Jets Screwed up With Free Agent, ‘Given a Chance’ to Match Deal

Robert Saleh, Jets

Getty New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh reacting in the middle of an NFL game.

The New York Jets wanted a free agent to return and they had a chance to make it happen.

According to Rich Cimini of ESPN, the green and white “wanted” veteran defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson to return to the team in 2024.

“The Jets were given a chance to match the one-year, $3.6 million contract offer he received from the [Cleveland] Browns, but they took too long to respond, two sources said,” Cimini explained in an article posted on Sunday, March 17. “Jefferson had agreed to terms with Cleveland by the time the Jets answered. Things move fast in free agency.”

The Jets Wanted to Load up on the Interior Defensive Line

Based on the early free agency activity by the Jets, it appeared they were set to move on from Jefferson.

Gang Green signed Javon Kinlaw and Leki Fotu to fill out the defensive tackle room. Cimini explained that the “natural assumption was that they moved on from Quinton Jefferson.”

However, that wasn’t the case. They also wanted Jefferson in that IDL room in 2024.

Jefferson, 30, was coming off of a career year with the Jets in 2023. He set a new career in sacks (six) and appeared to be a perfect complement next to Quinnen Williams.

Despite coming off of a really good season, Jefferson signed for the exact same price tag in back-to-back seasons.

Jefferson signed a one-year deal with the Jets in 2023 for $3.6 million. In 2024 he got the same offer from the Browns for $3.6 million.

New York also brought back former first-round defensive tackle Solomon Thomas on a one-year deal, per Connor Hughes of SNY.

Jets Took Massive Gamble

The green and white took too long on multiple occasions. Certainly in this free agency story this offseason, but also over the last couple of months.

Gang Green could have re-signed Jefferson anywhere from the time the season ended until the moment he inked a deal with the Browns. New York has no one but themselves to blame for how this played out.

Jefferson did all he could offering the Jets a chance to match. As they took longer and longer to respond to him, Jefferson had to look out for himself. If he took too long to respond to the Browns’ offer they could have moved on and he could be left without a team.

New York could have had Jefferson back at a reasonable number. Instead, they paid twice as much for a younger guy who doesn’t have nearly the same resume.

The Jets are hoping that Kinlaw, a former first-round draft choice of the San Francisco 49ers, can provide the D-Line rotation with some pass-rush juice.

On one hand, he is coming off of a career year from a sack perspective. On the same token, that career-high 3.5 sacks this past season was nearly half of what Jefferson provided you for even less money against the cap.

If the Jets gamble is right they filled a role on the defensive tackle rotation for 2024 and maybe found a new long-term piece to play alongside Williams for the foreseeable future.

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