10-Plus Jets’ Free-Agent Targets Listed as Franchise Tag Candidates

Davante Adams

Getty The Davante Adams fantasy may be over for Jets fans before free agency begins.

The New York Jets are hoping to accomplish a massive turnaround in 2022, the same feat that the Cincinnati Bengals achieved this season. No, not necessarily a Super Bowl run but a journey from last in the division to first, and a metaphorical flipping of the script.

As unlikely as that may seem today, it can happen considering the assets Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh have at their disposal — so long as they make the right decisions in free agency and the draft.

Of course, sometimes these decisions are out of your hands as a general manager or head coach. One major reason for that is the franchise tag and it’s spurned the dreams of Jets fans many times in the past.

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CBS Sports Names ‘Possible Franchise Tag Players’

During an article on February 24, NFL writer Jeff Kerr went team by team determining the top franchise tag candidates for each organization, and quite a few of them would fit nicely at One Jets Drive.

Each front office has from February 22 up until March 8 to tag a player. Here are the potential tags — according to Kerr — that might be on your offseason wish list.

Jessie Bates III, Safety, Cincinnati Bengals

Kerr calls Bates an “obvious choice” and whether the team captain returns on an extension or a tag, it feels like this one is as good as done. The Bengals have plenty of cap space available and no reason not to lock up one of their best defensive leaders on and off the field.

Marcus Williams, Safety, New Orleans Saints

Sticking with safety, a Williams tag would be a nightmare for Jets fans — especially if Bates is already off the table. Kerr did include the unsung hero of the Saints’ defense despite their cap situation. However, he described it as “a very hard task,” noting that New Orleans “would have to clear over $90 million in cap space” to tag anyone. This one may still go New York’s way but Williams won’t come cheap, they’d have to be willing to pay big bucks to get him. Who knows, maybe ex-Saints team leader Sheldon Rankins can help bring him in.

Davante Adams, Wide Receiver, Green Bay Packers

The top free agent in the entire class probably isn’t coming to New York if we’re being honest but the fantasy remains until he signs a deal somewhere else. Kerr called this one a “no-brainer” for Green Bay despite their cap numbers.

Chris Godwin, Wide Receiver, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tom Brady’s retirement may end up aiding the Jets again but it all depends on whether Tampa Bay still feels they’re a Super Bowl contender. If they think they are and decide to trade for a big-name quarterback, they might figure out a way to keep Godwin. Kerr wrote: “Paying $18,419,000 for a soon-to-be 26-year-old wide receiver as accomplished as Godwin seems to be a bargain, even though it’s unlikely Tampa Bay uses the tag this year.”

Mike Williams, Wide Receiver, Los Angeles Chargers

Just like that, the top WR free agency class in years could be decimated before March 8! Based on the Chargers cap situation, this one seems likely and if Williams joins the two wide-outs above, that could create a hitch in a recently reported plan for Gang Green.

J.C. Jackson, Cornerback, New England Patriots

A polarizing free agent option within the fanbase. Steal Bill Belichick’s most recent success story or avoid him based on motivational concerns and Patriots’ player history? Jackson has been very public about wanting to get paid so a last-minute tag might frustrate the corner.

Mike Gesicki, Tight End, Miami Dolphins

There’s a strong debate on whether Gesicki would even fit within the Jets’ offense being that he doesn’t block very often. It’s unclear how the coaching staff feels about him but he might get tagged either way.

Brandon Scherff, Guard, Washington Commanders

Again? Scherff has been tagged two straight seasons and you almost feel bad for the guy, but then you realize how much he’s getting paid. Jets fans are split on the veteran anyway and many believe Douglas would rather draft the answer at right guard.

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Rapid Fire Candidates That Kerr Listed

Sorry, there’s more. These players are either smaller names or weaker links to NYJ.

  • Laken Tomlinson, guard, San Francisco 49ers: Has been connected to Gang Green based on coaching ties with Mike LaFleur and John Benton. It would cost the Niners $16.662 million to tag the Pro Bowler in 2021.
  • Connor Williams, guard, Dallas Cowboys: A potentially cheaper alternative to Scherff and Tomlinson but Dallas could try and keep the steady guard around anyway.
  • Haason Reddick, linebacker, Carolina Panthers: There’s not a ton of smoke between the pass rusher and the Jets but his versatility would be intriguing in Saleh’s defense.
  • Harold Landry, EDGE, Tennessee Titans: Another pass-rushing option but he comes from a 3-4 defense, hasn’t been connected to the Jets very often.
  • Tyrann Mathieu, safety, Kansas City Chiefs: The Honey Badger would fit the ‘All Gas No Brake’ mentality perfectly but it feels like he’d prefer to sign with an immediate contender.
  • Cordarrelle Patterson, RB/WR, Atlanta Falcons: Could Patterson be the Jets version of Deebo Samuel? Not if he gets tagged, which “would be wise” according to Kerr.
  • Zach Ertz, tight end, Arizona Cardinals: It’s unlikely the Jets are looking to sign a TE in his thirties anyway.

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Who’s Missing?

You might have already recognized that a few big-time free agents are missing from Kerr’s list. Does that mean there’s no chance they get tagged? Of course not, but it’s a good sign if things are trending that way.

The main absentee target is probably Cowboys TE Dalton Schultz, who has become a popular name for Gang Green this offseason. NFL reporter Doug Kyed recently tweeted that the “Cowboys and Rams are in a tough cap situation to tag TE Dalton Schultz and CB Darious Williams, respectively, this offseason.”

Kerr appears to agree, putting Connor Williams as the main candidate from Dallas.

Some other potential targets that the CBS writer decided not to include based on cost, age, and production were WR Allen Robinson II, CB Casey Hayward, S Justin Reid, EDGE Derek Barnett, WR Christian Kirk, and CB Joe Haden among others.

In case you were wondering, the Jets themselves have zero franchise tag candidates after exercising the financial tool on Marcus Maye last spring. Morgan Moses and Foley Fatukasi are probably the closest to making sense but Douglas would be overpaying significantly if he elected to tag either of the two linemen.


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