By Vincent Fodera @Fodera80
The New York Jets and rookie GM Joe Douglas have a pivotal offseason ahead of them. In a few days, the first steps will be made in what can either be the start of a new era of prosperity or the continuation of what’s now been a decade of disappointment. One thing we do know is that come Training Camp, this roster will look very different than what it looks like now, as the team will be forced to fill a lot of starting holes and Douglas will have his first opportunity to build the team he envisions. With no history to refer to, we can only speculate on the direction this offseason will go, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do here. With the current state of the roster and what we do know of Douglas’ background, let’s explore stage by stage what this offseason may hold in store.
Internal Roster Moves
With 28 expiring contracts on the roster, there are a lot of decisions to be made here. As far as assets go, the team currently has approximately $49.4M in cap space, as well as eight draft selections (Picks 11, 48, 68, 79, 120, 158, 191, and 211). Before we get into the details, let’s take a look at the depth chart, as it stands now at the time of writing this:
WR Robby Anderson, 4 Years $48M - $8M 2020 Cap Hit: Robby Anderson is Sam Darnold’s favorite receiver and is the lone home run threat on the roster. He’s a homegrown talent, still young, has shown steady improvement each year, and has endeared himself to the fanbase with his personality. This is the exact kind of player that you do not let walk away. Support your 22-year-old franchise QB, don’t take away his weapons.
CB Brian Poole, 3 Years $24M - $6M 2020 Cap Hit: Statistically, Poole was one of the best Nickel corners in the entire league last year. In this day and age where Nickel has essentially become the base package, having a great NCB is more important than ever. This defense really gelled last year, and I’d try to do as little as possible to break that up. Aside from that, the Jets CB situation is pretty awful, so losing the best one you’ve got would be a pretty big blow.
RB Bilal Powell, 1 Year $1M - $1M 2020 Cap Hit: This is basically just re-upping on the contract he signed last year. At 31 years old, going into his 9th year with the Jets, Powell provides decent value as depth behind Bell and showed last year there's still a bit of juice in those legs (thanks to years of being criminally underused by Todd Bowles, no doubt). This is a low risk, low reward kind of move that steadies the backfield depth and keeps a veteran leader in the locker room.
P Lac Edwards, 4 Years $9M - $2.25M 2020 Cap Hit: Decent punters aren’t too easy to come by, so it makes sense to keep Edwards on. The Ausie’s done a good job here the past few years, and your odds of finding a cheaper option with comparable skills are slim unless you draft one, which I don't believe to be a wise investment given the Jets abundance of needs to fill. I rather not try to get “lucky” and find a cheap diamond in the rough as a UDFA, the odds aren’t so high for a position that can be an asset.
Restricted Free Agents
LB James Burgess, 1 Year $800K - $800K 2020 Cap Hit: Burgess filled in admirably for the Jets during their unbelievable rash of injuries to the LB position last year. His success may be a bit overstated as a street free agent who played at a passable level and even started a few games. He knows the defense well, and deserves a spot on the roster in 2020. I don’t think he’s worth the UDFA tender price, so I think he’ll be non-tendered and resigned at a lower cost.
CB Arthur Maulet, 2 Years $2M - $900K 2020 Cap Hit: Much the same as Burgess above, Maulet was impressive as an emergency starter and deserves a reward and roster spot for his 2019 contribution. He’s not likely to develop into a full-time starter, but he’s excellent depth to have in the short term as the team looks to rebuild their secondary.
LBs Frankie Luvu & B.J. Bello, K Sam Ficken, CB Bennett Jackson, and G Leo Koloamatangi, ERFA Tender - $585K to $660K 2020 Cap Hit Each: I’m lumping in all of the ERFA players because there’s not much to say about them and the decision to bring them back is pretty straight forward. They’ll be making the league minimum and they have no bargaining power to negotiate. They’re mainly depth for training camp.
G Brian Winters, $7.25M 2020 Cap Savings: Yes, the Jets offensive line is already almost nonexistent. Yes, this creates a new hole to fill. But the facts of the matter are that Brian Winters didn't play like a starting Guard last year and that $7.25M in cap space is better off going to a player that can be a real contributor in 2020.
CB Darryl Roberts, $6M 2020 Cap Savings: Much the same situation as Winters, the Jets gave Roberts a (deservedly at the time) starting salary contract after a very nice 2018, but watched him regress into a total liability in 2019. Yes CB depth is thin as it is, but that money can be used on a replacement.
CB Trumaine Johnson, $3M 2020 Cap Savings: One of the worst free-agent signings in team history, Johnson has been a disappointment since he first started wearing green on Sundays. Again, it digs them in a deeper hole at CB, but he’s a liability and a waste of a roster spot at this point. Depending on the new CBA, the Jets may actually be able to get more than the $3M in cap relief that they what get under the current agreement.
WR Josh Bellamy, $1M 2020 Cap Savings: For whatever reason, the Jets made Bellamy a priority signing on the first day of free agency last year. It didn't make sense then and it doesn't make sense now. He didn't contribute anything to the offense, and he was just kind of average on special teams. There's better options for his roster spot.
