Experts Fix Jets’ Last-Ranked Defense, Decide on Key Free Agents

Foley Fatukasi, Javonte Williams

Getty The New York Jets defense needs some major improvements in 2022.

Last night, Super Bowl LVI capped an exciting 2021-22 season with a one-score finish in the big game.

Although the New York Jets have been focused on NFL free agency and the draft for a while, the league can finally shift now that the champions have been crowned. Just like any other Monday, our expert writers Paul ‘Boy Green’ Esden Jr and Michael Obermuller are answering the top NYJ questions of the week.

Before we get started, here are some of our most recent mailbag columns.

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Evaluating Key Veterans Set to Hit Free Agency

1. If the choice came down to Braxton Berrios or Foley Fatukasi, who would you re-sign?

Boy Green:

Out of the two? I have to go with Berrios.

Fatukasi is a good leader in the locker room and a really good run-stuff defender, but getting someone who can be good in that department is a dime a dozen. The money is going to be too crazy — I keep hearing he wants around $7 to $8 million per season. The Jets can get someone that can provide that service for chump change.

Although I think both players could be gone, Berrios is a really cool gadget player and has a good connection with Zach Wilson. In a perfect world, you keep players like that but it is all going to come down to the price tag.


Boy Green really hit the nail on the head here. This is a scenario that Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh could be discussing at this very moment, considering Berrios and Fatukasi are asking for similar amounts to return. There might be a decision coming where the front office has to choose between the two.

If that were to happen, Berrios brings way more to the table. I agree with all of my partner’s points but I’ll add one more — scheme fit.

Berrios excelled in Mike LaFleur’s system and as a natural 3-4 nose tackle, Fatukasi regressed under Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich. He’s a great player and a team leader but he no longer fits. I would let him walk and I might have even considered trading him last fall.

2. Recent reports say it’s unlikely that veterans Jamison Crowder and Marcus Maye will return. Which has the better shot of playing for the Jets again and which would you want to see in green one last time?

Boy Green:

There is a zero percent chance Crowder comes back. He was asked to cut his salary in half last year and for him to return a year later? I just don’t see that happening.

The chances Maye returns I’d put at about five percent. He is coming off of a very serious injury and the relationship between player, team, and agent is dead. Although because of the void at the safety position I could see him returning during the summer on a one-year prove-it deal which could behoove both sides.

Outside of the recent off-the-field activity, Maye has been a good player on and off the field and someone that has grown on me. I think the organization really likes him and we’ll see how that one plays out.


I would have to agree that Maye has the better shot of returning and yes, it would be on a one-year deal if he did. The chances of this may be slim but the safety’s market should take a massive hit after a torn Achilles and a potential suspension coming from the league.

He may not get the offer he’s looking for and if that occurs, why not stick around for another year? Crowder is as good as gone but I’d probably prefer to see him back with New York.

Both of these veterans have lost a step but the slot receiver is still as reliable as they come. I’m not so sure about Maye, which is why I would take Crowder if I had to choose.

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Draft Strategy at WR, Defense

3. Do you believe any wide receiver in this draft class is worth taking at No. 10?

Boy Green:

Absolutely, I do. There are three receivers I really like that I could envision being the pick: Drake London of USC, Garrett Wilson of Ohio State, and Treylon Burks of Arkansas.

I have mentioned it before but this is a flavor draft, what trait are you looking for? This isn’t a — this guy is better than this guy — they’re all different. Each of these prospects could fit the bill for what the Jets are looking for. London is a poor man’s Brandon Marshall, Wilson compares favorably to Calvin Ridley, and Burks is sort of like Deebo Samuel — but he is a one-of-one kind of player.

Whether or not the Jets take a receiver in the first round depends on how free agency and the trade market turn out. If they can fill other items on their team they’ll have more flexibility to draft a receiver in round one.


There was a big story this week stemming from Connor Hughes and a rumor that none of these prospects would be drafted higher than 2021 rookie Elijah Moore, had they been in the same draft class. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m no college football expert but this does worry me.

If none of these guys are true WR1s, I’m not sure I can draft them at No. 10. Having said that, you could always trade down and take whoever is left around the 20-range.

Out of the three Boy Green mentioned, that would probably be Burks — who has become a fan favorite target in recent weeks. I’ve heard the Samuel comparisons but I’ve also heard DK Metcalf due to his size and athleticism.

Douglas and Saleh must make this determination ASAP because how they grade these prospects could impact how they attack free agency and the offseason.

4. How would you best address the 32nd-ranked defense this offseason?

Boy Green:

I would take Kayvon Thibodeaux with the No. 4 overall pick and place him opposite of Carl Lawson. Give me a true No. 1 cornerback — Coby Bryant out of Cincinnati fits the bill in the draft.

I would also trade a mid-rounder for Dre Greenlaw who has familiarity with Robert Saleh at linebacker, add a cheap run-stuffing nose tackle that can eat space like a BJ Hill, then hope for development and progression from guys who are in the second year of the system.

Mix all that together and this unit can go from last to the middle of the pack if you play your cards right.


I like the detail from my partner. To me, it starts with the defensive line and the linebacker core so I’m glad Paul addressed those.

In 2021, the Jets switched from 3-4 to 4-3 and the transition was messy. Saleh’s staff tried their best to mold veterans like C.J. Mosley or Fatukasi into new roles and sometimes you just can’t fit a square peg in a round hole.

This team generally got bullied by the run game and that was because of their failures in scheme adjustment and gap assignment. The linebackers were also burnt in coverage far too often.

I won’t get as specific as Boy Green but Saleh must bring in veterans and youngsters that fit this system — whether from San Francisco, Atlanta or wherever. That’s how you expedite the process and flip this thing in a hurry.

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Super Bowl LVI

5. The Jets weren’t in the Super Bowl obviously but give me your top takeaways from Rams vs. Bengals.

Boy Green:

I love that we had a close game between two teams that hadn’t won in a while. Both sides had representatives from the Jets on them so the rooting interest was mixed.

I was quietly rooting for the Cincinnati Bengals — I really liked their story and thought they were the team of destiny that shouldn’t be there but is there.

Perhaps my biggest takeaway from the game is I want the Jets to give Zach Wilson every weapon possible. The Rams have Odell Beckham Jr., Cooper Kupp, Cam Akers, and Van Jefferson while the Bengals have Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and Joe Mixon. The talent is overflowing and it made things easier on the quarterbacks.


Due to a very important birthday, I had a ton going on yesterday so for the first time in a long time I watched the Super Bowl with no betting interest or favorite. I truly did not care who won and that made it fun as the game went back and forth down the stretch.

The Rams were the team that “had” to win — they mortgaged their entire future on it trading first-round draft picks like baseball cards. I was happy for guys like Matthew Stafford and Jalen Ramsey who wasted a lot of their careers with bad organizations.

I also felt it was well-deserved for superstars like Kupp and Aaron Donald. My big takeaway is based on that, the Jets don’t have enough superstars. They are only one year into their new regime but they need to add some clutch star power if they want to win.


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