Stephon Gilmore, Ryan Jensen
Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

The New York Jets are poised to be loaded with cap space during the 2022 free-agency season, so we take an early look at the landscape.

The New York Jets entered the 2021 league year with the second-most cap space in the NFL. They used it rather aggressively, adding players like Carl Lawson, Corey Davis, Sheldon Rankins, Keelan Cole, and Vinny Curry, among others to bolster a two-win roster.

Even after their spending spree this past March, the Jets still have one of the best cap situations in the NFL. They are projected by Spotrac to enter the 2022 league year with the third-most cap space in the league at $76.8 million, trailing only the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts.

Joe Douglas will be well-equipped to patch the holes on his roster yet again next year. Who could be some of the prime targets on the market at the Jets’ current positions of need?

Guard

New York entered the 2021 offseason needing an upgrade at both guard spots, but it was only able to find one long-term answer, trading up to draft Alijah Vera-Tucker with the 14th overall pick. The spot opposite Vera-Tucker remains a long-term hole.

Greg Van Roten is the current favorite to retain his starting spot at right guard, but he could be pushed by 2020 fourth-round pick Cameron Clark or longtime Chargers starter Dan Feeney. Neither Van Roten nor Feeney is a long-term solution (or even a short-term one in Feeney’s case, as he was abysmal during his Chargers career). So, unless Clark breaks out and has an excellent season to establish himself as a future building block, the Jets will enter March of 2022 with a big hole at guard.

Brandon Scherff
  • Team: Washington
  • Age (Dec. 2022): 31
  • Free-agent type: Unrestricted

Brandon Scherff has been known among Jets fans as a prime free-agent target for the team in two consecutive offseasons, but he has been franchise-tagged by Washington for the second time in a row. He ranked as Pro Football Focus’s fourth-best right guard in 2020 but has injury concerns (at least two games missed in 4 consecutive seasons).

Laken Tomlinson
  • Team: San Francisco
  • Age (Dec. 2022): 30
  • Free-agent type: Unrestricted

Laken Tomlinson was a first-round pick of the Lions out of Duke in 2018 but fizzled out after two years, being traded to San Francisco. There, he developed into a top-tier guard under now-Jets offensive line coach John Benton. Tomlinson was PFF’s fourth-ranked left guard in 2020.

A.J. Cann
  • Team: Jacksonville
  • Age (Dec. 2022): 31
  • Free-agent type: Unrestricted

A.J. Cann has been Jacksonville’s starting right guard for six straight seasons since being drafted in the third round out of South Carolina in 2015. He ranked as PFF’s 10th-best right guard in 2020, particularly thriving in pass protection where he ranked fourth-best among right guards with a 73.8 pass-blocking grade.

Mark Glowinski
  • Team: Indianapolis
  • Age (Dec. 2022): 30
  • Free-agent type: Unrestricted

Mark Glowinski was traded from Seattle to Indianapolis in 2018, starting nine games in his first season as a Colt and starting every game at right guard for Indy over the last two seasons. He was PFF’s 13th-ranked right guard in 2020.

Jets X-Factor

Center

The Jets signed Connor McGovern in 2020 to be their center of the future after a breakout 2019 season in which he was a top 10 player at the position in his first season playing it full-time. He had a disappointing debut season as a Jet in which he struggled mightily with blitz and stunt pickups in pass protection, although his run blocking was solid.

Following the 2021 season, the Jets can cut McGovern to save $9.0 million in cap space while eating only $1.3 million in dead money, so McGovern needs to have a bounce-back season or he could hit the chopping block. Should McGovern fail to rebound, the Jets will likely be looking for a new center next year.

Ryan Jensen
  • Team: Tampa Bay
  • Age (Dec. 2022): 31
  • Free-agent type: Unrestricted

Ryan Jensen had a down year in 2020, ranking as PFF’s No. 21 center, but he had established himself as one of the best centers in football over the previous few seasons. In 2019, Jensen was PFF’s No. 2 center.

Matt Paradis
  • Team: Carolina
  • Age (Dec. 2022): 33
  • Free-agent type: Unrestricted

Matt Paradis made his name as a top-tier center over four years with the Broncos from 2015-18, starting every game and winning a Super Bowl as a sixth-round rookie. His injury in the 2018 season is what paved the way for McGovern to move from guard to center. Following that season, Paradis was a prime Jets target in the 2019 free agency period, but he ended up signing with the Panthers.

Paradis’ run in Carolina has been disappointing so far. He was PFF’s 21st-ranked center in 2019 and dropped to the 23rd spot in 2020. Paradis had been a top-8 center in each of his final three seasons as Bronco, including a No. 2 ranking in 2016 and a No. 3 ranking in 2018.

Ben Jones
  • Team: Tennessee
  • Age (Dec. 2022): 33
  • Free-agent type: Unrestricted

Ben Jones was PFF’s fourth-ranked center in 2020 and third-ranked center in 2019. He has ranked 13th or better in five of the last six seasons.

Cornerback

The Jets are green at cornerback. Their current projected starters on the outside are Bryce Hall and Bless Austin, while the top slot man at this point is likely Javelin Guidry or rookie Michael Carter II. Those three players have combined for 25 NFL starts. New York also has a bevy of rookies at the cornerback position.

