Curtis Samuel, Joe Thuney, Kyle Juszczyk
Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

There are plenty of free agents Joe Douglas and the New York Jets can target, but the correct ranking needs to guide them.

Robby Sabo

We have reached the NFL’s first dead month of the calendar year. It’s February, post-Super Bowl, which means free agent noise will exist from now until sometime in March when the free-agency rage slows down a bit.

Dead month or not, the rumors are still flying all over the place.

For instance, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported Tuesday that the New York Jets will be “taking a look” at free-agent wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and Will Fuller.

What does it mean exactly? I don’t know. Just add another rumor onto the already-ridiculous pile. As fast as ESPN’s Adam Schefter “reported” that the Jets were leaning towards keeping Sam Darnold, is as seemingly as quick as he reversed course as of late.

Sure, information changes and reporters should act accordingly, but nobody would ever know what a Joe Douglas-run franchise will be committing to in January. It was simply too early to report anything.

Whatever. The moral of the story is this: The noise simply won’t stop, which means the Jets’ interest in any particular free agent needs to be taken with a serious grain of salt.

But while you cautiously deflect the noise, take in Jets X-Factor’s free-agent rankings.

15. J.C. Jackson, CB (RFA)

J.C. Jackson‘s production has quietly improved over the last three seasons. The 6-foot-1 outside corner allowed a 47.2 passer rating, while yielding an insane 5-to-14 touchdown-to-interception ratio and just 6.4 yards per target (Dec. 4, 2020), per Jets X-Factor’s Michael Nania.

While he also may come at a cheaper price, the problem lies in his restricted free agent status. Would the Jets be willing to dish out a first-round pick if Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots slap a first-round tender on him?

14. Carl Lawson, EDGE

Carl Lawson, a fourth-round pick out of Auburn, has racked up 20 sacks in 51 games and just 14 starts. At 265 pounds, he can easily fit one of Robert Saleh‘s EDGE roles.

13. Desmond King, SCB

Desmond King is already 26 years old, believe it or not, and he’s even been a first-team All-Pro player. (Albeit, it came by way of special teams in 2018.) Few have excelled in the slot quite like King.

King’s candidacy from a Jets perspective revolves around Brian Poole. Will Douglas bring back the suddenly oft-injured Poole or go in another direction? How do they feel about Javelin Guidry?

While Poole’s physicality is appealing, King is younger and more reliable (missing just three games in four seasons).

12. Brandon Scherff, IOL

The reason Brandon Scherff is so low on the list is simple: The man simply cannot stay healthy.

Availability is always the best ability and the Washington Football Team stud guard has missed 18 games over the last four seasons. The Jets cannot pay that much money for a guy who misses that much time.

11. Jayon Brown, LB

Jayon Brown represents a sneaky free-agent add for this team. First and foremost, he shouldn’t cost too much. Secondly, the kid is perfect in Saleh’s defense.

What the Jets need at the second level (linebacker) are athletic guys who can cover. Brown finished 20th overall at the position, with a 66.4 grade, but he finished 11th in coverage (73.5).

Without many linebacker options on the open market, Brown could be crucial. Douglas may have to draft a guy, regardless.

Romeo Okwara

10. Romeo Okwara, EDGE

EDGE is by far the most plentiful position on the list. And despite the idea that most of these guys won’t become free agents—through franchise tags or otherwise—the Jets need to snag at least one.

Romeo Okwara fits the bill. The Notre Dame product whose brother, Julian Okwara, disappointed greatly in his rookie campaign, tallied 10 sacks for the Detroit Lions this past season. He’s in line for a big payday after his fifth season, but this past year marks his only double-digit sack campaign.

9. Bud Dupree, EDGE

Bud Dupree‘s Jets candidacy is an interesting one. He’d be coming over from the Pittsburgh Steelers where he played EDGE from a 3-4 outside linebacker spot. By no means is it a dealbreaker, but he’s another guy who’s missed some games (five in 2020).

He has the right size and can absolutely get it done out of the 4-3—as he played it in college—but I’d rank others ahead of him.

8. Richard Sherman, CB

He’s old, he’s slower, yet he’s what this defense needs. Never underestimate what a veteran leader can do for a young team. Two years ago, Richard Sherman was tremendous. But once the injuries happened upfront and the pass rush wasn’t legitimate anymore, Sherman’s production dropped a bit (ranked 38th by PFF in 2020).

Still, the Jets can use the guy on a mid-level deal that doesn’t break the bank.

7. Daniel Carlson, K (RFA)

The second restricted free agent of the bunch is Daniel Carlson, a kid the Las Vegas Raiders won’t want to see get away. But if they do put a lower tender on him or fail to retain his services, the Jets should jump at the chance to acquire this kicker.

Jets X-Factor Membership

6. Kyle Juszczyk, FB

A lot of folks won’t like seeing a fullback in the No. 6 spot, but Kyle Shanahan’s offense demands that position. Sure, Trevon Wesco does a tremendous job, but having two guys who can get it done there is essential.

