New York Jets post-2022 NFL draft free-agent targets
However, some holes remain. While the Jets will have to wait until next year to find any long-term solutions for these issues (barring a shocking trade), they can still scour the leftovers of the free-agent market to find some useful stopgaps.
Here are some still-available free agents that would fill some of the Jets’ remaining holes entering the 2022 season.
DT Corey Peters
One of the most glaring weaknesses that the Jets have yet to address is their need for a run-stuffing defensive tackle.
The Jets let their previous run-stuffer, Foley Fatukasi, walk to Jacksonville in free agency. They have done nothing to replace him just yet. New York’s roster includes only one player who has proven he can defend the run at an above-average level as an interior lineman (Quinnen Williams).
After declining to fill this hole in the draft, the Jets could use a veteran place-holder to provide some respectable run defense for a year before focusing on securing a long-term solution in the 2023 offseason.
Enter Corey Peters.
A 2010 third-round pick, Peters will turn 34 later this year, but the old-timer can still stop the run at an effective level.
Playing for the Cardinals in 2021, Peters ranked at the 68th percentile among qualified interior defensive linemen (100+ run-defense snaps) with a 59.1 run-defense grade at Pro Football Focus. He also ranked at the 68th percentile with an 8.0% run-stop rate.
Peters made 23 total tackles against the run and did not miss a single tackle.
You won’t get pass-rushing impact from Peters, who had zero sacks or quarterback hits in 14 games, but the Jets don’t need any more of that on a defensive line that’s loaded with good rushers.
The 6-foot-3, 335-pounder would immediately be the second-best run-stopping defensive tackle on the Jets’ roster after Quinnen Williams. He’d just be around to give New York one year of 15-to-20 snaps per game in rushing situations.
Out of 121 qualified defensive tackles in 2021 season, I rated Peters as the seventh-most similar to Fatukasi in terms of usage (based on where he aligned on the defensive line and his pass-run snap ratio). Like Fatukasi, Peters occasionally dips his toes in at nose tackle but predominantly lines up over the guard:
- Fatukasi: 15.8% of snaps over the C, 72.9% of snaps over the G, 11.3% of snaps over the T
- Peters: 23.5% of snaps over the C, 71.3% of snaps over the G, 4.7% of snaps over the T
Peters played 50.0% of his snaps against the run, just a smidgen higher than Fatukasi’s 49.5% rate.
I think Peters might be the best fit on the market for what the Jets need at defensive tackle.
S Tyrann Mathieu
The Jets added Jordan Whitehead to fill one of their starting safety spots. There is still room to improve alongside him. Marcus Maye was allowed to walk to New Orleans, leaving Lamarcus Joyner as the projected starter beside Whitehead. Joyner can be a decent starter but is 31 and coming off a major injury.
Kansas City Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu entered 2022 as one of the most coveted free agents but is yet to find a new home. He’ll certainly be leaving Kansas City after the Chiefs signed his replacement in Justin Reid.
I don’t think Mathieu is worth a lucrative long-term contract. However, at this point, perhaps he can be had on a one-year prove-it deal.
Mathieu is a productive playmaker with 27 passes defended, 13 interceptions, four fumble recoveries, three sacks, and 171 total tackles over the past three seasons. He had six passes defended, three interceptions, three fumble recoveries, one sack, and 76 total tackles in 2021.
Mathieu, who will be 30 in May, is also known as an energetic and respected leader in the locker room.
On the downside, Mathieu’s coverage stats aren’t incredible, as he allowed three touchdowns and a 91.4 passer rating last season. I think this drags his value down from “star” to “solid”.
Even if Mathieu is just “solid”, that still makes him an upgrade over what the Jets have. Plus, improving the safety play could also aid the development of the team’s young cornerbacks, namely Sauce Gardner. A corner’s life is a lot easier when he trusts the guys behind him.
Update: After the posting of this article, it was reported that the New Orleans Saints are expected to make an aggressive push for Mathieu.
After failing to land a safety during the draft, the Saints now are expected to re-visit their talks with free-agent Pro-Bowl safety Tyrann Mathieu and make an aggressive push to try to add him to their roster, per sources. Mathieu was born and raised in New Orleans.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 1, 2022
S Jaquiski Tartt
Jaquiski Tartt is a lower-tier safety the Jets can target if they are not interested in shooting high for Mathieu.
Tartt has spent the last seven seasons in San Francisco, playing four of those under Robert Saleh. The 30-year-old veteran has battled injury issues but is a solid deep safety when healthy, allowing only nine touchdowns in his seven career seasons (1.3 per year) and giving up a sub-90.0 passer rating in each of the last three seasons.
Based on his positional alignment rates, I found Tartt to be the 17th-most similarly-used safety in 2021 to Ashtyn Davis (the Jets’ primary free safety) out of 105 qualifiers. So, he’s a fit for the role the Jets would probably ask him to play in Saleh’s scheme.
LB Kwon Alexander
The Jets’ only addition to the linebacker room this offseason has been Marcell Harris, who was the 49ers’ No. 3 linebacker last season in his first year after converting from safety. Harris spent the previous three years playing safety under Saleh.
Linebacker is still a weakness for New York. C.J. Mosley is locked in as a solid starter but his projected running-mate is Quincy Williams, who is still a wildly inconsistent player despite showing some intriguing flashes last year. The Jets also have 2021 day-three picks Jamien Sherwood and Hamsah Nasirildeen ready to compete.
New York could end up simply banking on its young players to compete for playing time, hoping that they can take leaps and benefit from playing behind a potentially-improved defensive line. However, they could also opt to add some more veteran reliability to avoid having to rely on unproven youngsters if they are not ready.
The Jets met with Kwon Alexander in mid-April, although nothing came to fruition. They signed Harris afterward, so it’s unclear if the Jets are still considering Alexander. The 27-year-old is a 6-foot-1, 227-pound speedster who can play WILL in the 4-3. He played under Saleh with the 49ers from 2019 to 2020 and was with the Saints last year.