The New York Jets still have a lot of work to do
Per the man himself, Aaron Rodgers is going to become a New York Jet at some point in the near future.
But there are still plenty of boxes left to be checked for Jets general manager Joe Douglas.
New York still needs to work on filling all of these holes on the depth chart.
The Jets do not have a center on their roster at the moment. Quite obviously, that makes this position the top priority.
Backup center Dan Feeney signed with the Miami Dolphins. Starting center Connor McGovern remains a free agent.
The center market has been mostly poached. Top targets like Bradley Bozeman, Ethan Pocic, Garrett Bradbury, and Jake Brendel are all off the board.
However, the center market is not looking nearly as lucrative as many expected. Bozeman, Pocic, and Bradbury each fetched only $6 million per year. In comparison, McGovern signed for $9 million per year all the way back in 2020. The market value of this particular offensive line position is seemingly decreasing, while it is skyrocketing at guard and tackle.
Options are running thin, but there are still some available players the Jets can grab to hold down the fort.
Longtime veteran Ben Jones played in Tennessee over the past seven seasons, which means he has plenty of familiarity with the Jets’ offensive line coach/run game coordinator, Keith Carter, and their passing game coordinator, Todd Downing. While Jones is 32 and dealt with concussion issues last season, he has been one of the league’s most productive centers throughout his entire career and remained a very solid player when healthy in 2022.
Graham Glasgow, formerly of the Broncos, is familiar with offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. Glasgow is not as accomplished of a center as Jones, but he does offer guard/center versatility.
2. Offensive tackle
However, none of those players are reliable starting options. Becton has all the potential in the world but is a massive injury risk. Mitchell is a fourth-round pick with plenty to prove before he can be considered a starter-quality player. Brown will soon be 38 years old, fought through injuries all of last season, and is no longer good enough to be considered the caliber of starter you’d want in front of a 40-year-old Aaron Rodgers in a Super Bowl-chasing season.
With Rodgers coming to town, the offensive line should be New York’s number one priority. Other needs on this list can take a back seat if it means the Jets are going all-out to build the best possible unit in front of the aging Rodgers.
Like center, the offensive tackle market has mostly dried up in free agency. Hardly any remaining options… if any, that is… would be considered upgrades over what the Jets currently have.
But the Jets have to do something. Their current trio at tackle is extremely unreliable on the durability front, and even when healthy, do you actually want Duane Brown or Max Mitchell starting in front of Rodgers if you’re trying to win a title? I’d argue the answer is no. Becton can absolutely be a good enough starter to compete for a championship, but, again, his injury risk is undeniable.
The Jets need as much security and overall talent as they can get on the offensive line – specifically at tackle. Perhaps Joe Douglas swings a trade for a player we aren’t thinking of.
It seems Douglas is aware of the Jets’ significant need at this position. The Jets reportedly pursued former Chiefs tackle Orlando Brown before he signed with the Bengals for $16 million per year. This signals that Douglas is seeking a big-time move at the position. Let’s see what else he has in store.
3. Defensive tackle
Outside of Quinnen Williams, the Jets’ defensive tackle depth chart is barren. They re-signed Solomon Thomas yesterday on a one-year deal for $3.9 million, but that hardly solves anything. Thomas struggled mightily last season as he posted a half-sack in 17 games and was a liability against the run.
I already thought the Jets needed to try and find an upgrade over Thomas as the fourth DT on the roster; now, he currently sits there as the No. 2 defensive tackle on the team. Tanzel Smart and Marquiss Spencer are the only other defensive tackles on the team.
New York lost Sheldon Rankins to Houston on a one-year, $10.5 million contract, leaving the starting spot beside Williams vacant.
The Jets need at least two more players at this position, including one starter-quality player.
4. Free safety
Free safety was the weakest position in the Jets’ defensive starting lineup last season. So far, the Jets have yet to make an upgrade there.
Many good options are off the board here, including Jimmie Ward, Jordan Poyer, and Jessie Bates. Even some of the better mid-tier options, like Tashaun Gipson and Juan Thornhill, have been taken.
The Jets do have an intriguing young prospect at free safety in Tony Adams, a 2022 undrafted free agent who shined in two games near the end of his rookie season. However, it would be unwise to rely on Adams based on a two-game sample. His potential is clear, but the Jets need security and competition alongside him.
Braden Mann is coming off a rough season and has been an overall disappointment since the Jets drafted him in 2020. New York needs to at least add competition for Mann after a season in which the struggles of the punting unit were a key factor in multiple one-score losses.
Bringing back Alexander in his role as the Jets’ sub-package linebacker would be fantastic, but considering how well he played last season, it seems likely that he will find a role as an every-down starter with another team.
The Jets have two 2021 day-three draft picks who could step up into this role, Jamien Sherwood and Hamsah Nasirildeen. Under the leadership of two former linebacker coaches in Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich, the Jets have developed a reputation for believing they can coach up the linebacker position and do not have to invest heavily in the unit to get production. If that trend continues, we could absolutely see New York bypass this position on the veteran market and instead choose to groom Sherwood or Nasirildeen for the LB3 role.
7. Wide receiver
With a starting trio of Garrett Wilson, Elijah Moore, and Allen Lazard set in stone – and Corey Davis still on the roster, though Lazard’s entrance makes him a likely trade or cut candidate – the wide receiver position is one of the strongest units on the team and does not need to be upgraded.
However, the Jets can improve their depth at this spot. As things stand, Davis or Lazard would arguably be the best No. 4 receiver in the league, but, as we mentioned, Davis may not stick around. If Davis is traded or released, the Jets need to find a new fourth receiver to solidify the back end of the depth chart.
Beyond Wilson, Moore, Lazard, and Davis, the rest of the Jets’ wide receiver room includes Denzel Mims, Irvin Charles, Malik Taylor, and Diontae Spencer. The latter three players are practice squad guys. Mims remains somewhat interesting as a former second-round pick but he did nothing but botch every opportunity he received over the last two seasons. He cannot be the next man up after one starting receiver goes down. Just imagine how Rodgers would react to some of the baffling mistakes Mims makes.
The Jets are rumored to be interested in Rodgers’ longtime teammate Randall Cobb. He could be a very good option for the fourth receiver role. Cobb would fill the shoes of Braxton Berrios as the backup slot receiver and fourth receiver overall. While Cobb does not provide the same speed as Berrios at this stage of his career, he is still a much better route-runner with significantly better hands.
I also wouldn’t rule out the possibility of New York exploring a trade for a big-time weapon on the trade block, such as DeAndre Hopkins or Mike Evans. Both players could potentially be acquired for less than a first-round pick. In a Super Bowl-chasing season with Aaron Rodgers, why not pick up the phone and see if you could build the most intimidating weaponry possible?
8. Running back
Breece Hall proved he has superstar-caliber potential, but as he comes off an ACL tear, the Jets would be wise to prepare themselves for Hall to take some time before he returns to peak form.
Zonovan Knight showed flashes at times in his rookie season, though the sample size was small and he tailed off near the end of the year. Michael Carter‘s rookie season was very impressive, but in his second year, he was one of the least effective running backs in the NFL.
It wouldn’t be a bad idea to add some competition into this room. The Jets were rumored to have interest in Jamaal Williams before he signed a three-year, $12 million deal with New Orleans. A mid-level veteran back would give the Jets some security at a position that has more question marks than some realize.
This is by no means a primary need – hence why I have it all the way down here in the eighth spot – so if the Jets do nothing at this position prior to the draft, that’s perfectly fine. But it’s a position that remains imperfect and would benefit from an affordable addition.