor Penning, offensive lineman, Northern Iowa
- Khalil Shakir, wide receiver, Boise State
These are several players the Jets were either seen spending extra time with or some well-respected Jets insiders shared some juicy tidbits about them in their post-Senior Bowl notebooks.
2. Buy or Sell the latest draft buzz around Malik Willis, Kenny Pickett?
I’m buying. I get the feeling that Willis is the guy that’s going to rise. He just has those raw traits that NFL franchises are looking for in the modern age — mobility, athleticism, strong arm, high character.
I think a trade down from 10 is extremely believable but I’m not sure if anyone moves up to No. 4 to get a QB. That means a team in front of the Jets can play spoiler with a deal of their own, like the Carolina Panthers, New York Giants, Atlanta Falcons, or Denver Broncos.
If Willis is still on the board at No. 10, Joe Douglas should definitely open NYJ up for business.
I want to buy it so bad. I’m closing my eyes and pretending I’m Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. I’m hoping if I keep saying to myself that quarterbacks are going to rise and click my heels together I will absolutely will it into existence.
This quarterback class has been openly trashed for what is perceived to be a weak group. Although despite the apparent lack of options, there is still a huge demand for more guys. That will inevitably push guys up the board and that should be great news to the folks over on 1 Jets Drive.
Pickett feels like a high floor player, but I question how high that ceiling is. On top of that, we still don’t know how small those hands are and insiders continue to tell me that they could be historically tiny. That could affect ball security, how tight of a spiral he can throw, and that forces him to wear gloves.
I love Willis’ upside, but his floor is a bit of a mystery. The thing that will help him is the running game. We saw it a bit during the Senior Bowl with some exciting splash plays and I wouldn’t be surprised if several teams fell in love with him.
A Sneak Peek Into Free Agency
3. Who is the most unlikely free agent the Jets could sign on the open market that could make some sense?
Don’t get me wrong, I’d probably prefer to sign Marcus Williams or Jessie Bates if they end up hitting the open market but let’s just say they don’t for a second, or they sign elsewhere. I really do think a Tyrann Mathieu signing would make sense.
I also think it would probably never happen, so I guess that fits the question’s mold.
The Honey Badger is a proven team leader and motivator that breathes life into an organization. I like him not solely for what he can offer on the field, but also for what he offers in the locker room. If you want to bring in a culture changer that can get the Jets to the playoffs over the next four years, ink Mathieu on a long-term deal. Yes, he’s turning 30, but he’s only missed ONE start over the last five seasons.
I’ll say JC Jackson of the New England Patriots.
A lot of fans are going to want him because of his ball-hawking prowess and the Jets defense lack of that quality. Although I think there are several reasons why it is unlikely:
- Price tag
- Football passion
Jackson is going to get the bag on the open market and I’m not sure if the Jets are going to be willing to pay the piper.
Additionally, the passion for the game is an interesting talking point. I’ve heard a lot of people tell me that Jackson is desperate for the bag of money and once he gets it, could let the foot off the gas.
Jets fans are all too familiar with that mindset they saw it with former first-rounder Muhammad Wilkerson. As soon as he got paid there were all of a sudden questions about his worth ethic and desire to be great. I get those same vibes from Jackson from what I’ve gathered and I’d rather pass.
4. Pick a player with ties to a member of the Jets coaching staff that they should pursue and reunite with this season?
This is a great question and two names immediately come to mind. My first choice would be a linebacker who played under defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich in Atlanta.
Foyesade Oluokun has developed into an underrated machine at the heart of the Falcons defense with 192 total tackles in 2021. Based on reports, it seems more and more likely that the Jets don’t address linebacker high in the draft but I still feel this area is severely lacking. The Dirty Bird is a free agent who can do everything from rushing the quarterback to intercepting the football (five over the past two seasons).
Honorable mention goes to ex-Saleh disciple Jaquiski Tartt, a veteran safety that knows this system and would not break the bank. His consistency and experience could really aid the Jets on the back-end.
Every new coaching staff typically brings players from their past with them to help other players adapt to the scheme and spread the message from the top-down.
I know Richard Sherman isn’t what he used to be, but I could see them connecting the dots. They didn’t this past offseason and maybe that means there isn’t interest there, but both guys respect the heck out of each other.
Another former 49ers connection that could make sense is offensive lineman Laken Tomlinson. Depending on the price tag that reunion could make a lot of sense.
5. Rome wasn’t built in one day and neither will this Jets roster, which position do you predict will be ignored this offseason?
I get the feeling that cornerback may be ignored. We’ve heard the Jets coaching staff talk up their young CBs many times and I’m not entirely sure that Saleh won’t roll the dice on Bryce Hall, Brandin Echols, and Michael Carter II taking that next step.
Douglas definitely isn’t taking a corner round one and I doubt they sign a veteran. Maybe they add another late-round flyer to compete with Isaiah Dunn and Echols but I believe this “need” takes a backseat in 2022.
It happens every year, Jets fans gather and discuss how they plan on building Rome in a single offseason. A perfect plan on how to take the green and white from pretender to contender filling every hole on the roster.
While that is fun banter during the offseason, normally one position of need or another falls through the cracks. Last year that was the tight end position for the Jets. Despite an obvious need, the front office basically ignored the group.
Which positional group will it be this year?
I’m afraid that group is going to be the linebacker spot. I think they need several new bodies in the fold and perhaps a draft pick to develop for the future.
Unfortunately, I think the Jets coaching staff is going to be stubborn and stick with the veterans they have and bank on Hamsah Nasirildeen and Jamien Sherwood bouncing back from injury-plagued rookie campaigns.
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