Here’s a look at our updated Depth Chart going into free agency after the moves we made internally. After the above cuts and signings, the team sits with about $43.5M in cap space:
As Joe Douglas enters his first free agency as an NFL GM, he’s in control of a roster with no starting offensive linemen and no starting pass rushers, with enough cap space for just a few starters. He’ll have to get creative, and maybe take a few risks.
LT Jason Peters (PHI), 1 Year $8M - $8M 2020 Cap Hit: I’m more than sure that in an ideal world, with loads of cap space, Joe Douglas would go after a more long term solution to the position, but that’s not reality here. With under $45M in cap space, Douglas needs to look at some other options. Peters may be an NFL Senior Citizen at 38 years old, but his play has only seen a limited decline since his prime. Douglas knows Peters well coming over from Philadelphia, and if he’s confident in his abilities, I’m willing to trust him. Peters gives you at least a year, maybe two, of breathing room to find your LT of the future, and he’s still more than capable of protecting Sam’s blindside.
RT Halapoulivaati Vaitai (PHI), 3 Years $30M - $6M 2020 Cap Hit: Again, maybe not the big name you’ve seen the team connected to the past few months, but Vaitai may just be the hidden gem of this free-agent class. Also sparked by Joe Douglas’ Philadelphia background, this signing represents a risk by Douglas, but one that could pay off big time. Every time Vaitai has seen the field in Philly, he’s been more than impressive. The only problem is, he’s been blocked his entire career by Peters at LT and Lane Johnson at RT. As the primary back-up, Vaitai has replacement starting experience from both the Left and Right side. There’s even a chance, he could take over the left side in 2021 if Peters moves on, and the Jets will only have to focus on finding a RT. To save some cap space, this contract is backloaded, with the hope that his performance in the coming years matches the yearly escalation in salary.
RG Graham Glasgow (DET), 3 Years $27M - $7M 2020 Cap Hit: A lot of fans will be hoping for a Joe Thuney signing, but I just can't see the math working out. Glasgow may not be a pro bowl talent, but he’s a rock-solid starter that you can plug into the lineup and not worry about. His $7M cap hit is much more bang for your buck than Brian Winters would be as well.
EDGE Dante Fowler Jr. (LAR), 5 Years $82.5M - $13M 2020 Cap Hit: Fowler won’t be 26 until August and is coming off his best career year. It’s an expensive signing, but with the Jets poor CBs, they need a pass rusher to help them out. It’s been way too long since they had a real threat off the edge. I’m not sold that Fowler is going to become an elite player, but he’ll be the best pass rusher the Jets have had in nearly two decades by a country mile. It’s time to really invest in the position.
In reality, I’m sure that there will be a flurry of smaller depth moves, but for brevity’s sake, we’re going to skip that. After these signings, the team is left with just under $10M in cap space, which happens to be just enough to sign their incoming draft class. Before we move on to the draft, let's take a look at our updated depth chart:
The Jets enter draft day with ownership of picks 11, 48, 68, 79, 120, 158, 191, and 211 and needs at WR, C, LG, OLB, and CB. With that said I think we’re going to see Joe Douglas look to acquire some extra picks on Day 2 to fill some more holes. Obviously, trade details are impossible to guess with any degree of certainty, so I’m going to have a little fun here.
PHI receives pick 11. NYJ receives picks 21, 53, and 103: Here’s the scenario. The Jets are on the clock at 11. With the need at OT quelled by the Peters and Vaitai signings, the Jets are set to select EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson. Joe Douglas receives a call from his old boss Howie Roseman from Philadelphia. Philly sees Henry Ruggs is still on the board but they fear the Raiders will take him at 12. They believe Ruggs can give their offense the boost it needs to get back to the Super Bowl. Joe Douglas seizes the opportunity to add 2 extra day 2 picks to his class and takes the Eagles mid 2nd and late 3rd round picks to move down 10 spots.
NYG receives pick 211 and TE Trevon Wesco. NYJ receives picks 218 and 242: Joe Douglas knows he needs some late picks to add depth since a tight cap made that more difficult to do via Free Agency. He takes pick 218 and the teams 4th string TE and turns it into two late picks. Yeah it's a poor return on investment for Wesco, who had a disappointing year, but that wasn't his pick and Gase obviously didn't have much use for him either. Knowing Dave Gettelmans propensity for old school style brawlers and Rhett Ellison's recent retirement, the Giants could have some interest in adding Wesco for what’s essentially a 7th round pick.
Round 1, Pick 21 - IOL Lloyd Cushenberry III, LSU: Joe Douglas fills the hole at Center in round one. With Cushenberry, the team shouldn't have to worry about the position for at least another 5 years. Alternatively, Douglas could opt for the bigger, stronger Cesar Ruiz, but I like Cushenberry’s fit better as his athleticism translates better to Gase’s Zone scheme.
