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There’s a deep list of Jets players who are set to be free agents. Who should the organization bring back for next season?

Ryan Honey

The limited salary cap space for every NFL team always leads to a number of significant decisions in regard to pending free agents. This offseason, the Jets will be no exception to that type of situation, employing various soon-to-be free agents who may or may not remain in Florham Park.

Of course, a multitude of individuals will be of superior priority when it comes to bringing guys back. The following three players should find themselves near the top of the Jets’ list, and general manager Joe Douglas must do what he can to keep them on the roster.

1. ILB Neville Hewitt

Neville Hewitt is a leader on that Jets front seven, and given the new coaching regime is headed by a defensive-minded individual in Robert Saleh, it’s clear the organization will want to retain him.

Hewitt led the team in both combined tackles (134) and solo tackles (91) in 2020. The Jets absolutely need someone like him on the defensive side of the ball if they’re going to compete against divisional offenses such as the Josh Allen-led Buffalo unit along with a Miami team that employs a potential rising star in Tua Tagovailoa.

For what it’s worth, the defensive staff greatly trusted Hewitt this past season, fielding him for 99.2% of the snaps. Sure, a new (and hopefully smarter) staff is now present on that side of the ball, but Hewitt taking on that level of responsibility says a significant amount about the leader he truly is.

2. FS Marcus Maye

With Jamal Adams in Seattle, Marcus Maye led the secondary this past year and underwent the best season of his career thus far. His on-field performances increased his value and he’ll want a decent chunk of change in a new contract, but the front office should make the necessary effort to meet his asking price.

Maye’s 2020 numbers were impressive. He combined for 88 tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks, two forced fumbles, and 11 pass breakups (all career-bests) from the free safety position.

He was additionally productive in pass coverage, allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 58.7% of throws for 285 yards, three touchdowns, and a combined 80.4 rating.

Maye was also trusted to fill a significant role, having taken part on 99.8% of the team’s defensive snaps in 2020.

If there’s one glaring element of his game he’ll need to clean up, it’s the tackling issue. Maye missed 11 tackles this past year amid 99 attempts for a missed tackle rate of 11.1%.

3. WR Breshad Perriman

Simply speaking, the Jets need weapons on offense. Regardless of who plays quarterback — whether it’s Sam Darnold, a rookie, or possibly Deshaun Watson — the Jets could use Breshad Perriman to help spread the field alongside Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder. If Darnold stays in Florham Park, Perriman returning would also provide the young quarterback with some sort of familiarity as he attempts to develop in year four.

It’s not like he’ll be absurdly expensive either (his 2020 average annual value was $6.5 million), so the Jets could bring him back and still sign a very talented free-agent receiver or at least draft one if they don’t give up their first-round picks for Watson.

He only played in 12 games this past season, but Perriman was second on the team in receiving yards per game (42.1) and first in yards per target (8.4) among those with at least 15 targets on the year.

Not to mention, Perriman recently noted he wants to remain in Florham Park next season.

“The energy and the time I had playing with those guys on the team right now, there’s no way I could say no to [returning],” he told CBS Sports Radio’s “The Zach Gelb Show” last week. “So hell yeah.”

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