Mapping out a 2022 New York Jets free agency plan
In each of his first two years as the New York Jets‘ general manager, Joe Douglas had enough cap space to spend freely on the free-agent market. The Jets have been fairly active on the free-agent market while not being overly aggressive with huge contracts. As a result of his budgeting, the Jets are once again in a position to accumulate several impactful free agents in 2022.
Douglas signed seven new players to the team over the first two weeks of free agency in 2020. Throughout the first two weeks of 2021, Douglas acquired 12 free agents.
Each offseason, Douglas handed out a trio of three-year contracts. In his first free-agent class, each three-year deal went to an offensive lineman: George Fant, Connor McGovern, and Greg Van Roten. Last year, Douglas acquired Carl Lawson, Corey Davis, and Justin Hardee – one core player in each phase.
Outside of those six contracts and a two-year deal given to Sheldon Rankins in 2021, every other free-agent acquisition was added on a one-year deal by Douglas.
This upcoming offseason it is fair to expect Douglas to acquire anywhere from six to 10 new players in free agency. The Jets are currently projected to have $48.1 million in cap space, per Over The Cap, which is the fifth-most in the league.
How could things end up playing out for New York? Let’s run through a mock 2022 free-agency plan for the Jets.
In this mock, four Jets are re-signed and six new players are added. We begin with our four re-signings.
- Braxton Berrios (three-years, $15 million)
- Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (one-year, $3 million)
- Dan Feeney (one-year, $2.5 million)
- Tevin Coleman (one-year, $1.1 million)
With these four, the Jets retain good depth offensively at three position groups.
Braxton Berrios’ special teams value and incremental growth as a receiver each year make the 26-year-old worth bringing back on a multi-year deal.
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif could be relied on to start at right guard if the Jets do not select a starter early on in the draft. If a player is drafted and wins the starting job, Duvernay-Tardif can provide great depth.
Dan Feeney is a valuable depth piece because of his durability and versatility along the interior of the offensive line.
Tevin Coleman has spent most of his career has been spent in this offensive system. Keeping him would allow for a potential mid-round running back selection in the draft to be eased into the second running back spot.
Five of our six new additions are to the defense as the NFL’s last-ranked unit (397.6 yards per game) from a year ago must be improved immediately.
- Jordan Whitehead, SS (three-years, $31.5 million)
- D.J. Jones, DT (three-years, $21 million)
- Durham Smythe, TE (two-years, $12 million)
- Arden Key, DE (two-years, $9 million)
- Harrison Phillips, DT (two-years, $8.5 million)
- Bobby McCain, FS (one-year, $3.5 million)
Buccaneers SS Jordan Whitehead
Jordan Whitehead was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL draft. Throughout his four seasons with the Buccaneers, he started 55 games. Each year, he recorded at least four tackles for loss with nine being his career-high in 2020. He had two interceptions in each of the last two years. In 2021, he also had eight pass deflections and one forced fumble.
Whitehead is a young player who turns 25 in March. As a result of his youth, there is a good chance the strong safety continues to improve throughout his prime years.
Out of all the strong safeties set to hit the free-agent market, Whitehead ranks near the top. He was an integral piece to the Buccaneers’ success over the last two seasons and would make for a great top-tier signing for the Jets.
49ers DT D.J. Jones
D.J. Jones is a five-year veteran who has spent all of his career with the San Francisco 49ers after being drafted as a sixth-round pick in 2017.
In his first two years, Jones only appeared in 19 games and made four starts. He started all 42 games he played in over the last three seasons.
Jones has had at least two sacks all three years he has been a starter. In 2021, he recorded a career-best 10 tackles for loss and 56 combined tackles. Per ESPN, Jones had the top-ranked run stop win rate (48%) out of all defensive tackles in 2021.
Jones has familiarity with Jets head coach Robert Saleh, who coordinated the 49ers’ defense from 2017-20. In total, Jones has five years of experience in the type of defensive scheme run by Saleh and Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich.
New York’s run defense needs to be better in 2022. Adding Jones would be a great start.
Dolphins TE Durham Smythe
The Miami Dolphins drafted Durham Smythe in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL draft.
Over the last three seasons, he only missed one game. Smythe put together his best season of receiving production in 2021. He recorded 34 catches for 357 yards on only 41 targets.
In the last two seasons, Smythe has caught most of the passes that have come his way. On 70 targets, he had 60 receptions. Having a reliable tight end like Smythe would be beneficial for Zach Wilson.
Smythe has been known as a dominant blocker since he was a draft prospect in 2018. His great blocking ability makes him an ideal fit in Mike LaFleur’s running scheme. With more opportunities in the passing game, he should be productive.
49ers EDGE Arden Key
After a tough three-year start to his career with the Las Vegas Raiders as a third-round selection in 2018, Arden Key was let go by the Raiders last April. Shortly after, he was picked up by the San Francisco 49ers. He went on to have his best year.
As a pass rusher, Key recorded a total of 6.5 sacks and 17 quarterback hits on only 374 snaps for the year (22 per game). He also had five tackles for loss. Key appeared in all 17 games.
With the Jets and 49ers defenses having similar schemes, adding Key would make sense. The Jets did a lot of rotating along the defensive line last season, so having as many good pass rushers as possible will be needed. Key will be turning 26 and could keep improving.
Bills DT Harrison Phillips
Harrison Phillips has been with the Buffalo Bills throughout his first four seasons after being taken in the third round of the 2018 draft.
After a torn ACL in September 2019, Phillips only started three games and played 332 snaps over 12 games in 2020. Phillips finally got back to full health in 2021 and started to show his potential. He had a career-high 51 tackles and six quarterback hits, starting eight of his 14 games and playing 474 snaps.
With the Jets adding another defensive tackle in this mock free agency, it is worth noting that Nathan Shepherd played 42% of the team’s defensive snaps in 2021 despite being a backup. Having as many quality defensive tackles as possible is going to be valuable for the Jets, who love to rotate at the position.
Phillips just turned 26 and has played in a 4-3 defensive front with the Bills his whole four-year career.
Dolphins FS Bobby McCain
Bobby McCain spent his first six seasons in the division with the Miami Dolphins. After being released by the Dolphins last May, he signed a one-year deal with Washington.
McCain started in 16 games and had a productive 2021 season. He had great ball production with four interceptions and nine pass deflections, both career highs. This is something the Jets defense needs as the unit only recorded seven interceptions last year which tied for 30th in the league.
McCain has some similarities to Lamarcus Joyner who the Jets signed last year. Both are older players who have experience playing slot corner and free safety.
The Jets have a young defensive backfield. Adding a veteran with versatility in McCain would be beneficial for the group.