The New York Jets still have some moves to make to fill holes on their 2023 roster
Still, there are moves to be made and players to sign (and let go). Holes remain on this roster, spots where the depth chart has not been solidified just yet. There are also financial decisions that will need to be made.
Here are some moves the Jets should make to shape their roster for 2023.
Re-sign Kwon Alexander
Joe Douglas said in his post-draft press conference that the Jets are open to a reunion with Kwon Alexander. While they did draft Zaire Barnes in the sixth round, he profiles as a special teamer more than a base linebacker right now.
Alexander didn’t initially sign with the Jets until late July 2022. They did not have their third linebacker for their base package until then. The team doesn’t seem to be in a rush.
Still, after Alexander made just the $1.12 million veteran minimum in 2022. He’s likely going to want somewhat of a raise. A deal in the $2-3 million range should be enough to bring him back.
Sign Al Woods
The Jets did not draft another defensive tackle to start alongside Quinnen Williams. They still have not fully replaced the role that Sheldon Rankins played last season.
The team brought in Al Woods for a visit prior to the draft. They ended up signing his former Seahawks teammate, Quinton Jefferson, to fill the pass-rushing role vacated by Rankins. Now, the Jets should sign the run-stuffing part of that duo.
Jets fans spent most of the 2022 offseason begging the team to sign a space-eating defensive tackle. The Jets did not do that but still tied for sixth-best with 4.2 yards per carry allowed and ranked 10th overall in rush defense DVOA.
To ensure that their run defense is still strong, the Jets need a big man in the middle. Woods would fill that role. Now that the team did not draft another DT, Woods is the presumed man for the job.
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Sign John Johnson III
The Jets did not draft a true safety this year. The only defensive back they took was sixth-rounder Jarrick Bernard-Converse, who did play some free safety in college but was mainly a cornerback. They also signed Trey Dean III as an undrafted free agent, but he played 47.7% of his snaps in the box last season at Florida vs. 34.8% deep. That leaves Tony Adams as the only true free safety on the Jets’ roster.
Although the Jets may like Adams’ upside as a starter a lot more than you’d expect for an undrafted free agent, the team’s depth is still perilously thin at the deep safety position. Jordan Whitehead and Chuck Clark are both box safeties, and Whitehead has been putrid as a single-high safety throughout his career. Clark struggles in two-deep zone.
There are still veteran safety options on the free-agent market. John Johnson III, formerly of the Browns, is the most obvious option. Compare how Cleveland aligned Johnson in 2022 to how the Jets utilized Lamarcus Joyner, their free safety.
- Joyner: 73.3% deep, 14.0% box, 10.4% slot, 2.1% edge, 0.2% outside CB
- Johnson: 65.2% deep, 23.7% box, 9.7% slot, 0.9% edge, 0% outside CB
In 2022, Johnson allowed 22-for-38 completions, a 57.9% rate that ranked sixth-best out of 67 qualified safeties (min. 375 cover snaps). His QB rating against was 77.7, which ranked 15th. In run defense, his 2.6% stop rate ranked 30th, but his 19.4% missed tackle rate tied for 56th (with Joyner).
Johnson may not be an ideal safety, but his numbers suggest that he can do a decent job on the backend and switch off with Adams. In a small sample size, Adams appeared to be a far better tackler in the run game, which might suggest that he would get more snaps on early downs.
Adrian Amos might be the name most familiar to Jets fans, but he is a strong safety. Here is his snap count breakdown from 2022 compared to Whitehead’s and Clark’s.
- Amos: 45.3% deep, 37.9% box, 14.3% slot, 1.2% edge, 1.2% outside CB
- Whitehead: 54.6% deep, 32.0% box, 10.8% slot, 1.7% edge, 1.0% outside CB
- Clark: 45.3% deep, 29.6% box, 15.6% slot, 6.8% edge, 2.8% outside CB
In other words, Amos’ skills would be redundant in the Jets’ defensive scheme. They already have two starting-caliber safeties who are utilized similarly. What they need is a deep safety, not one who plays primarily in the box.
