The New York Jets made plenty of splashes this offseason that won headlines.
Although one move they made slipped under the radar and it could have massive ripple effects on the 2022 season.
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Blessing in Disguise
Back during free agency in March, the Jets were involved in a splashy bidding war for safety Marcus Williams.
The talented defensive back was set to leave the New Orleans Saints and it was down between the Baltimore Ravens and the Jets.
Ultimately, Williams chose the Ravens after Gang Green refused to pay up, signing a five-year deal for over $70 million.
According to ESPN Jets insider Rich Cimini on March 15, the Jets “waited for Marcus Williams to lower his price — and he did (to $14m per year). I think they would’ve paid that, but he preferred the #Ravens.”
The Jets then quickly pivoted to former Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Jordan Whitehead on a much more reasonable two-year deal for $14.5 million.
Head coach Robert Saleh said he was surprised a player like Whitehead shook free:
“I love Jordan and every once in a while a guy sneaks out of a building in free agency for one reason or another and he is one of them. He is not someone you normally see exiting a building they were drafted in. He is absolutely phenomenal: his mental makeup, leadership, the way he prepares every day, he really is the total package.”
The weird thing is the Buccaneers didn’t even try to bring their talented safety back. During Whitehead’s open media availability after signing, he revealed they didn’t even send him an offer which frustrated him greatly.
Saleh was then asked how unusual is it for a 25-year-old free agent off the street to assume a leadership role on a new team:
“The way he has done it is cool because he doesn’t try to be the leader he just naturally becomes one because of the way he approaches his day-to-day business. He’s a great young man, likable in the locker room, and he’s definitely made of the right stuff.”
With how good Whitehead has looked, the Jets losing out on Williams could prove to be a blessing in disguise.
Something to Monitor
Speaking of the safety position an injured veteran finally made an appearance at Jets camp this weekend.
Lamarcus Joyner who tore his triceps in Week 1 of 2021 looked locked and ready to go for Gang Green ahead of 2022.
Saleh believes that the combination of Whitehead and Joyner on the backend of the defense makes them a “pretty darn good team” at safety.
Saleh called Joyner a “stabilizing force” and noted the importance of his two veterans starting at safety.
With so much youth at corner, Saleh says it’s paramount to have safeties that have been there and done that. That level of communication will make sure this unit is able to fire off on all cylinders.
Whitehead has earned a ton of praise this offseason and for good reason, but the real tell-tale on the season is how well his sidekick plays next to him.
It has been one of the wildest competitions of Jets camp so far but the expectation is Joyner is the penciled-in starter next to Whitehead. Over the last two years, he hasn’t been able to play much football due to injuries, but when healthy he has proven to be special.
The Jets are banking on him re-finding his form sooner rather than later.
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