Round 2, Pick 48 - RB Cam Akers, Florida State: I know, I know, the Jets already have LeVeon Bell at RB, why would they use a premium pick on a RB? Well, because Cam Akers is a weapon on offense, and I think he could end up being the best RB in this class. Think about it for a second. Bell only has two years left on his deal, and the team’s probably not going to resign him after age 30. Akers can step right in as the heir apparent at RB and be a star. You also have to consider Bell’s history with injuries and the Jets complete lack of depth at RB. Akers can step in behind an injured Bell and the offense wouldn't lose a step. On top of all of this, Akers can help the Jets right away. As a playmaker, even if it's at the RB position, he’s a threat to score and make big plays at any point in a game.
Round 2, Pick 53 - A.J. Terrell, Clemson: Fans may boo this pick, because all they know about him is that he was roasted in the National Championship versus LSU. What they fail to realize was that he was roasted by WR Ja’Marr Chase, who’s likely to be in the conversation for a top 3 pick next year and tortured every CB who faced him this year, including consensus CB1 Jeff Okudah. Terrell was a very good player for the vast majority of the year and should step into the league as a starting CB from day 1.
Round 3, Pick 68 - WR Michael Pittman Jr., USC: Pittman in any other year would be considered near the top 5 WRs in the class. He gets pushed down in this class because it’s just so unbelievably deep. He’s not very fast but he’s a big body with great hands and a nice catch radius. The Jets get an immediate starter at WR.
Round 3, Pick 79 - Amik Robertson, LA Tech: Diminutive in size, Amik Robertson boasts elite production and ball skills. He’s not going to play on the outside, but he can be an excellent slot corner. The Jets may have already locked up Poole in this class, but you can never have too many corners and Robertson can be used as a chess piece around the secondary.
Round 3, Pick 103 - IOL Netane Muti, Fresno State: Muti’s tape shows a player with top 50 talent at Guard, the problem is he’s caught the injury bug more than a few times in his career. Joe Douglas still has a hole to fill at LG at this point, and Muti is the only instant starter talent left on the board to fill it. They have some insurance with Jonathon Harrison backing him up, but this is a risk that Douglas takes to fill holes with limited resources.
Round 4, Pick 120 - EDGE Anfernee Jennings, Alabama: The Jets are going to lose Jordan Jenkins in free agency, so why not replace him with a player in the same mold. Jennings brings a little juice as a pass rusher, but his value is in setting the edge in the run game. He’s not an elite player, but he can be a capable starter on the outside.
Round 5, Pick 158 - WR James Proche, SMU: An undersized slot receiver, Proche is quick and speedy, but his claim to fame is his excellent hands. He’s a guy who will likely start out ad depth in the slot, but he could challenge Jamison Crowder for his starting role as soon as 2021. Not to mention, he seems very close with star Safety Jamal Adams, so Joe Douglas might have him in his ear leading up to the draft.
Round 6, Pick 191 - OT Charlie Heck, UNC: Measuring in at around 6’8, Heck is a mountain of a man. Coaches will look to mold him into a starting RT, and he serves as immediate depth as a rookie.
Round 7, Pick 218 - QB Cole McDonald, Hawaii: McDonald’s draft stock has fallen over time, but I like what he can bring as a backup QB. His brash gunslinger mentality will likely lead to mistakes, but if you’re relying on your backup QB, your chances aren't great to begin with. McDonald has the makings of a QB who’s not particularly “good”, but for some reason has a habit of making something crazy work, which is kind of what you need if you’re starting QB is out of the game. It’s a 7th rounder, don’t look so hard into it.
Round 7, Pick 242 - K Tyler Bass, Georgia Southern: Bass has a booming leg and was very accurate in his career at Georgia Southern. He may not be available this late in real life, but you could easily swap this pick with the best kicker available. Ficken and Maher need some real competition in camp.
With the conclusion of the draft, Joe Douglas was able to add a number of starters and playmakers to a roster that was particularly devoid of them. Let's take a look at our post-draft depth chart:
In this mock offseason, we saw the Jets replace an entire offensive line, add their first real pass rusher in 15 years, take care of their most important internal free agents, and support their young franchise QB with weapons. It’s not perfect, and it’s not going to be. $49M in cap space and four top 100 picks isn’t enough in way of resources to support a perfect offseason. This roster is still weak at CB, it still lacks depth on the offensive line, and the team likely won't survive a significant injury to Sam Darnold. But it is a start, and it’s a great base for Joe Douglas to work off of going into next year. I believe, if healthy the roster above can be a playoff team, especially if there’s 7 seeds as has been speculated. Time will tell if this is the route Joe Douglas goes, but it’s evident that the potential is there for him to put together a team that can win, there are no excuses for failure anymore. Just for fun, I’m going to put together one last depth chart, trimmed down to a 53 man opening day roster.Feel free to let me know on Twitter (@Fodera80) if you’d be happy or upset if this is how the team looks come September, or what changes you’d make!