Of the pending free-agent edge rushers, who could the New York Jets consider acquiring ahead of the 2021 season?
The New York Jets are not in the most ideal situation at the moment in regard to the edge rusher position. Both Jordan Jenkins and Tarell Basham possess expiring contracts and it’s currently unclear whether either will be back in Florham Park for 2021 and potentially beyond.
This could force the Jets to seek out new talent in free agency to man those crucial spots, whether they end up selecting an edge rusher with the No. 23 overall pick in April’s draft or not.
There’s a chance the Jets steer clear of spending a significant amount of money on a veteran considering general manager Joe Douglas seemingly prefers to build through the draft. However, the team possesses noteworthy cap space ($75.5 million), so a move could indeed be made should they choose to spend some cash.
Barring fifth-year options or any sort of franchise tag, who’s set to be available?
Markus Golden (Arizona Cardinals)
Markus Golden returning to New York? But in a different jersey?
The former Giant can definitely compete in this league and has proven that over the past few years. Golden led Big Blue with 10 sacks in 2019 and was the first Giants linebacker to notch double-digit sacks since Lawrence Taylor racked up 10.5 in 1990.
However, Golden combined for just 4.5 sacks this past season with both the Giants and Cardinals (he was traded prior to the deadline). He additionally recorded 20 quarterback hits in comparison to 27 the year prior.
The decline in either major pass-rushing category should decrease his value. Not to mention, Golden reportedly wanted $10 million per year after his 10-sack season and no one budged, so if teams didn’t think he was worth that much then, they certainly won’t now.
Having said all this, the Jets could acquire the reliable Golden on a contract that’s not totally expensive.
Solomon Thomas (San Francisco 49ers)
Solomon Thomas, who might be done in San Francisco, could follow his former defensive coordinator and current Jets head coach Robert Saleh to Florham Park.
Thomas wouldn’t be expensive whatsoever — he only racked up six sacks and 23 quarterback hits combined from 2017-19 and an ACL tear caused him to miss the majority of last season (he took part in just two games).
Given his possible low price, Thomas might be of multiple edge rushers signed. It’s not detrimental to employ too much depth at this position, so Thomas could be implemented into a rotation of players. Not to mention, Saleh would already know how to utilize him and benefit the most from his on-field strengths.
Haason Reddick (Arizona Cardinals)
Haason Reddick could be the most expensive out of these three options, but given his prior production, he’s likely the most talented as well.
Spotrac has his market value set to an average annual salary of $11.6 million (the Jets certainly have the cap space to acquire him). And due to his age (26) and past success (12.5 sacks, 16 quarterback hits, 15 tackles for loss, and six forced fumbles in 2020; at least 60 combined tackles and 40 solo tackles each of the last three years), Reddick is someone you sign to a long-term deal — he wouldn’t be a stopgap option.
Not to mention, Reddick stays healthy (played in all 16 games in each of his first four seasons) and is versatile, having additionally spent time as an off-ball linebacker.
The Jets should heavily consider acquiring Reddick to boost a pass rush that recorded just 31 sacks in 2020 (tied for 20th in the NFL).