The New York Jets offseason blueprint (that doesn’t include Deshaun Watson) features a tried and tested modern salary-cap strategy.
Welcome to the new NFL, a place where the offseason noise never seems to drop below a safe decibel level. Not even trades can be tempered. The Matthew Stafford–Jared Goff swap reminded us of this in late January with the Super Bowl still to be played.
While acquiring Watson at the right price has to be the team’s top option at the position this offseason, a non-Watson blueprint is very much in order. From cuts to free-agent signings, all the way to the 2021 NFL draft, the first edition of the New York Jets offseason blueprint has arrived.
Starting salary-cap space: $65.532 million
The Jets enter the offseason with a projected $65.532 million, per Spotrac, ranking them second in the league behind only the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Henry Anderson: $8.2 million in 2021 savings
Truth be told, Henry Anderson as a subpackage interior rusher is an intriguing thought. Anderson’s last two years featured him playing out of position routinely under Gregg Williams. Without a legitimate edge rusher, Williams would often put the 300-pounder on the edge.
While retaining Anderson in that subpackage interior rushing role is appealing, the $8.2 million in space that’s garnered upon his cut is much more tempting.
Alex Lewis, G: $5.191 million in 2021 savings
Lewis’s controversy this past season has been well-documented if not detailed, but the hope is to plug a youngster into one of the two guard roles. The same can be said for tackle, but Fant is a locker room leader who can provide excellent depth (if supplanted by a kid in August, something that’s a major wild card at this moment).
Ryan Griffin, TE: $1.848 million in 2021 savings
Ryan Griffin didn’t enjoy himself in 2020, and he has seemingly not fully recovered from last offseason’s major ankle surgery.
Josh Doctson, WR: $985,000 in 2021 savings
Salary-cap space after cuts: $85 million
The final savings total comes out to a little above $16.2 million, stretching the available cap space to $81.756 million. There will obviously be other minor cuts that happen along the way, so we’ll add another $3 million and change in order to work with a clean $85 million number.
Sam Darnold trade
If Watson doesn’t happen, the quarterback route becomes pretty clear: select a rookie at No. 2. ESPN’s Adam Schefter recently reported that Sam Darnold‘s trade value could be set at a late-first.
While that’s certainly possible—as anything is when the quarterback position is involved—we’ll roll with a second-round value.
- Sam Darnold
- 2021 second-round selection (No. 54)
In-house free agent signings
Marcus Maye: 4-year, $50 million
Re-signing Marcus Maye is not a no-brainer, but it makes all the sense in the world to bring him back. New York’s secondary is paper-thin and veteran leadership is required. Plus, Robert Saleh‘s defense is one that promotes the use of interchangeable safeties. Courtesy of routine rotation on any given play, Saleh prefers that the free and strong safeties are interchangeable.
Maye fits what Saleh likes to do defensively.
Other low-level deals
Matthias Farley is a special teams leader, which means Brant Boyer will want him back. Brining back Tarell Basham for edge depth would be a good idea. Arthur Maulet can play anywhere in the secondary, which makes him a nice depth piece. Harvey Langi and Patrick Onwuasor help the linebacker spot.
- Brian Poole
- Breshad Perriman
- Bradley McDougald
- Jordan Jenkins
- Neville Hewitt
- Joe Flacco
- Frank Gore
- Pat Elflein
- Daniel Brown
- Bryce Hager
- Ross Travis
- Trevon Coley
- Josh Andrews
- Josh Adams
- Frankie Luvu
- Bennett Jackson
- Vyncint Smith
- Jeff Smith
- Kyron Brown
Brian Poole‘s name jumps off the list here. Ideally, his physicality is exactly what Saleh wants in a defensive back. The man can legitimately play strong safety if asked. But as you’ll read below, Poole walks due to injury-related purposes. Missing nine games over the last two years is too concerning to overlook.
