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Potential future NY Jets to watch in the Super Bowl

Nick Allegretti
Nick Allegretti

Some members of the 2024 New York Jets could be on the field today

When you’re a die-hard New York Jets fan, you’re looking at every major NFL event with an eye toward how it impacts the Jets’ fortunes. Whether it’s something as small as a random Cardinals-Panthers game that might affect the Jets’ strength-of-schedule tiebreaker in the draft or something as big as Super Bowl LVIII, it’s always about the green and white.

Most people in America will be watching tonight’s game to see whether the Chiefs will go back-to-back or if the 49ers will finally get over the hump. Maybe they’re just watching to see the commercials (which have been awful for years now). It’s also possible they’re tuning in to see what Usher has in store.

But the crazies in Jetsland will be watching to scout a handful of free-agents-to-be who could soon be joining New York’s Super Bowl hunt alongside Aaron Rodgers.

Here are a few impending free agents to watch tonight.

Chiefs RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire

After Breece Hall, the only running back on the Jets’ roster who has taken an NFL carry is Israel Abanikanda.

While the Jets are high on the 2023 fifth-round pick, he looked extremely raw as a rookie. Abanikanda struggled to impress the coaches enough to overtake a washed-up Dalvin Cook, and when he finally got on the field, he averaged 3.2 yards per carry and lost a fumble.

The Jets will be in the market for running back depth this offseason. They need someone who can produce efficiently with a small volume of touches behind Breece Hall.

This is a role the Jets attempted to fill last offseason with Cook, but that attempt failed miserably. I expect the Jets to attack the free agent RB market once again in 2024. While they could also address the position late in the draft, I think the Jets will prefer to have some experience in the backfield during a season where their goal is to win a championship.

That brings us to Clyde Edwards-Helaire. While the Chiefs’ former first-round pick has not lived up to his potential, he does offer intriguing upside as a backup running back.

Edwards-Helaire has plenty of playoff experience and consistently performs well in the playoffs. He’s played in seven playoff games and has rushed for 220 yards on 38 carries (5.8 yards per carry). Edwards-Helaire ran for at least six yards per carry in four of the six games where he received multiple carries.

While Edwards-Helaire has disappointed as a rusher throughout his regular season career, he has done good things as a receiver and could be utilized as a creative weapon in the passing game. He’s caught 89 passes for 765 yards, seven touchdowns, and 31 first downs in his career.

Since 2020, among the 45 running backs with at least 100 targets, Edwards-Helaire ranks third in the percentage of his targets resulting in a touchdown (5.7%), ninth in receiving success rate (50.8%), and 13th in yards per target (6.3). I’m sure Andy Reid’s masterful play-designing factored into these numbers to some degree, but they are impressive nonetheless.

The Jets sorely lacked pass-catching depth out of the backfield in 2023. Outside of Hall, their second-leading receiver at RB was Cook with 78 yards (5.2 per game). Only the Chargers got fewer yards out of their second-leading receiver at RB. It would be great for the Jets to have a second pass-catching back they can rely upon.

With Jerick McKinnon likely returning tonight from a month-plus absence, Edwards-Helaire will probably be pushed down into the Chiefs’ RB3 spot. He might not play much (there’s a chance he’s inactive).

Still, I think he’s a free agent to keep an eye on. If the Jets are looking for a minimum-cost veteran running back who brings playoff experience, low mileage, and capability as a receiver, he is a nice option to bring in for a competition with Abanikanda (and potentially another RB added late in the draft).

The Packers preferred running backs with impressive receiving skills during Aaron Rodgers’ tenure there, as Rodgers loves throwing into the flat, so I think the Jets will favor pass-catching backs this offseason as they seek to improve the position. That will point them in Edwards-Helaire’s direction if they want to shop at the lowest price tier (which they might have to do considering their tight budget and the lucrative spending they will likely be doing at WR/OL).

Chiefs LT Donovan Smith

I broke down Donovan Smith in greater detail on Friday, so check that out if you want to get the full synopsis of his game.

Smith recently told the media that it would be his “dream” to play for the Jets, who were his childhood team while growing up on Long Island. Smith is the Chiefs’ starting left tackle and has logged 136 career starts at left tackle since he was drafted in 2015, most of those coming for the Buccaneers, whom he played with from 2015 to 2022. Today will mark his second Super Bowl appearance after he defeated Kansas City with Tampa Bay back in Super Bowl LV.

Smith was a solid starting left tackle for the majority of his first seven seasons. Because of the reputation he earned in his prime, his recent quote has stirred up discussion in Jets circles that New York should go after him.

However, these discussions are ignoring the fact that Smith (who will turn 31 this year) has declined immensely over the past two seasons. His struggles for the Bucs in 2022 caused him to land a measly one-year, $3 million deal on the 2023 free agent market. He followed it up by ranking as one of the league’s worst tackles in 2023.

Nonetheless, we know the Jets like to chase big-name veterans and storylines, as they showed us last offseason, so Smith is undoubtedly going to be on their radar – especially after his recent comments. He’s worth watching closely tonight. Keep an eye on No. 79 at left tackle.

Smith has performed better across Kansas City’s three playoff games. Still, he dug such a deep hole with his abysmal regular season production across 25 starts from 2022-23 that I’m not sure a four-game playoff run is enough to salvage his season and make him a legitimate starting option.

