Week 17 was the conclusion of the 2018 NFL Regular Season. For 20 NFL teams, including the New York Jets, the end of the season means all attention is now being focused on Free Agency and the Draft. While players rest up and heal their bodies, coaches and the front office are hard at work trying to set up their franchises for success in the following season. These are 5 of the free agents that the New York Jets should sign when Free Agency officially opens March 13th.
Steeler’s RB Le’veon Bell: This one seems obvious, and it is. Bell is easily the hottest name on the Free Agent Market. He is an elite offensive talent, and that is just what the Jets need. The Jets must do everything in their power to surround their young franchise QB, Sam Darnold, with offensive playmakers, which they lacked in the 2018 season. He had no help from his run game, frequent dropped passes, and no clear #1 target. A talent like Bell, who is only 26 and coming off an entire year of rest, would be an immediate upgrade over Isaiah Crowell and Elijah McGuire. With soon-to-be free agent Bilal Powell nearing 30 and coming off a bad neck injury, the Jets should clearly move on. That leaves Isaiah Crowell, Elijah McGuire, and Trenton Cannon as the only running backs under contract for the 2019 Season. All have been wildly inconsistent, inefficient, and one dimensional. Crowell is decent on the ground but struggles in the passing game. McGuire and Cannon are the exact opposite, non-factors pounding the rock but contributors through the air. Bell is both a between-the-tackle runner and receiving threat who can line up in the backfield or split out wide, and he excels at both facets of the game. The Jets have a glaring hole at the RB position and enough cap room to be able to splurge on a running back like Bell. If the Jets are serious about Darnold and want to contend, this signing should be a no-brainer.
Patriots EDGE Trey Flowers: Jordan Jenkins, the Jets’ current starting OLB, had a quiet yet surprisingly productive 2018 season, leading the team in total sacks with 7. Surprisingly, the Jets were also able to milk production out of a mid-tier free agent (Brandon Copeland) and an undrafted rookie (Frankie Luvu) who proved to be solid role players and combined for 8 total sacks on the season. Although the Jets found statistical production out of these players, they still have a big need for a true difference-making dominant threat on the Edge. With Cowboys’ DE DeMarcus Lawrence and Texans’ OLB Jadeveon Clowney both likely to not hit Free Agency, Trey Flowers and Lions’ DE Ezekiel Ansah are projected to be the two biggest names in the pass rush market. However, with the Jets already having a high-profile yet inconsistent Defensive Lineman on the roster (Leonard Williams), the only name they should be interested in is Trey Flowers. Flowers is far and away the best pass rusher on the Patriots roster, who tallied 7.5 sacks and 3 FF, one of which was against the Jets’ very own Sam Darnold. The Jets must address their defensive woes in Free Agency so they can use their draft capital to surround their QB on the offensive side of the ball. It also doesn’t hurt that they will be plucking one of their division rival’s best defensive players.
Chargers’ WR Tyrell Williams: The Jets have promising young pieces on offense in WRs Quincy Enunwa, Robby Anderson, and TE Chris Herndon. However, the Jets do not have that true #1 receiver who can consistently gain separation and be dependable week in and week out. Acquiring a high-end talent to assist their young franchise QB is vital, but with a weak free agent WR Class, and them picking 3rd overall (which is too high to find good value at WR barring a trade down) they must be willing to open the checkbook for the best young pass catcher on the market. Tyrell Williams is currently the Chargers’ #2 WR, behind All-Pro Keenan Allen and ahead of former 1st-rounder Mike Williams. Tyrell Williams, who will be 27 at the time of Free Agency, would plug into the Jets offense perfectly. His combination of size, speed, and big play ability would not only provide a target for Sam Darnold, but would provide scheme flexibility and open up the field for Robby Anderson as they have similar skill sets, although Williams is a more fluid route runner, has better hands, and catches better through traffic. Golden Tate and Devin Funchess would be decent additions aswell, but Funchess has struggled mightily with drops lately and Tate doesn’t fit the Jets current mold of adding young players to the roster for sustainable success.
Chiefs’ C Mitch Morse and Panthers’ OT Daryl Williams: One could make an argument that the Jets’ biggest need is Offensive Line, and with good reason. The Jets’ line as a complete unit was abysmal, especially the interior. They ranked dead last in rushing efficiency and were constantly beat in pass protection. Their starting LG, James Carpenter, ended the year on Injured Reserved and will likely be gone next season. He was replaced by one of their supposed “big” 2018 free agent signings Spencer Long, but he has been nothing short of a disappointment, getting benched at center and being forced back into the lineup for said injury. Their starting RG, Brian Winters, isn’t the worst offensive lineman on the team but they can definitely upgrade there. The first lineman the Jets should target is a Center for Sam Darnold so they don’t have another Miami fiasco where Spencer Long tallied 15 bad snaps (Yes, you read that correctly) and lead to a Darnold foot injury that made him miss 3 games. Morse has been a solid lineman for the Chiefs, not allowing a single snap since 2015 (1,500+ snaps). He’d provide an instant upgrade over what the Jets have now in both the passing and run game. Another player the Jets should explore acquiring is Panthers’ OT Daryl Williams. Williams injured his knee in Training Camp and missed the entire season. However, at just 26 years old, he’d be a great fit at Tackle. The Jets would be able to kick current LT Kelvin Beachum in to guard, and capitalize on the market value of a player coming off injury. Williams only allowed 4 sacks in 2017 and was given an 86.5 grade by Pro Football Focus, which would have made him the 3rd highest graded tackle in 2018.
If the Jets want to start winning, they must learn to become aggressive. The Jets current regime has a history of emphasizing cap space too much and not breaking the bank for young players that can contribute, or spending the right amount of money on the wrong players. These 5 players would make the Jets better both the upcoming season and in the future, but the Jets must be willing to go after them.