Most likely, the Jets will not have a long-term answer emerge at every single cornerback spot this season. They will be hoping that just one of their young prospects can establish themselves as an answer – any more than that would be tremendous. With this in mind, it is almost a guarantee that they will be looking to splurge on the position in free agency next year.

Marshon Lattimore
  • Team: New Orleans
  • Age (Dec. 2022): 26
  • Free-agent type: Unrestricted

Marshon Lattimore is a big-name former first-round pick who will hit free agency in his prime, but he has shown some cracks in his game over the past two seasons after providing instant superstar production to begin his career. His PFF grade ranks among cornerbacks from 2017-20: 8th, 29th, 45th, 96th. In 2020, Lattimore tied for the second among cornerbacks in touchdowns allowed (7) and third in penalties (9) while giving up a 103.3 passer rating.

Stephon Gilmore and Robby Anderson
Jet X Graphic, Getty Images
Stephon Gilmore
  • Team: New England
  • Age (Dec. 2022): 32
  • Free-agent type: Unrestricted

The former Defensive Player of the Year is on the wrong side of the 30 and took a big step back in 2020. Stephon Gilmore allowed a 96.7 passer rating, a career-high and more than double the mark of 48.0 that he allowed the previous season. He was PFF’s 67th-ranked cornerback out of 136 qualifiers (51st percentile).

Carlton Davis
  • Team: Tampa Bay
  • Age (Dec. 2022): 25
  • Free-agent type: Unrestricted

Carlton Davis has been a boom-or-bust player for the Bucs as a starter over the past two seasons. He is an incredible playmaker, leading all cornerbacks with 37 passes defended from 2019-20, but he also allowed 12 touchdowns and committed 21 penalties over that span.

Joe Haden
  • Team: Pittsburgh
  • Age (Dec. 2022): 33
  • Free-agent type: Unrestricted

Joe Haden has yet to hit the wall. He has allowed a passer rating under 90.0 in four straight seasons and ranked 46th out of 136 qualified corners at PFF in 2020 (67th percentile).

Kyle Fuller
  • Team: Chicago
  • Age (Dec. 2022): 30
  • Free-agent type: Unrestricted

Kyle Fuller has fallen off from his star-level peak. He had the sixth-best overall PFF grade among cornerbacks in 2018 but ranked at only the 45th percentile in 2019 and the 60th percentile in 2020.

Jason Verrett
  • Team: San Francisco
  • Age (Dec. 2022): 31
  • Free-agent type: Unrestricted

Jason Verrett had a resurgent season with the Niners in 2020, earning the ninth-best grade among cornerbacks (94th percentile). In addition to playing under Saleh, Verrett worked closely with secondary/cornerbacks coach Tony Oden, who is now the Jets’ senior defensive assistant and cornerbacks coach.

Ahkello Witherspoon
  • Team: Seattle
  • Age (Dec. 2022): 27
  • Free-agent type: Unrestricted

Another former 49er with connections to the Jets’ coaching staff, Ahkello Witherspoon has been inconsistent and oft-injured throughout his career but showcased a lot of potential at only 25 years old in 2020. He only played 334 snaps over nine games, but his 80.2 PFF grade ranked fifth-best among cornerbacks (97th percentile). He signed a one-year deal with the Seahawks this offseason.

Darious Williams
  • Team: LA Rams
  • Age (Dec. 2022): 29
  • Free-agent type: Unrestricted

Darious Williams allowed a 59.9 passer rating in 2020, fifth-lowest among corners. He was PFF’s No. 6 cornerback out of 136 qualifiers (96th percentile).

Bryce Callahan
  • Team: Denver
  • Age (Dec. 2022): 31
  • Free-agent type: Unrestricted

A slot superstar throughout his career, Bryce Callahan was PFF’s No. 3 corner in 2020 and allowed the lowest passer rating at the position (46.9). For his career, Callahan has yielded a 3-to-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a measly passer rating of 70.0.

J.C. Jackson
  • Team: New England
  • Age (Dec. 2022): 27
  • Free-agent type: Unrestricted

J.C. Jackson has been outstanding throughout his three years with the Patriots, allowing seven touchdowns, 17 interceptions, and a 49.6 passer rating. He allowed a 37.0 passer rating in 2019, the lowest among all cornerbacks. Jackson has allowed a passer rating under 63.0 in all three of his career seasons.

Charvarius Ward
  • Team: Kansas City
  • Age (Dec. 2022): 27
  • Free-agent type: Unrestricted

Charvarius Ward has been a solid starter for the Chiefs throughout the last two seasons. He ranked at the 62nd percentile among qualified corners in PFF’s overall grade in 2020 and was at the 71st percentile in 2019.

Desmond King
  • Team: Houston
  • Age (Dec. 2022): 28
  • Free-agent type: Unrestricted

Desmond King has declined since looking like a star early in his Chargers career, but he remains a very solid slot defender. His career percentile ranks among corners in PFF’s overall grade from 2017-20: 94th, 99th, 77th, and 64th.

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Milesahead

Way too early, indeed, but some nice prospects, overall. With two firsts and two seconds in next year’s draft, however, I’m inclined to think Joe Douglas & Co. will look to find OL upgrades in the draft and not in FAcy. That’s particularly true given the ages of most of the OL prospects noted above. We might also be surprised by Clark and this year’s rookies from becoming serious contenders for starting jobs moving forward. Corner is where the Jets might look to FAcy next year if the youngsters they’ve now got on the roster don’t prove themselves to be… Read more »