Move Carl Lawson or John Franklin-Myers
Now that the Jets drafted Will McDonald IV in the first round, they have an abundance of edge rushers. As much as they like to rotate their defensive linemen, there simply aren’t enough snaps to go around.
In 2022, this is how the Jets deployed their six-man edge rotation in terms of snap counts:
- Carl Lawson 58.26%
- John Franklin-Myers 56.5%
- Jermaine Johnson 27.42%
- Micheal Clemons 27.33%
- Bryce Huff 16.78%
- Vinny Curry 16.26%
(They also had Jacob Martin for the first half of the season; he accounted for 13.44% of the Jets’ edge snaps.)
The Jets have many specialized edge players but few who carry a complete skillset. Still, it’s a waste to have drafted back-to-back first-rounders who are going to remain specialized. In 2023, at the bare minimum, Johnson should be getting more snaps.
The only way to shift this rotation is to move one of Lawson or Franklin-Myers, but in different ways. Lawson’s $15.7 million cap hit will almost entirely disappear upon release or trade. He was always a candidate to be moved, and with McDonald coming on board, he’s going to be taking away potential snaps from as many as four younger players.
The Jets could also choose to shift JFM inside on a more frequent basis, which would open up edge snaps. Franklin-Myers played about two-thirds of his snaps from the edge and one-third inside last season. If the Jets flipped that number, 18.6% of their edge snaps would open up for other players, specifically Johnson on earlier downs.
Technically, the team could decide to do both. Saleh strongly stated at the owners’ meetings in Arizona that the Jets love Lawson and want to keep him. Still, between the amount of cap space and snaps that Lawson is eating up, keeping him is hard to justify. They could choose to trade Lawson and also move JFM inside more often.
Possibly sign Cam Fleming
Even though the Jets re-signed Cedric Ogbuehi and drafted Carter Warren, that should not necessarily preclude them from building their tackle depth as much as possible. Cam Fleming could be a significant upgrade to the Jets’ tackle depth.
Fleming posted a 4.63% pressure rate in 2022, which was in the 69th percentile among 70 qualified tackles (min. 250 pass block snaps). He did post a 1.98% sack plus hit rate (39th percentile), but his 8.1% true pass set pressure rate was still in the 60th percentile. Overall, the pressure he allowed was more detrimental to his team’s offense than average, as evidenced by his seven sacks allowed, but he was still better than average at keeping the pressure at bay.
Ogbuehi, Max Mitchell, and even Duane Brown posted worse numbers in 2022 as a whole. Mekhi Becton’s rookie numbers (5.58% pressure rate, 1.94% sack plus hit rate, 9.6% true pass set pressure rate) were also mostly worse. Carter Warren’s college career numbers (5.3% pressure rate, 0.8% sack plus hit rate, 7.6% true pass set pressure rate) would suggest that he is unlikely to be an upgrade in his rookie season.
Fleming would still be a good signing for the right price, as he could ensure that Alijah Vera-Tucker remains inside even if injuries occur.
Extend Quinnen Williams
This may well be the first factor to be resolved rather than the last. The Jets do need to get Rodgers’ contract straightened out first, as the way the Packers restructured it leaves his cap hit at $1.165 million in 2023 and $107.55 million in 2024. However, once they got that squared away, Quinnen Williams‘ extension should be the next order of business.
There have been a number of defensive tackles paid this offseason, but Williams’ production exceeded theirs. He was a first-team All-Pro and the team MVP. Jets players are already clamoring for Big Q to be taken care of financially.
Realistically, the contract numbers were always going to be around the $25 million per year range. None of the contracts signed this offseason change that. The main points of negotiation will be surrounding guaranteed money, both how much and when it will take effect.
This deal should not be so complicated to negotiate given the relatively narrow parameters surrounding it. Four years, roughly $100 million, and around $66 million guaranteed would do it. Restructuring Williams’ fifth-year option into the extension could also give the Jets roughly $3 million in extra cap space.
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