The ideal 2022 New York Jets offseason plan
In this breakdown, I’ll be mapping out how I think the New York Jets should attack the 2022 offseason in free agency, the draft, and the trade market. While it’s nearly impossible for all of these things to happen, that’s what the pre-offseason period is for: to dream.
Resigning and Cutting Players
To start, we’re saying goodbye to several players. The Jets cut the following members of their current roster:
- DT Sheldon Rankins (saves $5.4 million)
- G Greg Van Roten (saves $3.5 million)
- TE Ryan Griffin (saves $3.0 million)
- CB Justin Hardee (saves $2.0 million)
- S Zane Lewis (saves $0.7 million)
- WR D.J. Montgomery (saves $0.8 million)
These moves free up about $15.4 million in cap space compared to slightly under $1 million in dead money.
Braxton Berrios and Foley Fatukasi both leave in free agency after the Jets lose bidding wars.
The Jets then spend $6.5 million to re-sign the following players to one-year deals:
- QB Joe Flacco, $2 million
- G Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, $3 million
- CB Javelin Guidry, $750,000
- EDGE Tim Ward, $750,000
Feeling the seat warming up under him, general manager Joe Douglas decides to create even more cap space. Linebacker C.J. Mosley agrees to a restructured deal, freeing up an additional $5 million in cap space.
After starting with $48.8 million in cap space, the Jets now have $62.7 million in as they head to free agency. Since the Jets must keep at least $13,082,841 of space open to sign their rookie class, they effectively have $49.6 million to work with.
With a litany of holes to fill, Douglas will be busy.
I’ll sum up all of the signings before going into detail. The Jets add a star on each side of the ball before bringing in talented depth pieces:
- G James Daniels: 5 years, $50 million
- S Quandre Diggs: 3 years, $30 million
- TE Maxx Williams: 3 years, $18.75 million
- LB/S Jabrill Peppers: 1 year, $5.5 million
- TE O.J. Howard: 1 year, $4.125 million
- DT Sheldon Richardson: 1 year, $3 million
- WR Rashard Higgins: 1 year, $2 million
- S Malik Hooker: 1 year, $2.5 million
- CB Darius Phillips: 1 year, $1.75 million
These signings combine for a cost of $45.1 million, leaving the Jets with $4.5 million of effective cap room.
Offensive guard James Daniels elevates the Jets’ entire offensive line by plugging its biggest weakness. He’s a great run blocker that fits the Jets’ zone scheme and has played multiple positions in the NFL (also playing left guard and center). Still only 25, Daniels has shown consistent improvement since sticking at right guard. Daniels signs a five-year, $50 million contract ($10 million/year).
Tight end Maxx Williams was on his way to a breakout year before tearing his ACL in Week 5. His 8.0 yards after the catch in 2021 was third-best among qualified tight ends, albeit on a small sample size.
While his receiving ability isn’t remarkable, Williams has been one of the league’s better blocking tight ends as David Wyatt-Hupton goes into here. Williams signs a three-year, $18.75 million contract ($6.25 million/year).
The Jets get a reclamation project in tight end O.J. Howard after Dalton Schultz was franchise tagged this past Tuesday. The former first-round pick has flashed throughout his career but never was able to beat out Cameron Brate and Rob Gronkowski. Douglas bets on Howard’s upside by giving him a one-year, $4.125 million contract.
Cornerback Darius Phillips is only 26 years old and flashed early in his career before primarily playing special teams in 2022. He has the versatility to play in the slot or outside, which will give the Jets defense flexibility. New York signs him to a one-year, $1.725M contract to compete with Brandin Echols and replace Justin Hardee.
The Jets reunite with defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. He’s been a productive and versatile starter throughout his career that offers upside as a pass rusher. Richardson signs a one-year, $3 million contract.
Safety Quandre Diggs is one of my favorite targets in free agency. The 29-year-old safety has intercepted 21.6% of passes thrown his way since 2019, the best rate among safeties. He also is a converted cornerback which would make him an ideal mentor for Jason Pinnock. Michael Nania goes into more detail here.
Diggs ends up signing a three-year $30 million contract ($10 million/year).
Safety Jabrill Peppers has been turning his career around with the Giants and fits the mold Douglas has targeted at linebacker. The former first-round pick offers versatility and has been at his best in the box. Peppers gets a solid payday on a one-year $5.5 million contract.
The final signings are safety Malik Hooker and wide receiver Rashard Higgins to one-year contracts for $2.5 million and $2 million, respectively. Hooker offers range and ball skills the Jets need at safety while Higgins is a good depth piece that has flashed when given the opportunity.
New York spends most of its cap to bring in much-needed talent on offense and defense. The offense will be significantly elevated by the additions of Daniels, Howard, and Williams. Diggs is a huge upgrade at safety and the rest of the defensive signings offer upside and competent depth for one of the worst passing defenses in the NFL.
Jets Trade for D.K. Metcalf
D.K. Metcalf turned heads at the 2019 combine displaying a combination of strength, speed, and size the NFL hasn’t seen since Calvin Johnson.
In three years since, Metcalf has racked up 216 receptions, 3,170 yards, and 29 touchdowns without missing a single game.
After trading Russell Wilson and cutting Bobby Wagner, the Seahawks are in full rebuild mode.
As Michael Nania outlines here, the likely asking price for Metcalf would likely be a late first-round pick. With two top 10 picks, the Jets instead send both of their 2022 second-round picks and a future fourth-round pick.
