After reviewing the free agency and NFL Draft landscape, it becomes apparent how the New York Jets offensive line/edge puzzle can be solved.
Offensive line, the two words that have represented the overall neglect of the Mike Maccagnan era.
It’s one thing to completely ignore the injection of youth as part of the most important unit in football (nearly half of the entire offense). It’s another to do so while the current offensive line is poor, at best.
When D’Brickahaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold entered those twilight years, Maccagnan needed to create O-line hawk eyes. Instead, he selected just two at the position (both in the fifth round) over the course of 28 total NFL Draft picks. This is an unforgivable NFL executive collection of numbers.
The New England Patriots have drafted eight offensive linemen during the same timeframe. The Los Angeles Rams have drafted seven. The Giants have only drafted four. Any themes here?
Oh, and don’t provide the same lame excuse New York Jets fans have been throwing out in defense. The most recent four drafts have produced excellent O-line talent (contradictory to the running theme prior to a couple offseasons). There’s no time to list all the names (as we’re already off topic). There have been many opportunities. And considering good NFL big heavies rarely get to free agency, it makes the “two of 28” number that much more of a sin.
Suddenly, we’re off track. This isn’t about hammering the ills of the past. It’s about correcting it in one fell swoop during a single offseason. And it can be done simultaneously to correcting the edge spot.
Never has the Jets OL/EDGE situation showcased as this dire. Yet, interestingly enough, the 2019 offseason provides the perfect puzzle pieces to solve it.
If Mikey Mac and the Jets play those NFL cards appropriately, watch out.
NFL Free Agency < NFL Draft
NFL free agency is always less than the NFL Draft. One hundred million dollars in cap space or not, it must be ignored up to a specific point.
Free agency is a tool used as the outer crust of the Super Bowl-winning depth chart. This means ignoring Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown due to the idea New York’s nucleus isn’t ready for primetime.
The only big-money prizes should be those who play the edge. Two of the following prized edge free agents should be gone after in hard fashion (that was somebody said):
- Demarcus Lawrence
- Trey Flowers
- Dee Ford
- Jadeveon Clowney
- Frank Clark
- Brandon Graham
- Preston Smith
- Ezekiel Ansah
- Shaq Barrett
- Za’Darius Smith
The key remains who actually gets to free agency, but hey, with so many names on the list, logic suggests at least one will sneak through and receive a massive New York offer.
Jadeveon Clowney should rank lower on the list. In an ideal world, two of Demarcus Lawrence, Trey Flowers and Brandon Graham should be playing in the Jets 4-3 base come minicamp.
Why not the Kentucky beast known as Josh Allen? It’s simple, really: offensive line cannot be gobbled up via free agency. Unless a rabbit is pulled out of a hat or Trent Brown is the answer Sam Darnold is searching for, O-line must come from the draft, the bloodline of any NFL winner. And just so happens this offseason’s edge pool is loaded.
So while free agency is always less than the draft, each is complementary in nature (in knowing how to attack the offseason).
The Answer Is Jonah Williams, Cody Ford or Dalton Risner
Listen, Alabama’s Quinnen Williams fits like a glove within Gregg Williams’s 4-3 base as that nose-tackle type next to the 3-technique Leonard Williams. Josh Allen fits even more heavenly at the edge.
It should not matter. Sam Darnold is in the house and passing on a decade-long left tackle is a mean way to find out if he can be turned into the next Andrew Luck caution test.
Draft Jonah Williams or better yet, trade down, collect much-needed assets and snag Cody Ford or Dalton Risner.
The entire football world freaked out when (Jonah) Williams was bull-rushed and flattened during the NCAA National Championship game. Why? Have we turned that stupid in this social-media-driven sports world to actually overreact to one play? The kid who made him look like a JV player was Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell—not exactly a pushover. In fact, he’s a top-10 talent and what we watched was an NFL matchup.
Clelin Ferrell is a BEAST. He’d look AWESOME in Silver & Black. #RaiderNation would welcome a guy with his motor any day of the week! Watch as he bulldozes potential top 5 pick Jonah Williams: pic.twitter.com/KBqkJWSNER
— Captain Cap (@RUN_D_S_C) January 8, 2019
Didn’t the great Vernon Gholston once make a fool of Jake Long?
Let’s all relax.
Give me that decade-long stud who’d make it his professional mission to bodyguard for young Darnold. In a free-agency world with so many edge studs available, how can anybody make a case for Allen or (Quinnen) Williams?
Jonah Williams with a shot to the body! pic.twitter.com/MAdGc4y1BJ
— Cover 1 (@Cover_1_) January 16, 2019
Jonah Williams handled that twist beautifully, passing off Clelin Ferrell to the LG and picking up Christian Wilkins as he wrapped around. Great strength to handle both rushers. pic.twitter.com/Vv7TxTfIyP
— Fed Scivittaro (@MeshPointScout) January 8, 2019
If multiple left tackle studs were available with $100 million to play with, Allen or (Quinnen) Williams would be the choice. It’s just not the reality the NFL world is currently breathing.
Forget RB & WR Until The More Critical Positions Are Secured
As previously mentioned, forget about Bell and Brown. Despite the historical salary-cap fact paying running backs doesn’t cater towards great depth charts, in this Jets situation, it makes even less sense.
Attempting to obtain two edge guys for half the total cap space available is well worth the money. Offensive line and pass rushing are what wins in this league. Don’t even think about quarterback. It’s so completely obvious to most and oblivious to few that it remains top dog.
The New England Patriots, Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints, and Kansas City Chiefs won wild-card games with that offensive line (Pats and Rams leading the charge). Todd Gurley experienced a below-average year before Andrew Whitworth headed west. The Philadelphia Eagles remade their O-line a year ago to the reward of a chip with a journeyman quarterback. (Oh yeah, they also came to the party with six-to-seven legit pass rushers.)
Running back and wide receiver mean nothing until the O-line is secured. Cornerback and other spots mean very little unless the pass rush is ready for primetime. Imagine Jamal Adams actually playing behind a professional pass rush. Call in the National Guard.
It’s simple football, folks. It always starts up front.
Of course, battles concerning skill spots need to be picked and plugged. A corner is needed. A MIKE may be necessary. A top-flight weapon to complement Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson is ideal.
The big-money guys aren’t’ the answer within an unforgiving hard salary-cap landscape.
Load up on edge in free agency prior to drafting Jonah Williams or trading back to snag another tackle. This is the bona fide, undoubted formula Mike Maccagnan and the New York Jets need to imprint on each’s brain immediately.