By Ben Babcock
Offseason Grade: B+
The Jets didn’t exactly have a great year in 2017, going 5-11. They did, however, have plenty of cap space to make moves, and that’s exactly what they did. Entering free agency with $77 million in available cap room the Jets were in a pretty good position, but they did lose their starting running back Matt Forte in late February when he announced his retirement. And with a lot of their roster becoming free agents they were left with a few holes to fill.
On offense, they lost starting tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who was their 3rd leading receiver with 357 yards and 3 touchdowns last season. While those aren’t the greatest numbers he still was a big part of their offense, and they are now left with Eric Tomlinson as their top tight end who only has 121 yards and 1 touchdown in his two-year career. They filled the whole of Forte quite nicely by signing Isaiah Crowell, a four-year veteran that has averaged 780 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns a season with the Browns. Crowell is also a decent receiving back, which matches the play style of Forte. Crowell will be splitting reps with longtime Jet Bilal Powell in the backfield. These are two good running backs that could carry a Jets offense that isn’t very strong when it comes to passing the ball.
Speaking of passing the ball, the Jets re-signed quarterback Josh McCown who had a strong season in New York this past season with almost 3,000 passing yards and 18 touchdowns. The only problem here is that McCown is entering his 15th season in the league. The Jets are on top of this though, signing Teddy Bridgewater, and trading up to the no.3 spot in this year’s draft. Bridgewater adds great depth, even with his injury struggles the past year two years. And with the 3rd overall pick in the draft, they are guaranteed one of the top QB’s in the draft. Josh McCown is not the long-term answer for the Jets, but you can bet he will be used as a mentor to whoever they draft.
The biggest addition for the Jets by far was signing cornerback Trumaine Johnson on a 5-year, $72.5 million contract. Johnson was easily the best defensive back available in the free agency this year and the Jets needed it after letting up the 19th most passing yards per game in 2017. They also re-signed starting corner Morris Claiborne on a 1-year deal, which was very much needed. Johnson was their only big signing this offseason, but they also added some depth to the rest of the defense. They signed linebackers Avery Williamson, Kevin Pierre-Louis, and Brandon Copeland, but did lose veteran Demario Davis. These are still very good signings, given the fact that they didn’t have to spend a lot and are getting young experienced linebackers that could lead their defense for years to come. Also adding a couple of 4-year vets to the defensive line with Xavier Cooper and Mike Pennel. They brought in a big group of experienced players that still have a lot of years left, but without a ton of veteran leadership, it’s up to the coaches to make this group work now.
After addressing their defensive problems and putting themselves in a position to draft a top QB, the Jets only real problems are at tight end and on the offensive line. When Quincy Enunwa returns from his neck injury, the wide receiver core will be alright, but without a strong tight end to disrupt the defense there won’t be much improvement in the Jets passing game this season. They’ve just agreed to a deal with WR Terrelle Pryor, landing Pryor gives them a true number 1 receiver that could really boost their offense. Since this year’s draft has very few tight ends, the Jets could be waiting until next year for an improvement at tight end. There is, however, plenty of offensive linemen in the draft this year, and with their 1st round pick definitely being spent on a QB, with Josh Rosen as their most likely candidate, you can expect them to use their middle round picks to improve the O-line and add more depth on the D-line. There are plenty of O-linemen and D-linemen available for the Jets in the 3rd and 4th rounds, some of these being; OT Chukwuma Okorafor from Western Michigan, OT Alex Cappa from Humboldt State, OG Austin Corbett from Nevada, DE Chad Thomas from Florida, and DT Nathan Shepherd from Fort Hays State. This year’s draft is very good for teams with struggling offensive lines which could really work out well for the Jets. If they are able to land Terrelle Pryor that would really boost the offense and make it easier on whoever they start at QB, and if they toughen up the offensive line then their run game could be dangerous. All around the Jets really improved this offseason. If the defense improves and their quarterback play is consistent, they could take the number two spot in the AFC East and possibly sneak into playoffs.