The Jets brass spoke to the media on Wednesday of combine week.
Joe Douglas is in Indianapolis for the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine.
Robert Saleh is back in Florham Park.
But either key New York Jets employee is working tirelessly to resolve various issues surrounding the organization. The team is coming off yet another disappointing season, one that included just four victories and a last-place finish in the AFC East.
A number of topics need addressing — which ones did both Douglas and Saleh speak on when talking to the media Wednesday?
GM Joe Douglas
Drafting a safety early?
“Where I’ve come from, you take the best player available, and I’ve had a lot of success being around that mindset and that philosophy,” Douglas told the media. “If there is a player, regardless of position, that we feel can come in here and be that type of difference-maker, we need to talk about it and have that discussion. At the end of the day, we’re going to bring in the player that we feel is the best fit for the Jets, not only as a player, but as a person, competitor, character fit.”
So…Kyle Hamilton at No. 4 overall?
It’s very possible the Jets target the Notre Dame safety with that prestigious draft pick and select him if he’s still on the board. Hamilton sports tremendous versatility — he can be a physical asset in the defensive backfield and additionally has a knack for defending the pass. With Marcus Maye’s future unclear, Hamilton would be a superb draft choice in the top five.
But if the Jets pass on Hamilton and he’s not available at No. 10, don’t expect them to focus on that position until at least the second round. There isn’t really another safety in this class worthy of a top-10 pick.
What to do with Quinnen Williams’ 5th-year option
“Had a good opportunity to get with [Williams’ agent] Nicole [Lynn] at the combine. Had a productive conversation with her, as of right now,” Douglas said to reporters. “But we are going to pick up Quinnen’s option and we had that conversation. I don’t think that’s huge news, but we are going to pick up that option moving forward. Look, we’re excited to have Quinnen. This is going to be year two in a defense we feel really extenuates his strengths, his positives. Looking forward for him to come back and dominate this offseason and have a great year.”
No-brainer in my mind.
I feel as if it’s too early to make a true long-term investment in Quinnen. On the other hand, it’s not like you need to have 2022 be a make-or-break season for Williams due to a lack of consistent success up to this point.
Exercising the option buys the Jets enough time to really figure out if they’re going to make Williams, a defensive lineman they drafted third overall in 2019, a staple on the defense for years to come.
This move will keep Quinnen signed through 2023. The salary for that fifth year will be a guaranteed $10.286 million, per OverTheCap.
Will Douglas ultimately reward Braxton Berrios, a 2021 first-team All-Pro return specialist, with a contract extension?
“Braxton, again, had some good conversations with his representation, Drew [Rosenhaus], and we’re going to have more conversations,” Douglas told the media. “Obviously, Braxton has been awesome since we brought him in and he’s an asset to this team and for us, it’s important to keep the guys that do things the right way and carry themselves the right way.”
I’m not on board with re-signing Berrios for an average annual value that could be around $9 million.
The Jets are better off targeting a talented return specialist in the middle-to-late rounds of the draft instead of spending that kind of money, especially when it’s unclear if Berrios will continue his on-field success.
HC Robert Saleh
Resolving defensive issues
“I think the defense got better toward the end of the year,” Saleh said to the media in a Wednesday conference call. “There was a minute there when we were giving up 30, 40 points. And if you’re in a shootout or playing from behind, that’s a lot of pressure on your quarterback. I don’t care who your quarterback is. It’s tough getting up on Sunday knowing you’re going to be in a shootout because you can’t get enough stops [on defense]. It helps [offensive coordinator Mike] LaFleur. It helps Zach [Wilson]. It helps everybody. You can play a style of ball where you can call plays to set things up. You don’t have to be impatient. It’s okay to punt, to keep the game to one score, then when the fourth quarter comes, it’s playmaker time, and you go make some plays.
“But if you’re asking Zach to play quarterback in a shootout in the second quarter, that’s not good for a [Tom] Brady, that’s not good for anybody. Absolutely, a better defense and improving the defense is at the front of our minds.”
The Jets sported the league’s third-worst pass defense and fourth-worst run defense in 2021.
It bodes the question: how do they go about fixing these immense issues in the draft?
As we mentioned before, drafting Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton would be a beneficial move at No. 4, but the Jets could also target a cornerback like LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr. This Gang Green secondary needs an improvement in talent; the unit needs a star. Hamilton or Stingley could be that game-changing weapon the defensive backfield requires.
Targeting an edge rusher in the first round is also possible, and Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux could be available when the fourth pick comes along. However, it’s unclear if this is the route Douglas would want to take, especially after signing Carl Lawson to a three-year, $45 million deal and inking John Franklin-Myers to a four-year, $55 million extension in 2021.
Don’t forget: the Jets also have over $48 million in available cap space for 2022 (per OverTheCap), should they wish to address some of these needs through free agency.
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