Breshad Perriman is the trickiest one of the bunch. Based on pure talent, bringing him back is a nice idea. His devastating straight-line speed could help in a number of ways. The problem is this: The man misses far too many games.
A common theme in this first blueprint is availability. What’s crushed this organization most over the last couple of years has been injuries. While it’s true that some injuries cannot be predicted, every player showcases a specific injury-prone degree. Retooling the roster so that injury-prone guys are few and far between needs to be the goal.
Salary cap space heading into free agency: $67.274 million
- After Darnold trade: $89.774 million after $4.774 million is cleared off the books.
- After re-signing Maye: $77.274 million (APY $12.5)
- After signing other in-house free agents: $67.274 million (roughly $10 million more)
Of course, how Douglas structures each deal will make a world of difference—whether it’s frontloaded or not. For our purposes, only the average can be taken. Also, the guaranteed money will factor greatly into how everything turns out.
Trey Hendrickson, EDGE: 4-year, $44 million deal
Signing at least one legitimate edge rusher is the most important free-agent add for Douglas this offseason. Usually, these guys never hit the open market. Extensions and franchise tags usually get in the way.
If Trey Hendrickson is available, get him. His breakout campaign this past season saw him put up 13.5 sacks and he fits well as a 4-3 edge. Other options include Romeo Okwara, Kerry Hyder, Matt Judon, Bud Dupree and Carl Lawson. At least one is needed, and despite Hendrickson’s injury history, the Jets have to hop on at least one edge rusher this free-agency period.
Joe Thuney, G: 4-year, $60 million deal
The Jets were rumored to have been in on the Joe Thuney business last offseason, but the New England Patriots tagged him. This time around, it seems like Thuney is destined for a new team.
The second-team All-Pro selection in 2019 will fit nicely at left guard. Another tremendous option is Brandon Scherff, a man used to right guard and a guy who’ll likely cost a bit more. It’s also worth noting the difference in durability. Thuney has never missed a start; Scherff has missed 18 over the past four years.
Richard Sherman, CB: 2-year, $12 million deal
The wily veteran way past his prime still has a place in the NFL. As long as he doesn’t come too expensive, Richard Sherman‘s familiarity with Saleh’s defense and his leadership could help this Jets defensive unit greatly.
Desmond King, CB: 3-year, $12 million deal
With Brian Poole out of the equation, slot corner extraordinaire Desmond King fits the bill at $4 million a year.
Kyle Juszczyk, FB: 2-year, $8 million deal
That’s right, a fullback should be back on the roster in 2020 and no better man can fill the spot than Kyle Juszczyk.
Curtis Samuel, WR: 3-year, $33 million deal
Without Allen Robinson involved, the Swiss Army Knife known as Curtis Samuel can do a lot in the Jets offense. The former second-round pick is incredibly quick and elusive—something the Jets need in the weaponry department alongside Mims and Crowder.
Jayon Brown, LB: 2-year, $8 million deal
Jayon Brown played just 10 games last year via injury, but he’s exactly what Saleh is looking for in a linebacker. The man can cover, as evidenced by his 73.5 pass-coverage PFF grade (eighth of a qualified 71 linebackers).
Kyle Allen, QB: 1-year, $1 million deal
Recovering from the gruesome ankle injury that required surgery, Kyle Allen should be good to go for the start of the 2021 season. A one-year “prove it” deal would be perfect as the team’s backup quarterback.
Daniel Carlson, K: 2-year, $2 million deal
It’s doubtful that the Las Vegas Raiders allow Daniel Carlson to walk after such a tremendous season, but Douglas should be in on this guy from the outset. The former fifth-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings connected on 33 of 35 field-goal attempts this past season. Kickers are historically streaky from year to year, but he may be worth the effort in free agency.
As a restricted free agent, the Jets will need to get a little lucky. It’ll depend on whether or not the Raiders tender him prior to the start of the new league year.
