NFL free agency is right around the corner and the New York Jets have a few areas they need to address.
According to The Athletic’s Zack Rosenblatt, those need positions are offensive tackle and safety, as well as defensive tackle, among others — depending on which veterans they cut. Going off that, and the theory that impending free agent Lamarcus Joyner will not return in 2023, Jets X-Factor’s Michael Nania outlined some safety possibilities that could take over for the veteran next season.
One was particularly intriguing, Kansas City Chiefs starter Juan Thornhill, who KC might have just replaced in the 2022 NFL Draft with second-rounder Bryan Cook. If the perennial AFC favorites do indeed choose to let Thornhill walk this spring, Nania explained why he could be a fit for the Jets.
Juan Thornhill Offers Up-And-Coming Target for Jets in Free Agency
“A second-round pick in 2019, Juan Thornhill has been an integral cog in the Chiefs’ secondary since day one, starting all 16 games in his rookie year,” Nania began while detailing the potential free agency target.
He continued: “In 2022, Thornhill set career-highs in tackles (71) and passes defended (9) while tying his career-high for interceptions (3), but his coverage was boom-or-bust overall. Thornhill allowed 4 touchdowns and committed 3 pass interference penalties. Thornhill will turn 28 in October.”
The film expert also noted his “similarity” to Joyner in terms of where he lines up and what he’s asked to do. According to Nania’s metric on this, Thornhill ranked 12th in terms of similarity out of 73 qualifiers.
Some of the comparative stats behind that ranking were the following:
- Deep safety: 67.3% (Joyner: 73.3%)
- Box: 13.9% (Joyner: 14.0%)
- Slot: 15.0% (Joyner: 10.4%)
- Edge: 3.2% (Joyner: 2.1%)
- Outside CB: 0.7% (Joyner: 0.2%)
Thornhill is entering free agency for the first time after his second-round draft status, and he’s most likely looking to cash in. If the Jets choose to go this route, they could steal and up-and-coming asset at the safety position, or end up overpaying on a player KC decided to let go of.
Jets Could Go With the Youth Movement at Safety
Gang Green already brought back fan favorite Will Parks for the 2023 program, which gives them a solid base at the position. Aside from the veteran, they have Jordan Whitehead, Ashtyn Davis, and 2022 UDFA Tony Adams under contract.
Let’s say general manager Joe Douglas drafts a safety in 2023, that could easily be your five-man group heading into training camp.
Much of this plan will depend on how the Jets view Whitehead and Davis, however. The former is a cut candidate because of his cap hit, while the latter is due to get a pay bump on the final year of his rookie contract.
Theoretically, Douglas could choose to release both in an effort to save cap space — then bring in a player like Thornhill. He could also keep Davis — who has earned a place on Brant Boyer’s special teams unit — and restructure Whitehead. That plan would involve a similar safety crew heading into 2023, minus Joyner.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Jets address the situation at safety this offseason. This was not as weak of an area as fans perceived it to be in 2022, but it wasn’t a strength either. Joyner can — and should — be upgraded on, but Whitehead has shown enough to continue on as the starter.
We’ll see if the Jets agree with that assessment this spring.
Are all these articles full of proposed cuts??? Geesh!