Juszczyk is still arguably the best fullback in the game. The Jets should target him high in order to give the offense a much-needed facelift. Having Wesco blocking in-line more often will also help.

5. Allen Robinson, WR

Yes, Allen Robinson fits the Jets’ outside need perfectly. And interestingly enough, many onlookers believe he’s looking to land in Florham Park, NJ.

How much it’ll cost Douglas and the Jets remains the all-important question. Remember, Douglas won’t break the bank this offseason. Free agency is never used by the good ones in order to build a team, rather only to simply top off the already-built infrastructure that came from the NFL draft.

4. Shaquil Barrett, EDGE

The odds that Shaquil Barrett gets away from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are slim. After piling up 19.5 sacks in 2019, he returned in 2020 to finish third in EDGE pressures (behind only Joey Bosa and Carl Lawson). A tremendous argument exists that he should be the top EDGE free agent on this list.

3. Trey Hendrickson, EDGE

Perhaps the only reason Trey Hendrickson ranks ahead of Shaq Barrett is that it’s more likely the former gets to free agency than the latter. Also, the former is coming from a 4-3 base while the latter worked out of a 3-4.

The third-round pick in 2017 completely busted out this past season, tallying 13.5 sacks.

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2. Curtis Samuel, WR

Curtis Samuel outranks Allen Robinson thanks to the nature of today’s sport. Conventional wisdom leads most Jets fans to believe an outside threat is what’s needed at the position. With Jamison Crowder inside and Denzel Mims outside, another outside guy is required.

Not exactly.

While Crowder is a tremendous slot guy, he offers very little by way of the “X-Factor” stuff. He’s not a threat to run the ball or be a consistent jet-motion guy. It’s a prototype the Jets have lacked for seemingly forever. And now with the jet-sweep and edge-attacking college-principled schemes running rampant, the “X-Factor” type is more of a need than an outside threat.

Samuel’s ridiculous speed and agile hips would absolutely fit alongside Crowder and Mims. But more importantly, he adds a dimension every good offense needs in today’s NFL.

Ideally, the Jets would employ two outside threats and have their slot receiver assume the “X-Factor” role, but Crowder just isn’t built that way. So if Samuel is the guy over Robinson—which would be a much cheaper option—the team’s No. 4 guy will need to be another outside threat (via NFL draft, most likely).

1. Joe Thuney, IOL

Without a doubt, Joe Thuney needs to be the Jets’ top free-agent target. The interior of the offensive line needs serious help and Thuney, a guy the Jets were connected to last year before the Pats franchise tagged him, will help ease the woes.

PFF ranked Thuney 10th at the guard position a year ago. Perhaps what’s most attractive is the fact this man hasn’t missed a game in five seasons.

Thuney needs to be the New York Jets’ undoubted No. 1 free-agent target this March.

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Robby Sabo is a co-founder, developer and credentialed New York Jets content creator for Jets X-Factor | Jet X, which includes Sabo's Sessions (in-depth film breakdowns) and Sabo with the Jets. Host: Underdog Jets Podcast with Wayne Chrebet and Sabo Radio. Member: Pro Football Writers of America. Coach: Port Jervis (NY) High School. Washed up strong safety and 400M runner. Founder: Elite Sports NY - ESNY (sold in 2020). SEO: XLM Email: robby.sabo[at]
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Cody Emerson
Cody Emerson
2 years ago

I love the list. I have a weird feeling we will also target Marvin Jones if we miss out on bigger WR names/prioritize upgrading OL,CB, Edge in FA

verge tibbs
verge tibbs
2 years ago

Great list. Hopefully seattle doesnt throw their beaks into the thuney sweepstakes since wilson started publicly bashing them for not investing in the OL. To me, juszyszxzk is the only FB in the nfl thats actually a weapon with his receiving as well as blocking. Need that guy, imo.

2 years ago

Excellent list, but imo Chris Godwin, Kenny Golladay, and Corey Davis should be on this list as other possible WRs if the Jets can’t sign Robinson or Samuel. I’m glad that you didn’t include the oft-injured Fuller or Smith-Schuster.

I love the idea of J.C. Jackson, but not at the cost of a 1st or 2nd round pick. If Sherman is willing to settle for a reasonable contract, he would be a great add, as we need a veteran presence at CB and in our secondary. I’m not willing to sign him to a big contract, however, like the former Rams CB that Mac signed (I’ve blocked his name from memory), and hope that JD won’t be willing to sign him to a big contract, either.

I love the addition of Brown and Carlson. Those would be great signings and hopefully are high priority.

I’m not sure Dupree would be a fit in our D, and doubt he will leave Pittsburgh. If the Jets sign a DE, I hope that it’s Hendrickson as Barret would cost too much and probably won’t leave Tampa. If we can’t sign Hendrickson, Okwara would make a nice consolation prize.

The only player on this list that I think doesn’t belong is Juszczyk. IMO he would be a total luxury and a total waste of FA $s. The Jets have Wesco and can perhaps use a backup OL or DL as a Wesco’s backup or maybe sign a UDFA following the draft.