By Vincent Fodera @Fodera80
Week one of the 2020 NFL Free Agency period has come and gone and while the Jets have made some moves at the positions of need everyone expected, some of the names they’ve brought have been a bit less exciting. The Joe Douglas-led Front Office did not go “Big Game Hunting” when Free Agency opened, leading to the ire of many who watched the top names in the class sign big deals with other teams. Instead, these Jets opted for a more conservative approach, focusing on players with higher ceilings, shorter deals, and contract structures that allow for early exits. This strategy isn’t rare in the NFL, and is employed by many successful franchises, but contrasts so heavily with what Mike Maccagnan did in his time here, that it’s sure to worry a fan base who hasn’t yet seen this GM draft. That’s the most important part of this strategy- the Draft. The Jets have a long, unhappy history with the NFL Draft- and Jets fans are rightfully gun shy about being optimistic about it. We look forward to it every year, but it almost always ends in disappointment and a delayed feeling of “What could have been?” With no history to bank on, fans need to be cautious of this conservative free agent-build through the draft strategy in order to protect themselves.
While the team’s moves may not necessarily be “sexy” or “exciting”, one thing that can be said is that Joe Douglas is making a strong effort to fill as many holes on this roster with at least a passable amount of talent before the draft. This is important because it protects the team in case an unexpected run on a position leaves them without the chance to add a starter. This way, they don’t have to rely on the draft to fill holes, they can just add the best player on their board without worrying so much about the opportunity cost of ignoring one hole for another. With that said, let’s take a look at the changes to the Jets roster that have occurred over the last 7 Days.
OT George Fant, SEA - 3Y/$27.3M - Fant projects to either be the Jets starting LT in 2020 or to compete with Chuma Edoga at RT if the team drafts an LT at 11. This was the first and only signing the Jets made on Day 1 of free agency- and it was disappointing. The Jets had a real opportunity to end the questions by signing a player like Jack Conklin but instead opted for a player in Fant that brings questions of his own. He’s not a “bad” player, but no one can look at Fant and say for certain that he’s an unquestioned answer. There’s a lot of risk with this signing, which is likely why there’s an out in the contract after year one should he not perform. Grade: C+.
OT Connor McGovern, DEN - 3Y/$27M - In all honesty, this wasn’t a signing I was thrilled about when the news broke, but I’ve come around quite a bit on McGovern. He’s not a punishing run blocker, but his tape shows a brick wall in pass protection, and at just 26 years old, there’s still a lot of time for his ceiling to fill out. Center was going to be a difficult spot to fill in the draft with the team’s other needs, so this looks like a savvy move by Joe Douglas and company. Grade: A.
OG Alex Lewis, NYJ - 3Y/$18.6M - One of the first moves Joe Douglas made as Jets GM was trading a 7th round pick to Baltimore for Alex Lewis. Douglas and the coaching staff have been said to be high on Lewis' performance this year, so this move isn’t unexpected. I didn't see anything that makes me think Lewis is a long term piece on this line, but he’s good depth if nothing else and the terms of the deal look team-friendly. Grade: B-.
CB Brian Poole, NYJ- 1Y/$5M - The only problem I have with this deal is that it’s only one year. I’m baffled that Poole couldn't find a better deal anywhere else. Poole was one of the best slot corners in the game last year and we’re living in a time where Nickel is basically the base package. I wish the team could have locked him up on a multi-year deal, but I take it Poole wanted a second Prove-it deal since apparently his year last year was utterly ignored by the entire league. Grade: A-.
CB Arthur Maulet, NYJ- 1 Year - Maulet and Bles Austin held down the fort at CB late last year with surprising aptitude. I’m of the belief that a defense can’t function without good CB play or good pass rush. We know the pass rush was atrocious, but the defense was still very effective. This means that Maulet and Austin were good enough in coverage to hold it all together. This signing is great for depth and insurance if the draft does not fall the right way. Grade: B+.
LB Neville Hewitt, NYJ- 1Y/$2M - Hewitt was a valuable backup ad special teamer last year. The Jets dealt with a certifiably insane amount of injuries at the LB position last year, so Hewitt got a lot of playing time. I think a lot of fans think he was better than he really was, he’s not a starting LB in an NFL defense, but he has his value, and this is a good depth. Grade: B.
OG/C Josh Andrews, IND - Andrews hasn’t started a game in his career, but he’s regarded as solid depth along with the interior of the offensive line. Not much to get excited about, but it takes the pressure off of adding depth in the draft. Grade: B-.
S Marqui Christian, LAR - Christian is a core special teamer and should serve as the team’s primary third safety. Again, this is more of a depth signing than anything else, so there’s not a ton to dissect here, but Christian was a valuable role player for the Rams and his presence will be missed in their defensive backfield, that’s always a positive for the team that adds the player. Grade: B.
OG Greg Van Roten, CAR- 3 Years - A local product out of Rockville Centre on Long Island who grew up a Jets fan, Van Roten is sure to pick up some support from this fan base. Van Roten is a strong pass blocker and has committed only one penalty in the past 5 years. He does come with some durability concerns, but this is one of those high upside type signings that could pay off very nicely for Joe Douglas. Grade: B.
CB Pierre Desir, IND- 1 Year - Desir was a surprising cut by the Colts this week. He had an excellent 2018 and was rewarded with a solid payday, but his 2019 was hampered by a faulty hamstring. It seems odd to move on from a player so quickly after showing so much promise, but the Colts loss is the Jets gain, who pick up a solid starting outside CB. Like Poole, this is just a one year deal, so the team is going to have to re-address the position in 2021, but for now, the DB room seems much more stable than it did a week ago. Grade: B+.
After a rough day one, Joe Douglas has pulled off a solid if the unspectacular first week of free agency filling holes along with the entire OL and defensive backfield. The team still needs to address pass rush and sure up the receiver position, so hopefully week two has more in store for us.