Bent, theJetsBlog.com Follow on Twitter
Projected starters: Morris Claiborne, Buster Skrine
Projected backups: Juston Burris, Marcus Williams, Darryl Roberts, Jeremy Clark,
On the bubble: Derrick Jones, Xavier Coleman, Bryson Keeton, Dexter McDougle, Corey White
Departures: Darrelle Revis, Nick Marshall
Key stat: Jets cornerbacks intercepted just five passes last season and were beaten for 14 touchdowns.
After terrible cornerback play was one of the main contributing factors to former general manager John Idzik's departure following the 2014 season, his replacement Mike Maccagnan invested big money to ensure that would no longer be a problem. Maccagnan signed Skrine and brought back Revis and Antonio Cromartie to secure the position. Two years later, only Skrine remains, and even he finds his starting role and possibly even his roster spot in jeopardy.
Revis had a rough year in 2016, giving up a series of big plays and failing to register an interception until the last game of the season. Despite releasing him, the Jets are on the hook for his $6 million salary unless he signs for another team, which will enable them to offset some or that entire sum. The fact no team has shown much interest in him sums up how far his star has fallen.
Having opted to cut their losses with Revis, the Jets secured a No. 1 cornerback type by signing Claiborne to a one-year deal. Claiborne played well last year, but missed several games as he continues to be extremely injury prone. He might be a decent stop-gap, but the Jets probably can't rely on him to start every week.
Skrine is currently projected to be the other starter, although he's arguably better in the slot, so the Jets will probably move him inside on nickel packages regardless of whether or not he starts. There are three realistic contenders to be the other outside cornerback in nickel sets, any of whom could challenge for Skrine's starting spot too.
Last year's fourth-round pick Burris didn't play much, but has been getting plenty first-team reps in offseason practices, and the team seems high on him. Williams, a Todd Bowles favorite, returns on a second-round restricted free agent tender having been in the mix to start in the past. Also, Roberts showed some flashes last year and his coaches said that, on reflection, they felt both Roberts and Burris should have had a bigger role in 2016.
Having passed on drafting a cornerback earlier on in what was considered to be a deep class, the Jets drafted Clark and Jones in the late rounds, and also added a priority undrafted free agent in Coleman. It should be a good competition between these three athletic rookies to sneak onto the roster and could come down to how well they can contribute on special teams.
McDougle is one of just three players remaining from the 12 players Idzik drafted in 2014. However, he might already be off the team if he didn't get hurt last year. Injuries have constantly set him back, and he doesn't seem to be a top contender to have a role this year unless he unexpectedly delivers on the promise that saw him drafted on Day 2.
Keeton is another player not expected to make the team. The Jets signed him last year after he attended their rookie mini-camp on a tryout basis, and he spent most of the year on the practice squad before being activated for special teams duties in the final game of the year. Keeton will perhaps be a contender for a practice-squad spot again, but there will be stiff competition from whichever of the rookies fail to make the team.
Finally, the Jets, perhaps not entirely satisfied with their depth, also signed White since the draft. He has plenty of experience as a starter both in the slot and on the outside, but Bowles actually indicated the team would start him off at safety where he can also play. That experience and versatility could be valuable if the Jets decide they need to save a roster spot to stash a young player.
Outlook: This is an interesting group, but the team is going to have to rely on someone stepping up and thriving in a bigger role otherwise this will once again be a weakness. After last year's debacle, it wouldn't take too much to produce an upgrade, and if any of these players can establish themselves as good low-cost options over the next few years, that will be useful in the ongoing rebuilding process.