The glass half empty and half full. If the New York Jets disappointed again, from a purely accounting point of view, in 2021, with a record of 4 wins for 13 losses, the inevitable year of transition has been quite encouraging for the start of the season. Robert Saleh era as head coach. Impacted throughout the past campaign by injuries and the overall inexperience of a large contingent of rookies, the New Yorkers weathered the elements by showing steady improvement on offense and hatching some great finds within from the defensive backfield. Featured in the top 5 of the teams with the most salary margin at the start of the offseason, and enjoying four choices in the top 40 of the next draft, Joe Douglas and his front office must now rebuild effectively to definitively leave the bottom of the AFC East division.
- CJ Mosley (LB)
- Quinnen Williams (DT)
- Elijah Moore (WR)
With nearly 30 points on average conceded in 2021, the Jets were the worst defense in this area in the league. However, we cannot say that their two stars CJ Mosley and Quinnen Williams were unworthy. Admittedly, the defensive lineman has not confirmed his good dispositions for 2020, but his deterrent force remains an asset on the first curtain. As for Mosley, finally active after two years without playing (for injury and Covid withdrawal), the best tackler of his family has fully confirmed the big contract offered when he arrived in the Big Apple. It would be surprising if defensive specialist Robert Saleh didn’t build around these two men. In attack, the safe bets are less quantifiable, but Elijah Moore has already seized his chance on a receiving position hit by physical glitches. With 538 yards and 5 touchdowns, he was Zach Wilson’s most productive target in 2021, and showed an ability to be dangerous in any area of the field.
- Sheldon Rankins (DT)
- Denzel Mims (WR)
What to expect from Denzel Mims now? On a position, as we said, able to leave possibilities for substitutes, the former second round of Baylor seemed out of the game and is still chasing his very first career touchdown. Drafted under the Adam Gase era, he should not be defended tooth and nail by the current coaching staff if decisions have to be made during training camps. For Sheldon Rankins, it is above all a financial point of view. His certain versatility on the rotation wanted by Saleh and his defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich is not insignificant, but at six million a season, and with the big contracts of Carl Lawson and Josh-Franklin Myers at his side, he could be a shame collateral if the Jets find better value (by the draft?).
Speaking of big contract, that of tackle George Fant, who is around ten million contract, is cumbersome, but the former Seahawks was able to compensate for the absence of Mekhi Becton and be full of resources on the left side. Parting with it would therefore be risky, especially since New York has a minimum margin on the salary cap.
The summer man
Zach Wilson (QB)
It’s hard not to focus on the Jets quarterback, as he was the symbol of this two-faced team, in 2021. In full doubt for his debut in the big league, lost between mental flaws and poor execution, to the point to align 9 interceptions on his first 6 outings, Wilson seemed to regain confidence as soon as he returned from injury at the end of November. In the wake of his coordinator, Mike LaFleur, more inspired after gaining height in the stands, the former BYU diamond was able to limit youthful errors while taking advantage of life-saving mobility, with five passing touchdowns and four races in the in-goal during his best period. Insufficient to offset his overall record for the season (9 TDs, 11 picks) but intriguing enough to hint at the potential that made him the second pick of the 2021 draft. New York fans hope so: with a more experienced and above all a less fragile line around him, the prospects can be more encouraging. But a good season will still have to go first and foremost through its good performance…
The main free agents
- Marcus Maye (S)
- Jamison Crowder (WR)
- Braxton Berrios (WR)
- Morgan Moses (OT)
- Foley Fatukasi (DT)
The case of Marcus Maye no longer leaves much room for doubt, the safety having long wanted elsewhere, but having been injured just before the last period of exchanges. The mission will therefore surely be to replace him. The position of receiver will also be a thorny case, with three players at the end of the contract, the hardworking Jamison Crowder, the explosive Braxton Berrios and the third thief Keelan Cole. Re-signing at least one man from this trio (Berrios, who enjoys great popularity?) seems a minimum. On the lines, Morgan Moses provided a good interim in attack, but will not be the priority with the return of injured. In defense, Foley Fatukasi has, due to his complete profile, often been called upon by Jeff Ulbrich. An advantage over Nathan Shepherd, especially useful on the pass rush.
Top 5 Needs
- Receiver / Tight end
- defensive line
- offensive line
Despite the progress observed in the second part of the season, there are still many needs on the side of the Big Apple. The priority would undoubtedly be at the level of defense against the pass. 33 sacks is the total balance this year, taking into account the white year of Carl Lawson, the glamorous arrival of the last free agency. Given the number of interesting draft picks and a significant crop of edge rushers, it would be a shame not to consider this possibility to find a lineman with ten sacks that the Jets have not known since Muhammad Wilkerson. The defensive backfield surprised, especially on the outside, but a veteran cornerback, able to provide leadership, as well as a more comfortable safety to pick the balls (7 interceptions in 2021, only the Raiders have done less well) would be a plus. Finally, surrounding Zach Wilson effectively is a top priority. Why not provide him with a more skilful tight end at reception? Or by reinforcing a pro pass sometimes below everything, with 53 conceded sacks?
Tyrann Mathieu (S)
Pro Bowler for the third time in his career, in 2021, Tyrann Mathieu has an intriguing profile for the AFC East franchise: the experience of major events, versatility in passing and running and the ability to cause turnover. With a last contract at 14 million for the season, it is not said that the Chiefs are ready to align themselves with a franchise tag or other jousting offers, and New York would have every interest in filling a position left to be permanently orphaned by Marcus Maye. Against the pass, Mathieu has collected 6 passes defended and 3 interceptions this season. That’s more than the two current safeties on the roster combined, Ashtyn Davis and Elijah Riley. There is no doubt that his leadership would do the greatest good in a locker room, given the incredible youth of the current group (only five players aged 29 or over, still under contract at the end of the season).
The new blood
Trey McBride (TE)
During the last Senior Bowl, the coaching staffs of the Detroit Lions and the New York Jets were in charge of the future prospects of the last university year. With an increased role given to the assistants, it was also the coach of the New York tight ends, Ron Middleton, who was in charge of the “national” squad. And there is no doubt that the main interested party had to appreciate the beautiful week of Trey McBride on the side of Mobile. Overall complete, despite a technique that could be improved but far from being prohibitive, the player from Colorado State is the player who climbs in the hierarchy, thanks to his ability to be respected on the line of engagement and in aerial duels . Author of 1,121 yards and a touchdown in 2021, he was the beacon in the horrible offense of the Rams throughout the season, to the point of being named best tight end of the year in College Football. Surprisingly athletic, the one who played green in college (well, well…) has the assets to bring speed and character to an NFL attack that needs it. If he is still available, probably at the start of the second round, Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh will soon pick up their phones.
Alternative : Evan Neal (OL), Treylon Burks (WR), Boye Mafe (DE)