Safety seemed to be one of the New York Jets’ needs in free agency
“Robert Saleh does not value cornerbacks in his defensive system.”
All the pundits who stated that ate their words after the New York Jets gave nice money to D.J. Reed in free agency, then doubled down on the cornerback position with Sauce Gardner at No. 4 overall in the draft.
However, it appears that they weren’t wrong about the lack of value, just the position—and perhaps the decision-maker, as well. Based on Joe Douglas‘ tendencies in his time as Jets GM, it is apparent that he does not value safeties.
Douglas track record
Douglas’ disdain for safeties was evident almost immediately when he traded Jamal Adams and refused to give Marcus Maye a long-term deal. Although he checked in on Marcus Williams last offseason, he opted for the cheaper rental in Jordan Whitehead, whose services he could easily move on from after one year, if desired.
In 2022, the Jets’ weakest defensive link was arguably their safety unit. Lamarcus Joyner and Whitehead were bad in both the run and pass game, responsible for many of the chunk plays the team gave up in both areas. They turned small gains into big ones with poor coverage angles, bad tackling, and horrendous reads.
After all that, the Jets have made a lone move for a safety thus far this offseason, and it was on the trade market. While giving up a seventh-round pick in 2024 for Chuck Clark was another low-key positive addition by Douglas, it does not solve the team’s need for a true deep safety.
If the season started today, the Jets would be rolling out two box safeties, Whitehead and Clark, as their defensive backfield duo. Meanwhile, they played two-high among the most of all defenses in the NFL in 2022, specifically quarters coverage.
They like what they have
Although Whitehead’s statistics and film from 2022 were unimpressive, to say the least, it appears that the Jets still like him. They can save $7.2 million cap dollars by releasing him but have yet to do so. Meanwhile, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, perhaps the best coverage safety on the market, took a one-year prove-it deal with the Lions for $8.5 million.
As far as Clark is concerned, he should be an upgrade in two areas: tackling and covering tight ends. Perhaps the Jets think that’s enough to cover his other weaknesses in coverage since it is an upgrade over Joyner, who did not do those things well, either.
Furthermore, it is possible that the team trusts Tony Adams more than they have let on. Adams started a couple of games at the end of the season with Joyner injured, and he showed some of the deep-safety skills that the Jets could use.
Adams was an undrafted free agent who they kept on the roster over Jason Pinnock, who is now possibly going to be the Giants’ starting free safety heading into 2023. With the potential Pinnock had already shown the previous season, the Jets clearly valued Adams a lot if they chose him over Pinnock.
Adams has the versatility that the Jets often prefer in their safeties. He can play both safety positions as well as the slot corner. So can Clark. Perhaps the team believes they have their guys.
With Gardner-Johnson off the market and the Jets not having been linked to the lone remaining surefire starting free safety on the market, Taylor Rapp, it seems that the team is truly ready to roll with their current cache of safeties.
It is possible that the team brings in a veteran on a cheap contract and likely that they also draft a safety in the middle rounds. However, with the trade for Aaron Rodgers in the balance, there is a possibility that the Jets will have more needs than picks in the middle rounds.
Douglas can also try to trade Corey Davis, Carl Lawson, Bryce Hall, Denzel Mims, and/or Whitehead to recoup some more mid-to-late round draft capital. There are questions about how much the team can even get for some or all of those players and if Douglas would even want to trade them, but the man’s been linked to trade discussions for Braden Mann.
If anyone can get the most for his players in a trade, it’s Douglas.
This free agency period has been a somewhat befuddling one for Jets fans. In the case of the safety market, though, the team’s lack of moves might not have been expected, but there is still a discernible plan at the position.
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