The New York Jets roster is filled with holes even after an offseason spending spree. Luckily, those holes can still be plugged.
New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas had a very active first free agency. He attacked the offensive line, added some cornerback help, re-signed a number of players, and even added much-needed depth. That doesn’t mean he fixed all the Jets’ issues.
The team still has a number of holes that need to be filled. Edge rusher is a major need, the team doesn’t have a second starting cornerback, the offensive line is still a mess, and the Jets’ don’t have a capable kicker on their roster. Those are just some of the holes left on the roster.
This has led to a number of rumors. The two most prominent revolve around Jadeveon Clowney and Logan Ryan. Neither is likely to end up in a Jets’ uniform come 2020.
Clowney’s off the field issues and reputation as lazy and untouchable always made him unlikely to end up in New York. Douglas prides himself on adding leaders who want to win above all else. He’s trying to build one of the best cultures in football and Clowney’s reputation doesn’t make him a fit. Not to mention, his lengthy injury history.
As for Ryan, his salary demands are a huge issue. The former Titans corner is asking for a salary in the range of $10 million or more. Given his role as a slot corner and his declining coverage numbers, that doesn’t seem reasonable. The Jets also have slot corner filled with Brian Poole, who was arguably the best slot corner in football in 2019.
While those two don’t seem likely that doesn’t mean the Jets won’t add anyone else. After cutting Trumaine Johnson the Jets have $24.7 million in cap space. More than enough money to add at least one more impact player.
With that in mind, here’s a look at some free agents who make a ton of sense for the New York Jets.
Everson Griffen, EDGE
It’s amazing that Everson Griffen is still on the market. Griffen was once one of the top edge rushers in football. From 2014-2017 Griffen had 43.5 sacks, made three Pro Bowls, and was named a second-team All-Pro.
Everything changed in 2018. The season started out like any other. Griffen picked up 0.5 sacks in each of his first two games and then he was gone. He left the team for personal reasons, which were later revealed to be mental health struggles. When he came back he played well enough, but he wasn’t the elite player he had been the previous four years.
He came back ready to play in 2019. Griffen was back on the field playing opposite Danielle Hunter and put up another eight sack season. His run defense fell off, but he was still a solid pass rusher who made impact plays in the backfield.
Despite that, Griffen hasn’t been able to find a home in free agency. He’s 32 going on 33 and he’s shown to be in decline the past two years, at least compared to his elite four-year stretch. That said, Griffen still hasn’t had a season where he was at least on pace for eight sacks since his 5.5-sack campaign 2013.
The Jets need edge rush help bad, and Griffen can help. He’s not going to be a standup rusher, but he doesn’t have to be. The Jets’ most common defensive formation is a 4-2-5. that means he can play defensive end on most plays.
Sticking him next to Jordan Jenkins as a down lineman looks a lot better than Tarelle Basham, Kyle Phillips, Henry Anderson, or Jabari Zuniga. Plus, he should come on a relatively cheap one-year deal.
Griffen has always been a high-character guy who is beloved by his teammates. He’d fit right in with the culture Joe Douglas is trying to build. The Jets shouldn’t let Griffen’s past mental health issues affect their opinion of him. He could be exactly what the team needs coming off the edge to change the face of the defense for 2020.
Jason Peters, OL
The New York Jets have been connected to Jason Peters already this offseason. It’s an easy connection to make. The New York Jets need offensive line help and when he’s healthy, Peters is still one of the best left tackles in the NFL. He’s also spent the last 11 years with the Eagles where he worked with Douglas.
The connection has become less obvious now. With the additions of Mekhi Becton and George Fant, there isn’t room for Peters to play tackle for the Jets anymore. That wouldn’t be a problem for Peters.
He was put in a similar situation with the Eagles in 2019 after they spent their first-round pick on left tackle Andre Dillard. When asked about how he would handle losing his starting position, he responded that he would have no problem moving to guard to extend his career.
