Now is a perfect time to evaluate the top needs for the New York Jets heading into the 2018 offseason with just one week remaining in the regular season. 

The New York Jets are likely headed for their second straight 5-11 season. While the Jets competed harder than people expected this season, there are still a lot of wholesale changes that have to be made.

Fortunately for the Jets, they’re going to have a ton of resources to facilitate these moves. That includes an expected $100 million-plus in available cap space, with the Jets as a lock for a top-10 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Bryce Petty New York Jets
(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

1. Quarterback

As it seemingly has every season, the quarterback is the No. 1 priority for the Jets this offseason. It’s even more important this year with the expected crop of veteran free agent options and the tantalizing option of drafting your own guy and developing him.

This will be a small tease to a full-length feature coming to ESNY soon breaking down every option the Jets will have at quarterback and perhaps which direction they should lean. With that being said, Bryce Petty is under contract through 2018, Christian Hackenberg is under contract through 2019, and then there’s Josh McCown.

He’s set to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, but should the Jets bring him back? I say, why not? While he’s old (38), that shouldn’t be a detriment as you aren’t signing him to be your franchise quarterback. He’s the perfect bridge quarterback who can start the season until {insert rookie quarterback here} is ready to go.


Plus, when he eventually goes to the bench, he’s not going to whine about it because he’s mature and understands the game and his role. If the Jets opt for the rookie, McCown may be the perfect pairing, although a veteran option who you can plug and play has a different set of special skills that may make you think twice: Kirk Cousins, Teddy Bridgewater, etc.

Jordan Jenkins New York Jets
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

2. Edge Rusher

While there are not many Jets fans who want to see the Jets draft a defensive player for the 10th straight time in the first round, I’m saying there’s a chance. It’s an underrated need for this team, but a premium in the league.

There’s nothing more valuable than a quarterback in a quarterback-driven league. But if you asked me what was second, I would tell you guys who can sack the quarterback. The Jets haven’t had a defensive player since John Abraham that opponents had to know where that player was on an every-down basis.

It was painfully evident this season for the Jets. The corners and safeties can only cover for so long before receivers and tight ends inevitably break free. While the Jets have an intriguing group of defensive linemen and outside linebackers, none of them are true game changers.

This is the missing puzzle piece to a very scary Jets defense. They’ve got the potential for elite playmakers on every level of the defense: Leonard Williams (DL), Darron Lee (LB) and Jamal Adams/Marcus Maye (S). I get that the dynamic duo at safety are youngsters and Lee has been up and down, but you’ve got to like the direction of this team.

3. Offensive Line

In 2017, the Jets started their third different left tackle in three years when Kelvin Beachum lined up on the blind side. Shameless plug, I spoke to Beachum earlier this season and we just talked about his gameday rituals, his time with the Jets, and so much more from The Jets Zone (below):

Beachum played exceptionally this season, suiting up for every game. With his start on Sunday, he’ll finish a season with perfect attendance for just the second time in his career. The prospects look good that the Jets different left tackle streak will end.

Beachum has two more years on his contract (the Jets do own an opt-out clause after the 2018 season if they so choose). So left tackle is locked in. While James Carpenter had an off year in 2017, he should be back as the Jets starting left guard (the Jets own another opt-out clause in this contract after this season but are unlikely to utilize it).

4. Center

Carpenter has actually been one of the best free agent signings of the Mike Maccagnan era. While a lot of fluctuation is expected at center, future ring of honor and potential Pro Football Hall of Famer Nick Mangold was not retained after the 2016 season so the Jets went with his understudy Wesley Johnson who had an up and down season. He’s an unrestricted free agent and the Jets are likely going to look elsewhere to fill the void.

The free agent options at center aren’t appealing, so the draft seems like the best option. It’s not ideal to throw a rookie center in the starting lineup, but the Jets will have limited options. Right guard Brian Winters is just one year into his $29 million deal.

When healthy, Winters and Carpenter are one of the best guard combinations in the league. While the right tackle position has been a bit unsettled, second-year-pro Brandon Shell has started 12 out of the possible 15 games so far and when he’s healthy and dialed in, he’s been fantastic.

Put another point in the scoring column for Maccagnan and their scouting department. The Jets traded back into the draft to grab Shell and gave up future draft ammo, which is always risky. But the real concern for this unit is overall depth and that’s been an issue for years. The Jets could use some quality picks on interior linemen so they can properly develop guys.

5. Cornerback

The days of Revis Island, AlCROtraz, and Kayak Kyle Wilson are all over. Although some of those nicknames didn’t make it past an offseason. Regardless, the Jets have some big needs at the corner position.

The Jets took a low risk (one-year deal for $5 million) for a potentially high reward in Morris Claiborne. He ended up starting 14 out of a possible 15 games so far this season. Fun fact: through his six-year career, he’s never started a full season. That will remain true this season.

New York Jets

Should the Jets invest in him? He’s had highs and lows, including a stretch that lasted most of the season where he didn’t give up a touchdown reception. The cornerback market is an expensive one, the Jets know that better than anyone (I’m looking at you five-year, $70 million with $39 million guaranteed for a corner past his prime).

The Jets will have plenty of options with a slew of young talented corners available. The other options on the team include … Buster Skrine. If you take away the penalty issues, Skrine is a very good slot corner who can also play outside. But you can’t take that away. The Jets will have an option on the last year of his contract and with the uncertainty around the rest of the roster at the position, they may keep him to play it safe.

The rest of the bunch include a couple of promising youngsters, but nothing more: Juston Burris, Jeremy Clark, Derrick Jones, Darryl Roberts and Rashard Robinson.

Bilal Powell New York Jets
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

6. Running back

Finally, the last position we’re going to take a look at is running back. Matt Forte would’ve been released last season if the contract wasn’t fully guaranteed. He’s a likely cap casualty especially when you consider he questioned offensive coordinator John Morton’s game plan a handful of times during the season.

The other veteran back is Bilal Powell who’s been underutilized his entire career and believe it or not he turns 30 next year. So with only one true youngster on the team in Elijah McGuire (who looks like a steal in the sixth round), the Jets are going to have to add some young blood to the backfield.

The draft is always the easiest way by drafting cheap labor in those mid to late rounds: look at Kareem Hunt (third round), Alvin Kamara (third round), Dalvin Cook (second round), and Marlon Mack (fourth round).

Sure Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette are nice as top five picks, but with the value of running backs is it really worth it?  I don’t think so. So expect the Jets to continue to invest in the middle rounds to address the need.



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