As the New York Jets prepare for the 2018 NFL Draft, they have already improved at several positions. How do their moves compare to other teams in the AFC East?
Heading into the offseason, New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan knew that he had to vastly improve several positions to help his team. In 2017, the Jets finished dead last in the AFC East for the second straight season, winning just five games.
So far, Maccagnan has been able to use some of the more than $90 million in salary cap space to provide the Jets with key veterans. The Jets have filled holes at LB (Avery Williamson), CB (Trumaine Johnson), RB (Isaiah Crowell), C (Spencer Long), and WR (Terrelle Pryor).
At quarterback, the Jets have been able to secure some consistency with the re-signing of veteran Josh McCown. They also brought in former Minnesota Viking Teddy Bridgewater to help with depth. While McCown has been named the starter already, Bridgewater and perhaps one of the young quarterbacks available in the draft can help the Jets provide excitement and hope for the immediate and long-term future.
While the quarterback position is the main area the Jets need to see some consistency, offseason additions Crowell, Pryor, and Long should help stabilize a very inconsistent offense. Long comes over from the Redskins and should provide veteran leadership toa very shaky offensive line. Although a quad injury landed him on IR last season limiting him to just seven games (six starts), he adds versatility at center and should anchor an improving line next season.
Crowell and Pryor are additions to help add depth and experience to positions that lack both. Crowell has averaged over 900 yards, 4.5 yards per carry and over four touchdowns while starting in all 32 games over his last two seasons with Cleveland. Pryor had a breakout season in 2016, finishing with 77 catches and over 1,000 yards receiving for the Browns. Last season he fought injuries and never quite fit in with the Redskins, appearing in just nine games and making just two starts.
On defense, Avery Williamson and Trumaine Johnson add depth and experience at linebacker and corner, positions the Jets are very young at. Williams has started every game in the last two seasons for the Titans, totaling 105 tackles and 5 sacks. He joins a group that includes youngsters Darron Lee and Jordan Jenkins, both who should benefit from Willamson’s arrival.
Johnson is an upgrade at corner and should provide more security for safeties Marcus Maye and Jamal Adams. The Jets were tied with the Packers and Texans for the second most receiving touchdowns allowed with 30 in 2017.
The AFC East should remain similar to what it was the last few seasons, with the Patriots standing alone as the best team in the division. Despite Tom Brady’s age last season (he will be 41 in 2018), his performance was record-breaking. Brady became the oldest QB to lead the NFL in passing yards (4,577) while leading the Patriots to a 13-3 record and their eighth AFC title since 2001.
New England has lost key players Danny Amendola, Nate Solder, Malcolm Butler and Dion Lewis. Despite that, they always seem to replace their offseason losses and stay ahead of the pack.
So far this offseason, the nine-time defending AFC East champions have swung deals for Jason McCourty, Danny Shelton, and Cordarrelle Patterson. They’ve added free agents Adrian Clayborn, Jeremy Hill, and Matt Tobin. Until further notice, they are still the only team the Jets should use as their barometer.
The Buffalo Bills snapped the longest current NFL drought when they qualified for the postseason in 2017. They were the only team in the NFL that had yet to reach the postseason in the millennium, last making the playoffs in 1999.
Buffalo replaced starting QB Tyrod Taylor with former Cincinnati Bengal A.J. McCarron. While many other teams liked what Taylor provided the Bills, they were never content with his production and traded him to the Browns. McCarron has made just three NFL starts (all in 2015) and is a major question mark for head coach Sean McDermott entering 2018.
The only team to reside in New York state also traded their best offensive lineman Cordy Glenn to the Bengals. The trades of both Taylor and Glenn have helped Buffalo become a major player in the 2018 NFL Draft, setting them up with multiple picks in each of the first three rounds.
Despite those losses, the Bills have improved in many areas. Offseason acquisitions include upgrades on the defensive line, bringing in former Panthers DT Star Lotulelei and pass rushing specialist Trent Murphy from the Redskins.
The Bills still are looking to improve other areas in the offseason and should use their draft picks to build on their 9-7 finish in 2017. They will be another obstacle for the Jets to overcome in 2018.
The Miami Dolphins look to be in a rebuilding phase. Gone are veterans Ndamukong Suh, Mike Pouncey, and Jarvis Landry. They have added a few veteran offensive lineman and wide receivers, but they should be a team the Jets surpass next season.