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Why the New York Jets should retain both of their restricted free agents

Mike White, NY Jets, Contract
Mike White, New York Jets, Getty Images

Joe Douglas, New York Jets should retain their two restricted free agents

The New York Jets are set to have two players become restricted free agents in the 2022 offseason: quarterback Mike White and defensive end Kyle Phillips.

Players with three accrued seasons become restricted free agents once their contract expires.

As a 2018 draft pick entering his fifth NFL season, White is a restricted free agent because he spent the 2019 season on the Jets’ practice squad, which means he did not gain an accrued season. While he was on the practice squad at certain points in 2020, he also spent some time on the active roster.

Phillips signed with the Jets as an undrafted free agent in 2019.

How restricted free agency works

Teams have the option to apply a tender to their restricted free agents. Tenders are qualifying offers that give the player’s original team the option to match any new contract that the player signs with another team while entitling them to compensation if they elect not to match.

Restricted free agents may negotiate with any team, but if they do not come to an agreement with another team, they must return to their original team on a one-year contract worth an amount of money set by the tender chosen by the team.

There are four levels of tenders that can be applied.

The top two tenders are the first-round tender and the second-round tender. If the player’s original team decides not to match an offer sheet the player signs with another team, it is entitled to a first-round or second-round draft pick, respectively, from the player’s new team.

The greater the tender applied, the greater the cost to retain that player on his one-year qualifying offer. Spotrac projects the first-round tender to be worth $5.43 million in 2022 while the second-round tender is projected to be worth $3.99 million.

Next up is the original-round tender. This tender entitles the original team to a draft selection equal to the round that the player was originally drafted in. Spotrac projects it to be worth $2.54 million in 2022.

Finally, we have the right-of-first-refusal tender. This tender does not entitle the original team to any draft compensation. It’s typically used for undrafted free agents. It is a tad cheaper than the original round tender, projected by Spotrac to be worth $2.43 million in 2022.

Which tenders will Jets apply to Mike White and Kyle Phillips?

For White and Phillips, neither the first-round tender nor the second-round tender is likely. The price tag is roughly $1.4 million higher on the second-round tender than the lesser two tenders, and since it is unlikely that any team will give up a first or second-round pick for either player, the Jets probably do not need to spend the extra money for one of the greater two tenders.

The original-round tender and right-of-first-refusal tenders are more likely to expect for White and Phillips.

Placing an original-round tender on White makes sense, as he would fetch the Jets a fifth-round pick if he signs elsewhere and the Jets do not match. Phillips was undrafted and thus would not require any compensation on an original-round tender, so the Jets might as well save some money and use the right-of-first-refusal tender.

The deadline to assign these tenders is the start of the new league year (March 16). If no restricted tender is assigned, the player becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Mike White’s value to the Jets

With general manager Joe Douglas being hired by the Jets after the 2019 draft, his first group of players was added to the team over the next few months after the draft. White was one of the early additions Douglas made as he was signed to the Jets’ practice squad in September 2019.

White has some familiarity with the Jets as he has been with the team for the last three seasons. Entering the 2021 season, there were concerns about the Jets’ backup quarterback spot. White shortly ended those worries.

When Zach Wilson got hurt against the Patriots in Week 7, White was thrown into action. The following week against the Cincinnati Bengals, he put together a special performance with 405 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-31 win over the eventual AFC finalists. Then, against the Indianapolis Colts on a short week, he was off to a fast start before leaving with an injury.

White would throw four interceptions in his next start against the Bills, but his overall body of work was still respectable for a backup.

Now, White has a year of experience under offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. Having continuity around Wilson with his backup quarterback could also be valuable.

If the Jets need someone to fill in, White has proven he is more than capable.

Kyle Phillips’ value to the Jets

Phillips not only earned a roster spot in 2019 as an undrafted free agent but had a solid role. Over the last three seasons, when he has been on the field, Phillips has shown he can be a good contributor to the defensive line.

The Jets’ run defense had a ton of struggles in 2021. When Phillips got back healthy in Week 11, he made his impact felt stopping the run.

In general, having as much defensive line depth as possible is important. With the way Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich rotate the defensive line, reliable depth is even more valuable.

On early downs and obvious running situations, Phillips can take snaps and be effective on the edge. Allowing a talented pass rusher in Carl Lawson to stay fresh will be a luxury.

The Jets know what they have in Phillips. He is also a young player who turns 25 in May. Having more time to work with Saleh and Ulbrich should only help Phillips improve.

Final expectations

White and Phillips will both be with the Jets in 2022. They each can provide depth to important positions.

White will likely be assigned the original-round tender. Phillips could be given the original-round or right-of-first-refusal tender. Ultimately, anticipate White and Phillips both remaining with the Jets.

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2 years ago

I think White is a no brainer, I’m not sure about Phillips. I like him and he has been productive but I just don’t think he’s a good fit in this 4-3. I do know he helps against the run and overall is a solid player but I think they need to do better. I can see him being a rotational player but my feeling is they will look to free agency to upgrade. I wouldn’t mind if they kept him but I hope they can do better.

2 years ago

Just an excellent comprehensive insightful article. Bring them both back. Phillips has upside, can stop the run, pass rush can still be developed, important depth piece in Saleh’s Scheme. This article takes a rational approach, the QB market is not rational. Put a second round tender on White, as pointed out an additional 2 million in expense, but vital for consistency in the QB room. White is a tradable asset in this QB market, a bridge QB for many teams with upside.

2 years ago
Reply to  Ryan Moran

Once again , a well written informative article. The very nice thing about Phillips is that he is a versatile piece, which is key with Saleh rotating 8 Defensive Lineman. Predicting that Whites value sky rockets, with QB retirements, a weak QB draft, Starting QB salaries ranging 30-40 million, success of Mahomes & Allen, new Head Coaches that need a QB. 3 million and a second round pick is cheap. JD will take a 4th in 2022 & a second in 2023

2 years ago

Bring them back ,but also look for uogrades

Gary Berman
2 years ago

Keep the familiar guys that know the system and show some production.