The Jets do have a huge hole at guard that needs to be filled. Brian Winters and Alex Lewis were one of the worst guard combos in the NFL in 2019 and they both return in 2020. Greg Van Roten is also on the roster, but he’s likely to either replace Lewis or be a backup.
Peters would be a solid veteran who could change the offensive line in 2020. Despite his age—he’s 38—Peters was still a top-five left tackle in 2019. The real question is about injuries, and that’s fair. He’s only played 36 of a possible 48 games the past three seasons.
That wouldn’t be a major issue for the Jets when they have decent backup depth in either Lewis or Van Roten. This would also allow the Jets to cut Brian Winters clearing an additional $7 million in cap space.
Lastly, Peters could be a mentor to the Jets’ young left tackle, Mekhi Becton. Becton has been comped to players like Johnathon Ogden, Bryant McKinnie, and yes Jason Peters. They’re all bigger, athletic offensive linemen. Having Peters around to teach Becton during his rookie year could be invaluable.
With teams able to conduct physicals again and team facilities open, it’s possible Peters could sign soon. If the Jets get the OK from their medical team, signing Peters to play guard seems like a no-brainer.
Dre Kirkpatrick, CB
There’s a theme starting to show here. Dre Kirkpatrick is another talented player who is still on the market because of injury concerns. The soon to be 31-year-old corner hasn’t played a full 16 games since 2015. He’s only played 33 of 48 possible games in the past three years.
The biggest injury of the bunch came in 2019. Kirkpatrick hyper-extended his knee after six games in 2019 and missed the rest of the season. The Bengals released the expensive corner prior to free agency.
He had been their No. 1 corner for years prior to being cut. He was never an elite or even an above-average player, but he was always solid. When he was on the field, the Bengals could always count on him to not be the reason they lost games. That’s a lot better than what the New York Jets currently have on their roster.
Bless Austin and Arthur Maulet were decent during stretches in 2019, but neither is a long-term solution. Quincy Wilson hasn’t been able to establish himself at any point in his young career. The Jets’ best hope for their cornerback two spot is rookie fifth-rounder, Bryce Hall. He’s coming off an injury himself, and while there’s a lot to love, nobody knows how a serious ankle injury is going to affect him.
Adding a solid option at cornerback is a necessity. If he’s healthy, then Kirkpatrick could be that guy. In 2019 he allowed just 50% completion against, seven yards per target, and two touchdowns. His numbers were down across the board in 2019, but so was everyone’s on that Bengals team.
Kirkpatrick has a history of being a solid outside corner and should come cheap. The Jets could do a lot worse than adding an average cornerback on a cheap one year deal to hopefully bridge the gap to a younger corner like Bryce Hall or a potential 2021 draft pick.
Ryan Succop, K
The New York Jets need a kicker as much as any other position on their roster. Currently, Sam Ficken and Brett Maher are slated to have a kicking competition for the job. Neither made 70% of their field goals in 2019. Neither has a long track record of success either. That’s where Ryan Succop comes in.
Succop has been in the league for over a decade. His worst season (at least 15 attempts) saw him hit 76.9% of his field goals. That was in 2010. From 2009-2018 Succop had a field goal percentage under 80% just twice. From 2014-2018 he topped 85% four times.
He’s been hit or miss on extra points though. Since the move back Succop has missed at least two extra points every year, 2019 is the lone exception and there’s a reason for that. Succop missed time due to injury for the first time in 2019.
Offseason knee surgery put Succop on the IR to begin the season. He came back a few weeks in, but he was atrocious. He made just one of his six field-goal attempts, but he was 24-for-25 on extra points. Succop finished the season on IR and was cut at the end of the season.
If Succop is healthy, he is a clear upgrade for the Jets. The kicking game cost the Jets multiple games in 2019 and they can’t afford to have that trend continue in 2020. Adding an established veteran with a proven track record of success should have been a priority this offseason, but it went by the wayside.
The Jets still have the opportunity to plug this spot with Succop. They shouldn’t let this opportunity go to waste, even if all they do is offer him a tryout for training camp.