Fan-Favorite Jets Free Agent Target Expects to Be Available: Report

Robert Saleh

Getty New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh gets fired up after a play on October 3, 2021.

The New York Jets have a lot of money to spend in free agency but the first step is seeing who’s actually available.

In the modern-day NFL, many of the league’s top free-agent targets don’t end up hitting the open market from year to year. One reason is the creation of the franchise tag in 1993. The other is that players agree to an extension with their former organization before the process ever begins.

If you’re hoping to make a few splashy signings in March, these offseason weeks between the Super Bowl and the league’s reopening can be agonizing, as you wait to see which assets become available. Fortunately for the Jets, one potential big-name target expects to be.

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Marcus Williams Dream Within Reach

On March 4, ESPN NFL insider Jeremy Fowler reported: “Saints safety Marcus Williams does not expect to be franchise tagged, per source. Saints would prefer [a] long-term deal for Williams, who played on the tag last year, for cap purposes and to keep [the] player long term if they can come to [an] agreement.”

Overall, this is good news on the Williams front, although there are one or two wrinkles. According to Fowler, the Saints are at least attempting to extend the star safety but that feels unlikely.

The 25-year old Williams is expected to make huge money on the open market, so why would he agree to an extension with a team that has no cap space? Let’s run the numbers.

Spotrac projects he’ll earn $15 million per year in 2022 and the Saints currently have a league-worst deficit of over $44.4 million. That’s before they sign draft picks and bring in any other free agents of need like a starting quarterback for example.

NOLA GM Mickey Loomis is one of the best in the business at freeing up cap but even he has his work cut out for him on this one. In the end, the Saints will most likely chalk this one up as a necessary sacrifice in any effort to rebuild their organization.

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Hot Market for Williams

The other aforementioned wrinkle is competition. The Jets may have the enticing young coaching staff led by Robert Saleh but they’re still a bottomfeeder until they prove otherwise.

As always, they may have to outbid to acquire, and expect Williams to have plenty of suitors. The former second-round pick is entering his prime and has one of the more consistent track records in football.

In five seasons, he’s only missed five games with at least three turnovers forced in every one of them (15 total interceptions, three forced fumbles). He’s more of a deep coverage safety — three 84-plus full-season coverage grades on Pro Football Focus — than a thumper but he’s pretty reliable across the board.

The Saints rarely asked Williams to act as a pass rusher but he does have one career sack off five quarterback pressures.

Don’t let his lack of accolades fool you, Williams has earned every dollar he ends up making. The Utah product has never had a PFF season grade lower than 71.1 and has three campaigns in the 80s. His highest mark was 89.2 as a rookie.

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Backup Options at Safety

Many who cover the organization have reported that the Jets plan to target a veteran free agent at the safety position. If they end up missing on Williams, here are the top alternatives that are expected to hit the open market (Jessie Bates III is a projected tag).

Click on each player’s name for a link to a feature article!

Tyrann Mathieu

The ‘Honey Badger’ may also be tagged and has not been linked to the Jets too often. He’s thought to be looking for more of a win-now situation but it can never hurt to pick up the phone and check on one of the best in the game.

Quandre Diggs

A popular scheme fit that would be a slight downgrade from Williams in terms of durability and skill. Having said that, the recent Seattle Seahawk knows this system and has succeeded in it at different points of his career (age 29).

Justin Reid

Another promising 25-year old with plenty of room to grow. Reid is looking for a fresh start after beginning his career in Houston and Saleh’s player-friendly reputation could lure this budding star.

Terrell Edmunds

A former first-round talent that never truly unlocked his potential in Pittsburgh. Some feel he is a good system fit that Coach Saleh can help develop at age 25.

Jaquiski Tartt

An ex-Saleh disciple with a grizzled background in this league. Tartt would be reminiscent of the Lamarcus Joyner signing in 2021, a bargain-buy based on scheme familiarity and savvy.

Jordan Whitehead

The hard-hitting soon-to-be 25-year old emulates the “All Gas No Brake” mentality and has played for a proven winner with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Anthony Harris

A former undrafted prospect who developed into a star playmaker in Minnesota. He helped Philadelphia get to the playoffs in 2021 but just turned 30 in October.

Upside Flyers

If Joe Douglas elects to bet on talent, some former top-ranked prospects are hitting the open market including Jabrill Peppers, Malik Hooker, and Ronnie Harrison. On the flip-side, the sages of this class would be Devin McCourty, Kareem Jackson, Duron Harmon, Tash Gipson, and Rodney McLeod — but it’s unlikely the Jets go this direction.


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