Salary cap space after free agency: $10.274 million
Admittedly, the above signings might be a bit too much for Douglas’s taste. He’s the type who builds through the draft and doesn’t go nuts with free agency until the time is right. Considering only Maye was brought back, these nine signings make sense. With plenty of money remaining, the Jets can easily fill out the rest of the roster via free agency where needed.
The NFL draft
- Round 1 (No. 2): Zach Wilson, QB-BYU
- Round 1 (No. 23): Gregory Rousseau, EDGE-Miami
- Round 2 (No. 34): Wyatt Davis, IOL-Ohio State
- Round 2 (No. 54): Dylan Moses, LB-Alabama
- Round 3 (No. 66): Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR-USC
- Round 3 (No. 86): Hunter Long, TE-Boston College
- Round 4 (No. 106): Trey Sermon, RB-Ohio State
- Round 5 (No. 145): James Wiggins, S-Cincinnati
- Round 5 (No. 154): Olaijah Griffin, CB-USC
- Round 6 (No. 196): Whop Philyor, WR-Indiana
Zach Wilson at No. 2 is a no-brainer. Scratch that. Wilson or Justin Fields at No. 2 is a no-brainer. Selecting a quarterback at that spot will immediately thrust Douglas’s team into the rookie quarterback contract window over the next four years, allowing for much more freedom and flexibility across the rest of the roster.
Which young quarterback should be selected at No. 2 remains a great and worthwhile debate.
If Gregory Rousseau is available at No. 23, Douglas should hop all over him. In spite of the fact he missed the entire 2020 season due to COVID-19-related reasons, he’s the athletic freak of an edge rusher Saleh needs in his defense.
Ohio State’s Wyatt Davis can be plugged in as the right guard on day No. 1. The pick the Jets received for Darnold can be used to shore up the second level, as Alabama’s Dylan Moses perfectly fits Saleh’s defensive look.
Trey Sermon fits nicely as a tough, physical inside-zone runner who can do a lot in Mike LaFleur’s offense.
This blueprint is a bit light on wide receivers, which is concerning initially. But the idea that the offensive line and defense looks incredibly improved really hammers home a sound infrastructure Douglas can build upon.
- QB: Zach Wilson, Kyle Allen, Mike White, James Morgan
- RB: Trey Sermon, La’Mical Perine, Ty Johnson, Pete Guerriero
- FB: Kyle Juszczyk
- TE: Chris Herndon, Hunter Long, Trevon Wesco, Connor Davis
- WR: Denzel Mims, Jamison Crowder, Curtis Samuel, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Braxton Berrios, Lawrence Cager, Whop Philyor, Josh Malone, D.J. Montgomery, Jaleel Scott, Manneseh Bailey
- T: Mekhi Becton, George Fant, Chuma Edoga, Conor McDermott, Leo Koloamatangi
- G: Joe Thuney, Wyatt Davis, Greg Van Roten, Cameron Clark
- C: Connor McGovern, Jimmy Murray
- IDL: Quinnen Williams, Foley Fatukasi, John Franklin-Myers, Nathan Shepherd, Kyle Phillips
- EDGE: Trey Hendrickson, Gregory Rousseau, Bryce Huff, Tarell Basham, Jabari Zuniga, John Daka
- LB: C.J. Mosley, Dylan Moses, Jayon Brown, Harvey Langi, Blake Cashman, Patrick Onwuasor, Noah Dawkins
- CB: Richard Sherman, Bryce Hall, Desmond King, Javelin Guidry, Blessuan Austin, Olaijah Griffin, Lamar Jackson, Corey Ballentine, Zane Lewis
- S: Marcus Maye, Ashtyn Davis, Arthur Maulet, James Wiggins, Matthias Farley, Saquon Hampton, J.T. Hassel, Elijah Campbell
- K: Daniel Carlson
- P: Braden Mann
- LS: Thomas Hennessy
Obviously, the depth will look much different in reality. A couple of running backs would still be needed. The same can be said for the tight end position and at offensive line.
In the end, the finished roster provides a good idea for the above plan of attack.