While he will demand a massive payday in 2023, Metcalf’s cap hit in 2022 is only $4.3 million, allowing the Jets to acquire him while still having enough cap space to sign their rookie class. New York gets one of the best young wide receivers in the NFL.
2022 NFL Draft
Douglas has always preached a “build through the draft” mentality. He’s established a good core as explained in this article by Ryan Moran. Now he has an opportunity to expand on it.
Round 1, Pick 4: Ahmad Gardner, Cornerback, Cincinnati
Ahmad Gardner is one of my favorite players in the draft with a dominant college career and the athletic profile to be a lockdown corner in the NFL. In three years at Cincinnati and over 1,000 snaps, Gardner never allowed a single touchdown.
Gardner took it up a notch in 2021, only allowing 113 yards in 14 games. This culminated with a dominant performance in the College Football Playoff where he allowed only one catch for -2 yards on four targets against Alabama.
Insanely, he did not allow a single reception in the red zone on 41 coverage snaps in that area.
Round 1, Pick 10: Jermaine Johnson II, Defensive End, Florida St.
Jermaine Johnson broke out in 2021 and his stock has only been improving since the Senior Bowl. Johnson was always a good run defender but broke out as a pass rusher in a new scheme.
There were concerns if he was a one-year wonder but a dominant Senior Bowl erased them. Going against top prospects, Johnson consistently dominated the opposing players.
Lots of guys empty the clip at the Senior Bowl, but Jermaine Johnson is probably the most intense Senior Bowl competitor I've seen in all my years going to the event. Played every snap in every drill like he was personally offended. https://t.co/kEyNHMUe94
— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) March 9, 2022
Round 3, Pick 69: Isaiah Likely, Tight End, Coastal Carolina
Isaiah Likely has been one of the most dynamic tight ends in college football over the last three years. Likely is arguably the best receiving tight end in the draft flashing good speed and explosiveness. He will need to add size and strength to be a trustworthy blocker in the NFL, however.
Likely would finally give the Jets a young dynamic tight end to be Zach Wilson‘s safety blanket. He has three years of good production and is a match-up nightmare for opposing linebackers.
While the Jets missed out on Dalton Schultz and Trey McBride, they form a strong trio with Howard, Likely, and Williams.
Round 4, Pick 110: Wan’Dale Robinson, Wide Receiver, Kentucky
Wan’Dale Robinson is a dynamic athlete that is developing as a route runner. The former running back specializes in making players miss and would be an ideal fit for Mike LaFluer’s system.
He projects as a potential replacement to Braxton Berrios as he can line up in the slot or in the backfield while bringing return-game capability. Robinson has the skill set to do it all, ranking 13th among FBS wide receivers in deep yards as well as fifth in screen yards.
Robinson steadily improved each season before breaking out with a dominant 91.3 overall Pro Football Focus grade in 2021, which was third-best among wide receivers.
Round 4, Pick 116: Tyler Allgeier, Running Back, BYU
Michael Carter has established himself as the main running back for the Jets but they still need a power back for short-yardage situations. Tyler Allgeier fits the bill.
The former linebacker has maintained his physicality, punishing opposing defenders and fighting for extra yards. He also improved as a receiver throughout his career at BYU.
Allgeier also has good speed and vision which allows him to find running lanes and break big plays. Zach Wilson’s former teammate forms an excellent young duo for the Jets’ run game.
Round 5, Pick 146: Alec Lindstrom, Center, Boston College
Alec Lindstrom has been a good starter at Boston College for four years. He is just the fifth player in Boston College history to earn two First-Team All-ACC selections. He’ll need to add some mass but he has adequate athleticism and is best in a zone-blocking scheme.
What he lacks in size, Lindstrom makes up for with his excellent technique. He’s at his best moving to the second level and making blocks in space. Douglas will love his background being the brother of the Falcons’ first-round pick in 2016 and the son of a former NFL player.
Round 5, Pick 163: Cade York, Kicker
The Jets should draft a kicker with their last pick. The Cincinnati Bengals made this decision last year when they selected Evan McPherson with the 149th overall selection. McPherson proceeded to have an excellent rookie year. Most impressively, he went a perfect 14 for 14 in the playoffs including two game-winners.
Cade York appears to be the top name in this year’s kicking class, although he’s not as impressive as McPherson.
The Jets could not rely on their kicker throughout the year, most notably in a close game against the Philadelphia Eagles. While hopefully competing for the playoffs in 2022, the Jets can’t be in a situation where they abandon points due to their kicker’s incompetence.
In Week 18 of 2021, Zach Wilson was throwing to Jeff Smith, Denzel Mims, Daniel Brown, and Kenny Yeboah while missing his starting tackle and center in Mekhi Becton and Connor McGovern.
In Week 1 of 2022, Wilson will be throwing to D.K. Metcalf, Elijah Moore, Corey Davis, Wan’Dale Robinson, O.J. Howard, and Isaiah Likely behind an improved offensive line featuring Mekhi Becton, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Connor McGovern, James Daniels, and George Fant.
Not only that, but the Jets’ defense will be significantly improved.
The defensive line will have two elite edge threats in Carl Lawson and Jermaine Johnson while Quinnen Williams and John Franklin-Myers wreak havoc on the inside. The secondary takes a huge leap with a talented cornerback room led by Bryce Hall, Ahmad Gardner, and Michael Carter II. The safety room goes from a liability to a strength adding the duo of Quandre Diggs and Malik Hooker to third-year player Ashtyn Davis.
Here is the depth chart entering Week 1.