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Which unheralded NY Jets offseason move will be most impactful?

Chuck Clark, NY Jets, NFL, Safety
Chuck Clark, New York Jets, Getty Images

The New York Jets made several more minor moves that could have a major impact

When looking at the New York Jets’ offseason moves so far, it’s easy to get caught up in the splash moves. Signing Tyron Smith and Mike Williams certainly fall into that category, as well as trading for Haason Reddick. Losing Bryce Huff and Quinton Jefferson and trading John Franklin-Myers fall on the negative side of the scoresheet but were also major and flashy.

However, for a team with Super Bowl aspirations, there are less splashy moves that could still make a major difference. Here are a few that could tilt the scales for the Jets in one direction or another.

Trading for Morgan Moses

This move needs to be the starting point because of how incredible a job it was by Joe Douglas. He raided the Ravens’ deep cabinet for the second consecutive season and came out with a steal for a bargain price.

Coming into the offseason, it seemed like it would be impossible for the Jets to find two impact tackles in free agency, to the point that some expected the Jets to move Alijah Vera-Tucker to tackle permanently. Instead, in acquiring Morgan Moses, the Jets got a legitimate above-average starting tackle for just a $5.5 million cap hit.

These are Moses’ pass-blocking stats in 2023, coupled with a 77.2 Pro Football Focus run-blocking grade (87th percentile). This came while playing with a torn pec for much of the season.

Signing John Simpson

While many former Ravens do not necessarily have success with their future teams, John Simpson has a chance to break that trend.

Simpson’s 4.2% pressure rate ranked in the 74th percentile among guards, while his 56.9 PFF run-blocking grade ranked in the 37th percentile. Simpson’s film suggests he is a better run-blocker than his statistics show, in line with his reputation as a mauler. Furthermore, as an excellent puller, he will fit perfectly in the Jets’ revamped gap scheme.

The best part about signing Simpson was the bargain cost. While other mediocre guards signed contracts with an APY between $15-20 million (see: Jonah Jackson with the Rams), Simpson’s APY is just $6 million. This signing was the exact opposite of the Laken Tomlinson one: rather than signing a somewhat overrated guard for an inflated price, they signed a somewhat underrated guard for a pittance.

Re-signing Chuck Clark

If the trade for Moses was good, Douglas’ move in the 2023 offseason to acquire Chuck Clark for a seventh-round pick was even better. Unfortunately, Clark tore his ACL during OTAs, depriving New York Jets fans of the opportunity to see just how underrated he is. Still, Douglas knew what he had in Clark and re-signed him to a $2 million deal. Coming off a severe injury at 29 years old, that’s an expected price tag, but Clark could be so much more valuable.

Clark’s sure-handed tackling and excellent tackling angles will be a massive upgrade over Jordan Whitehead. Coupling that with Clark’s superior coverage against tight ends, the Jets could close their biggest defensive weakness from 2023.

There is some concern that the ACL tear will affect Clark. Still, his best traits have always been his instincts and smarts on the field rather than elite athleticism, making it more likely that he can return smoothly from the injury. Furthermore, unlike players who tear their ACLs during the season (like Mike Williams and Breece Hall), Clark will be almost 16 months removed from his injury by the time the season starts, giving him ample time to get back to full form.

The Jets’ secondary was already elite with below-average safety play. If Clark could elevate the position from disastrous to average, the ceiling of the defense would be even higher.

Allowing Will McDonald a bigger role

The Jets made a flurry of big moves that pushed Will McDonald into a bigger role. Still, I think the Jets wanted to give McDonald a bigger role in the defense, which is a big part of why they made the moves they did. Many Jets fans see McDonald’s increased role as an unfortunate byproduct of losing Bryce Huff and John Franklin-Myers, but I think it was at least somewhat intentional.

The Jets could have chosen less of a hardline stance on Franklin-Myers’ contract before trading him, but they wanted to clear the path forward for McDonald — though his cheaper price obviously had a lot to do with it.

I think the intentionality of the Jets’ EDGE moves has gone under the radar. It could end up critical for the Jets’ future — and I think it will be a lot more positive than some fans fear.

Replacing Al Woods with Leki Fotu

Replacing Quinton Jefferson with Javon Kinlaw is a source of endless discussion. That has left Al Woods’ replacement, Leki Fotu, completely under the radar. Jets fans tend to underestimate the impact Woods had in the run game before his injury. Therefore, it’s easy to overlook the effect Fotu will have and to think that getting more athletic means getting better production.

Unfortunately, Fotu’s athleticism has not translated into run-stopping ability at the NFL level thus far. He has never exceeded a 40.7 PFF run defense grade in four seasons. The Cardinals averaged only 0.1 fewer yards per carry with him on the field vs. off of it, unlike Woods’ 1.1 differential. He is far too movable in the run game, unlike Woods who was often a brick wall. If the Jets’ run defense suffers in 2023, Fotu may be the chief reason.

There were many other cheap defensive tackles available who could have replaced Woods’ impact. Shelby Harris ($3.5 million), Maurice Hurst ($1.74 million), Jonathan Harris ($1.79 million), and Armon Watts ($2.16 million) are all better run defenders than Fotu and cost roughly the same as Fotu’s $2.38 million.

Frankly, the Jets probably could have found a mid-to-late round defensive tackle pick with more potential against the run than Fotu. A player like Khristian Boyd (No. 199) could have fit the bill. But for some reason, the Jets valued Fotu’s athleticism at 334 pounds over his lack of stoutness in the run game. It could come back to bite them.

Drafting Olu Fashanu

It’s hard to call drafting a player in the first round unheralded, but I consider the Olu Fashanu pick to be so because of the way it was criticized in some segments of the media. Taking a non-starting player at No. 11 overall is foolish to some, but it could pay tremendous dividends when Tyron Smith inevitably gets hurt.

Even if Fashanu is a somewhat below average player as a rookie (as most first-round tackles are), having Fashanu instead of Carter Warren or Max Mitchell could save the Jets games,

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