Could the New York Jets solve their pass rushing issues in the 2018 NFL Draft? Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller says yes—to the team’s most underrated positional need—in his latest mock.It’s the most underrated need for the New York Jets this offseason. Over the last two years, the Jets have finished in the bottom five in sacks: (28th, 2017) (29th, 2016).
More importantly, the Jets haven’t had a singular edge rusher opponents have had to gameplan for since John Abraham. His last season for the Jets was back in 2005, so let’s just say it’s been a while.
You can’t blame the Jets for a lack of trying. The Jets have drafted a defensive lineman or a linebacker 12 times in the last eight years. (The problem comes when understanding most have been of the interior edition.)
There are two ways of trying to solve this issue for the Jets: the draft, which they’ve been trying for years (more on that later), or free agency.
Here are the top available defensive lineman expected to reach free agency in March:
- Dontari Poe, DT, 27-years-old
- Poe took a one year “prove it” deal with the Atlanta Falcons and really showed why he should be paid like an All-Pro. The Jets haven’t had a run-stuffing nose tackle of this level since Damon Harrison.
- Haloti Ngata, DT, 33-years-old
- Ngata is a little longer in the tooth, but he brings some veteran savvy and could be a cost-effective option.
- Aldon Smith, OLB, 28-years-old
- You’re not going to find a lankier and more disruptive edge rusher in this class. Although he’s got a myriad of issues and his red flags may be too great to take a risk on. But sometimes you have to risk it, to get the biscuit.
- Ezekiel Ansah, OLB, 28-years-old
- Ansah is a franchise player. There are reports that he won’t fit the new schemes of soon to be head coach Matt Patricia. If Ansah reaches free agency, he’ll be one of the most sought-after players in the entire class.
- Adrian Clayborn, DL, 29-years-old
- Man did Clayborn make some serious coin this season. The 3-4 interior-type DE finished with 9.5 sacks this season, but six of those came in a single game against the Dallas Cowboys.
- Julius Peppers, DL, 37-years-old
- Peppers is another veteran who has been there and done that. Peppers could consider retirement during the offseason, but he would be worth a kick of the tires. He has played 16 seasons and in half of those seasons, Peppers has had at least 10.5 sacks including 2017 that saw him compile 11. This cat still has it.
- Sheldon Richardson, DL, 27-years-old
- A familiar face will finally reach unrestricted free agency. A personal thank you from me to Mike Maccagnan who was able to transform a former first-round pick into a future second-round pick and a versatile wide receiver in Jermaine Kearse. He could get the ultimate coup by re-signing Richardson this offseason. Although before the Jets do, remember why you traded him: a lot of drama. You gotta feel comfortable with the player before you hand him a boatload of cash.
- DeMarcus Lawrence, DL, 25-years-old
- Last name we’re going to look at is currently scheduled to reach free agency. If the Dallas Cowboys have any common sense, they won’t let this guy leave the building. Lawrence is a budding superstar who could see a mega fat extension this offseason from someone, even if it’s not in Big D.
Of the eight mentioned players, four are true edge rushers (Ansah, Smith, Peppers and Lawrence). The other five are heavier, interior options who mirror Leonard Williams.
Obviously, there’s a bevy of proven commodities out on the open market, but to acquire premium, you have to pay a premium. Fortunately, the Jets are set to have the most cap space available in free agency in 2018.
Luckily there is another option, one that the Jets are quite familiar with: the 2018 NFL Draft.
NFL Draft Insider Connor Rogers joins me weekly on The Score 1260, to talk about the latest prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft. I asked him to give me some more insight on who Matt Miller had pegged to the Jets with their second, second-round draft choice. Here’s what he had to say about edge rusher Uchenna Nwosu out of USC:
“Athletic linebacker that often played as an edge pass rusher for USC, but could transition to an off-ball linebacker at the next level. Nwosu is a versatile defender that can rush the passer, cover and stop the run. He has a knack for knocking down passes at the line of scrimmage.”
Again in case you missed it, Matt Miller of Bleacher Report released a full two-round mock draft and Miller solved the Jets edge rushing issues by pegging Nwosu to gang green with the 49th overall pick.
Regardless of how the Jets decide to plug the hole, this is and has been the missing piece to the puzzle on defense. If the Jets solve this hole, it opens up everything else.