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New York Jets ultimate free agency preview

Connor Rogers



December 31, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde (28) runs the ball against the Los Angeles Rams during the first half at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

It has been consistently described as a monumental offseason not only for Mike Maccagnan and the front office, but for the Jets franchise as a whole. How many starter holes can they fill? Can they knock out the most important one in quarterback, something that has eluded the franchise for what feels like forever?

There will be plenty of marquee names on the market in each position group. Let’s break down the biggest Jets need, who’s available and who to target in the ultimate free agency preview.


Potential targets:

  • Kirk Cousins
  • Josh McCown
  • Teddy Bridgewater
  • Case Keenum
  • A.J. McCarron

It’s no secret, the golden boy of this group is Kirk Cousins and if you’ve had a pulse for the last few weeks you’re well aware the Jets are very interested. If the team lands Cousins, it rapidly speeds up the rebuild for the future and sets a key foundation in place to compete in the AFC. Now if they don’t, what’s the plan?

Bringing back Josh McCown makes a ton of sense. He’s adored in the locker room, a great mentor and played very well last year. The Jets can take a quarterback in the first round and McCown would help, rather than being angry about a potential replacement coming along.

The under-the-radar option here is Teddy Bridgewater because of his upside, but his durability has to be a serious concern for a general manager on his last roll of the dice to solidify the position.

Case Keenum will most likely be a stop gap option for a team looking to compete but in need of a serious quarterback upgrade (hello Denver or Arizona). A.J. McCarron is loved by Hue Jackson and while the Browns will draft a quarterback, they’d probably like to have someone in place to let the rookie sit and learn. Neither of these options make any sense for the Jets/

Running back

Potential targets:

  • Carlos Hyde
  • Jerrick McKinnon
  • Doug Martin
  • Isaiah Crowell
  • Frank Gore
  • Dion Lewis
  • Alfred Morris
  • Jeremy Hill

Let’s get out in front on something: paying running backs is a dangerous game, paying older running backs is nearly insane. After cutting Matt Forte, the Jets should avoid Doug Martin, Frank Gore and Alfred Morris on this list. Carlos Hyde has really flashed at times, but can you rely on him to be healthy for a full season?

Jeremy Hill is only 25, but he’s struggled in the three years after his great rookie season. Isaiah Crowell has been very average for the Browns, but at 25 he could be a value option on a one or two year deal. Both Dion Lewis and Jerrick McKinnon fit the offense perfectly if the team is looking to move on from Bilal Powell, especially McKinnon who brings both speed and a pass catching element to the offense.

The 2018 running back class for the draft is star studded and has depth. The Jets should feel comfortable landing an impact runner from that group, but in a league full of committee’s they should try to land one of the latter three mentioned as well.

Wide receiver

Potential targets:

  • Allen Robinson
  • Sammy Watkins
  • Albert Wilson
  • Paul Richardson
  • Donte Moncrief
  • Terrelle Pryor

Quincy Enunwa, Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse are a very solid wide receiver trio, making this debatable if it’s a top tier need. It would be a surprise if the Jets throw huge money at Allen Robinson or Sammy Watkins (they’ll get it from someone), but they do have the cash to do it.

Wilson and Richardson are intriguing tier 2 options if they need depth. Moncrief never lived up to expectations for the Colts and Pryor was a disaster in Washington last year. Both would be flyers and depth signings, but will probably sign elsewhere for bigger roles.


Potential targets:

  • Ryan Jensen
  • Weston Richburg
  • Spencer Long
  • Travis Swanson

Ryan Jensen is the cream of the crop in this group and one of the better overall free agents available in 2018. While the center class is strong in this year’s draft, this is a need the Jets should solve in free agency right away. They have big money and landing Jensen, who moves well to the second level of the run game while being a reliable pass protector, would give a big boost to Jeremy Bates and Rick Dennison’s offensive line.

As for the next tier of options, both Richburg and Swanson would help but they come with injury risk. At the end of the day, both are significant upgrades over Wesley Johnson, who immensely struggled last year.

Spencer Long also missed a ton of time in 2017 (was put on IR after seven games), but his talent and chemistry with Kirk Cousins would make the Washington pairing in New York very intriguing if the team can’t land Jensen.


Potential targets:

  • Demario Davis
  • Brian Cushing
  • Kevin Minter
  • Avery Williamson
  • Jon Bostic
  • Paul Posluszny
  • Kevin Pierre-Louis

A relatively uninspiring group at a position that has become less valued overall in the NFL, the ideal scenario for the Jets would be bringing back Demario Davis. If his market is too high, the team could look elsewhere.

Similarly to the running back portion of this piece, a combination of a signing and draft pick (in a great 2018 group) could be the best attack here. Avery Williamson is a very stout two-down linebacker and one of the rare young options on the list. Christian Jones was a pleasant surprise for the Bears in 2017 and very productive. Much like Williamson, he could be a value signing on a short term deal.

Brian Cushing and Paul Posluszny’s best days are behind them, making them one year stop gap players¬†at best. Kevin Minter offered very little in 2017, while Jon Bostic and Kevin Pierre-Louis are reserve players.


Potential targets:

  • Trumaine Johnson
  • Malcolm Butler
  • E.J. Gaines
  • Morris Claiborne
  • Patrick Robinson

One could argue this need is as vital as quarterback, as the cornerbacks are the cogs to the engine of Todd Bowles defense. Unfortunately for the Jets, they don’t have much at the position. Buster Skrine can hold down the slot for now, but on the outside are two complete question marks.

Trumaine Johnson will get a huge deal, presumably from San Francisco where the rumors have already heated up. Malcolm Butler struggled this year and the Super Bowl benching debacle was not the best way to go out. If you can sign him to a short term deal (guaranteed money within the first two years only), this one makes sense.

E.J. Gaines, Morris Claiborne and Patrick Robinson all had huge redemption years in 2017. Gaines missed the 2015 season due to a Lisfranc injury and some time in 2016 due to a thigh injury, but when he’s on the field he’s an extremely solid starter. Claiborne has also battled injuries his entire career, but for the most part he was a very productive player in Bowles system last year and makes sense to bring back.

Patrick Robinson has bounced around the league since being a first round pick of the Saints in 2010, but was a big factor in the Eagles secondary that held up a Super Bowl Trophy at season’s end. He’ll turn 31 in September, which makes a pairing with the Jets seem highly unlikely. Expect the Jets to be aggressive in filling this need during the draft, but they certainly need to come away with at least one free agent signing at cornerback.

Connor Rogers is an NFL Draft Analyst and video producer for Bleacher Report, an NFL writer for USA Today's The Jets Wire, and a NFL Draft and Jets writer for Today's Pigskin. He graduated from the University of Albany majoring in business while specializing in the marketing field. He is also a former USAPL competitor.