Chiefs LG Nick Allegretti

With All-Pro left guard Joe Thuney out, Nick Allegretti will get the start in Thuney’s place. It will be his second consecutive start after filling in for Thuney in the AFC Championship Game.

A seventh-round pick of the Chiefs in 2019, Allegretti has been a valuable backup for Kansas City across his five seasons. In the regular season, he’s played in 74 games with 13 starts. In the playoffs, he’s played in 15 games with four starts. This includes all three games in Kansas City’s 2020 playoff run (culminating in the Super Bowl loss against Tampa Bay) and this year’s AFC Championship Game.

Allegretti has given Kansas City better production than any team could realistically hope for from a backup. In his regular season career, Allegretti has yielded 32 pressures on 720 pass-blocking snaps, which is a pressure rate of 4.4%. That’s solid – it’s below the 2023 league average of 5.2% and would have ranked 26th-best out of 78 qualifiers. He also has a career Pro Football Focus run-blocking grade of 67.0, which would have ranked 19th.

Basically, he’s played like an above-average starter in both phases when called upon.

In the playoffs, it’s been more up-and-down. In Super Bowl LV, when Patrick Mahomes took an infamously high rate of pressure, Allegretti was one of the main culprits, allowing seven pressures. Allegretti also allowed four pressures on 52 pass-blocking snaps against Baltimore two weeks ago.

As he enters unrestricted free agency, tonight will offer Allegretti an opportunity to put his previous playoff struggles behind him and prove to prospective teams that he can show up on the big stage. Because, overall, he carries a really intriguing resume into free agency. He’s only 27 years old with limited mileage on his tires and has played like a top-25 guard when called upon. I could see multiple teams viewing Allegretti as a potential starting option.

The only blemishes on Allegretti’s resume are his playoff performances. If he can answer that question with a big game tonight against San Francisco’s star-studded defensive line, I think he will surprise a lot of people by commanding a starter-level contract in free agency.

Even without a great game tonight, I think his overall body of work is intriguing enough for him to command a high-end backup/low-tier starter type of contract on the free agent market, with the neediest of teams being willing to give him a starting opportunity.

Allegretti has the potential to be an incredible value purchase for somebody out there. He won’t cost too much due to the risk associated with his limited sample size, but his production has been strong and he’s relatively young without much wear-and-tear. Signings like this are a crucial ingredient for championship teams. You can get so much bang for your buck with this kind of player.

This could make him a perfect target for the Jets. They have multiple holes on the offensive line but not enough cap space to spend wildly on every big name. To be successful in their offensive line rebuild, the Jets will have to find some players who outperform the investment that was made in them, and Allegretti is a strong candidate to do that.

Look out for No. 73 at left guard tonight.

49ers RG Jon Feliciano

In his ninth NFL season, Jon Feliciano was a versatile utility man for the 49ers this season, taking snaps at all three interior positions. He started four games at right guard and three at left guard while taking some emergency snaps at center. In the playoffs, Feliciano started at right guard in each of the 49ers’ two victories.

Versatility is something Feliciano, 32, has offered throughout his entire career. He has taken over 800 snaps at all three of left guard (897), center (1,309), and right guard (1,763).

Feliciano’s strength is the run game. He posted a career-high Pro Football Focus run-blocking grade of 87.0 in the 2023 regular season, ranking ninth-best among guards with at least 150 run-blocking snaps.

It seemed like Feliciano was a great fit in the 49ers’ zone-heavy run scheme. Feliciano ranked sixth among guards with 63.2% of his run-blocking snaps being zone plays, per PFF. He dominated on those plays, placing fifth among guards with a 90.0 zone-blocking grade.

Over the previous two seasons, Feliciano played in gap-favoring schemes with the Giants and Bills, and he posted mediocre run-blocking grades of 57.1 and 57.0.

This should make him a good fit with the Jets. While New York had a fairly average zone-gap split in 2023, they are likely to be a zone-heavy team with a healthy Aaron Rodgers. The Packers were a zone-heavy running team when Rodgers and Nathaniel Hackett were together in Green Bay. Hackett probably switched up the plan for the run game after Rodgers got injured.

I don’t foresee the Jets pursuing Feliciano as a starter, but he is a strong option as a backup. He offers experience and versatility while seemingly being an ideal scheme fit. The Jets do already have a versatile backup interior lineman under contract in Wes Schweitzer, but you can never have enough offensive line depth.

Feliciano wears No. 55 and will start at right guard tonight.

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Jets71
Jets71
4 months ago

Your free agents breakdowns have actually given me more hope than I had about he Jets building a quality OL this off-seasons. The FA market seems to be light on big time talent but based on your breakdowns there should be enough options for the Jets to improve their unit. I know it won’t be hard considering last year’s group was a disaster but, there are a number of guys I think they could add to fill a starter role or two and add quality depth.

dudizt
dudizt
4 months ago
Reply to  Jets71

Agreed. The only issue is most depth seems to be on the interior than tackle. Assuming AVT plays guard, we only need 1 starter plus maybe some depth. It’s the tackle market that is bare bones dry and we need two starters and a swing tackle.

Jets71
Jets71
4 months ago
Reply to  dudizt

Right, that’s why I think AVT is the RT. I do believe he mentioned he told Saleh that’s where he’d like to play.

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