Pinpointing the best New York Jets free agent targets who are in their prime
With their opening-week roster having an average age of 25.1 years, the 2021 New York Jets had the youngest team in the National Football League.
Last season, the youth on the team was led by a ton of rookies. There were also many second, third, and fourth-year players.
This upcoming offseason, it is probably fair to expect the Jets to remain active adding players in free agency who are ready to hit their prime years.
Below, scheduled free agents who will play this entire upcoming season at 26 years old or younger will be power ranked.
10. Tim Settle, DT (Washington Commanders)
- Current age: 24.6 (born 7-11-97)
With Folorunso Fatukasi currently scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency, the Jets will need a run-stuffing nose tackle if he does not return.
Tim Settle was utilized in a minimal role with Washington over the last four years. The 328-pounder’s career-high in terms of snaps played was 347 in 2020 (1,005 total career snaps). Settle played only 210 snaps in 2021.
When Settle played his largest role in 2020, he showed potential, recording five sacks, five tackles for loss, and seven quarterback hits. He had four tackles for loss in 2021.
Settle has missed only two games throughout the first four seasons of his career. He turns 25 in July and is likely entering his best years.
9. James Daniels, RG (Chicago Bears)
- Current age: 24.4 (born 9-13-97)
This offseason the Jets could be looking for a long-term answer at right guard to potentially solidify their offensive line.
If they look to do so through free agency, James Daniels is a solid option. He has 48 total starts in the first four years of his NFL career. In 2020, he sustained a season-ending injury early on in the year (Week 5). Daniels played 100% of the Bears snaps in both 2019 and 2021.
Last year, Daniels played his best football yet. He only allowed three sacks as a pass blocker on 1,122 snaps. PFF gave Daniels a grade of 71.0 on the year, which ranked 19th out of 63 qualified guards. Daniels is a good athlete with room to grow.
Daniels will only turn 25 in September. Coming off his most impressive year, it is fair to expect him to keep improving.
8. D.J. Reed, CB (Seattle Seahawks)
- Current age: 25.3 (born 11-11-96)
At some point in the offseason, the Jets will probably look to acquire a starting cornerback.
D.J. Reed just wrapped up a career year with the Seahawks and will likely hit the open market. Over the last two years, Reed started 22 games for the Seahawks (1,560 snaps).
The Jets defense needs more turnovers through the air. Reed had two interceptions in each of the last two seasons. He recorded seven pass deflections and two tackles for loss in 2020. In 2021, Reed posted a career-best of 10 passes defended.
Jets head coach Robert Saleh has experience with Reed from their days with the 49ers (2018-19). He turns 26 in November and would be an upgrade for the Jets at cornerback.
7. Jordan Whitehead, SS (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
- Current age: 24.9 (born 3-18-97)
The Jets’ biggest need defensively is at safety. Two new starters will likely be acquired, with at least one probable to come in free agency.
At the top of the projected strong safety market in free agency is Jordan Whitehead. Since his rookie season in 2018, Whitehead has had a big role on the Buccaneers defense (55 career games started).
In the last two seasons, Whitehead recorded two interceptions and one forced fumble each year. In 2020, he had two sacks, nine tackles for loss, and three quarterback hits. Whitehead had eight pass deflections, five tackles for loss, and 73 total tackles in 2021.
Whitehead will turn 25 in March. Signing him would be a good start for the Jets to improve at safety.
6. Harold Landry, EDGE (Tennessee Titans)
- Current age: 25.7 (born 6-15-96)
Adding another talented pass rusher opposite of Carl Lawson is something the Jets will likely aim to accomplish this offseason.
Harold Landry is the best edge scheduled to hit the free-agent market. He has started all 49 games the Titans have played over the last three seasons (playing at least 86% of the defense’s snaps each year).
He just wrapped up his best year rushing the quarterback (12 sacks and 22 quarterback hits). Landry also recorded career-bests in terms of total pressures (64).
Landry will turn 26 in June. He would be thrilling on the edge opposite Lawson.
5. Carlton Davis, CB (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
- Current age: 25.1 (born 12-31-96)
Carlton Davis is a respected cornerback who would drastically improve the position for the Jets.
Over the course of his four NFL seasons, Davis has 50 starts. Since 2019, his passes defended totals have been 19, 18, and 11 last season (in only 10 games). He had a career-best in terms of interceptions in 2020 with four. Davis had one interception in both 2019 and 2021.
Davis allowed a career-low passer rating of 80.1 in 2021. He has allowed a passer rating below the NFL average in three consecutive seasons.
One of the better cornerbacks in the game, Davis just turned 25 in December. There is a good chance the Buccaneers place the franchise tag on him. If the Jets were to somehow add Davis, it would be a big move.
4. Marcus Williams, FS (New Orleans Saints)
- Current age: 25.5 (born 9-8-96)
Similar to what was stated above with Whitehead at strong safety, Marcus Williams looks to be the top projected free agent on the free safety market, another position of need for the Jets.
Williams has been a five-year starter for the Saints (76 starts). He has 15 interceptions and 38 passes defended throughout the five seasons of his career.
A true center-fielder at the free safety position, Williams has the speed and range to cover ground and make plays on the back end.
The Jets could show interest in Williams on the market. He will turn 26 in September and should have at least four more productive years ahead. Williams would qualify as a top-tier signing for the Jets.
3. Dalton Schultz, TE (Dallas Cowboys)
- Current age: 25.6 (born 7-11-96)
Offensively, the Jets’ biggest need is at tight end. It will be addressed in a significant way, probably through both free agency and the draft.
In terms of veterans hitting the unrestricted market, Dalton Schultz is at the top of the group at the tight end position.
Over the last two seasons, Schultz has been very productive (141 receptions, 1,423 receiving yards, and 12 touchdowns). The Jets need a capable pass-catching tight end for Zach Wilson as he enters year two.
If Schultz ends up hitting the market, it is fair to think he would be near the top of the Jets list. He will turn 26 in July and should keep building on his play over the last two years.
2. Chris Godwin, WR (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
- Current age: 26.0 (born 2-27-96)
The third Buccaneer to make the list, Chris Godwin has been one of the better wide receivers in the league since 2019.
Over the last three seasons, Godwin had 249 catches, 3,276 receiving yards, and 21 touchdowns. He produced these numbers despite missing in each of the last three years (nine total).
Godwin will turn 26 at the end of the month. He is a highly-productive wide receiver who would be a great addition for Wilson in a pivotal year of his young career.
1. Jessie Bates, FS (Cincinnati Bengals)
- Current age: 25.0 (born 2-26-97)
Jessie Bates is currently scheduled to be one of the top free agents in the entire 2022 class. There is a strong likelihood the Bengals franchise-tag him if no long-term extension is agreed to.
Bates has started since his rookie year and has missed only two games, both in 2021. He has 10 career interceptions and 35 passes defended.
Throughout the Bengals’ Super Bowl run, Bates proved his worth. He recorded two interceptions in four playoff games. He has the ideal physical and athletic tools for a playmaking free safety (6-foot-1, 4.50 speed).
Bates will turn 25 at the end of this month. It is fair to expect the Bengals to find some way to retain him. If he does somehow shake loose and reach free agency, anticipate the Jets being involved in Bates’ market.
- Christian Kirk, WR (Arizona Cardinals)
- Michael Gallup, WR (Dallas Cowboys)
- Connor Williams, OG (Dallas Cowboys)
- Justin Jones, DT (Los Angeles Chargers)
- D.J. Chark, WR (Jacksonville Jaguars)
- David Njoku, TE (Cleveland Browns)
Final takeaways for the Jets
Continuing to sign younger free agents can help the Jets remain one of the youngest teams in the NFL. Expect that to be their approach, similar to last offseason. Coming away with at least one and maybe even a second player from the 16 listed above would be exciting for the Jets.