The Jets have their new head coach in place, and as Adam Gase puts together his staff, the next big step is what Gang Green will do this offseason to improve their 53-man roster.
Jets GM Mike Maccagnan will have almost $100 million ($99,387,909 projected by OverTheCap.com) to work with in free agency, and to explore trades.
So who should they go after? The SNY Jets crew gave their dream offseason wishlist for the Jets, as they look ahead to the free agent class and players that could be on the market:
- Bart Scott: 1) LB Dee Ford 2) RB Le'Veon Bell 3) DT Grady Jarrett
- Ray Lucas: 1) RB Le'Veon Bell 2) DE Jadeveon Clowney 3) DE Demarcus Lawrence
- Willie Colon: 1) RB Le'Veon Bell 2) LB Dee Ford 3) WR Golden Tate
- Jonas Schwartz: 1) RB Le'Veon Bell 2) LB Dee Ford 3) DE Frank Clark
- Jeane Coakley: 1) RB Le'Veon Bell 2) WR Golden Tate 3) DE Jadeveon Clowney
The one player that made everyone's list was Bell and for good reason: He's going to be the most talked about free agent this offseason. Safety Jamal Adams has already begun recruiting Bell, as the Jets will likely be among the top contenders to land him because of how much cap space they have under their belts.
Bell sat out the entire 2018-19 season, boycotting the Steelers for franchise tagging him again instead of offering the contract extension he desired. The 26-year-old also believes he shouldn't be paid based on the running back position that he players, but rather how valuable of an offensive weapon he is. The Jets may be willing to give him around $16-$17 million per year, but his market value based on other running backs could be lower.
Ford, Tate, and Clowney also made multiple lists. The 27-year-old Ford will also have multiple suitors this offseason, and the Jets should be among them if the Chiefs don't franchise tag him first. Gang Green needs to get more pressure on the quarterback, and Ford produced a career-high 13 sacks this past season. Ford's market value, according to Spotrac, would be $16.3 million per season.
Speaking of pressure on quarterbacks, Clowney is another young end the Jets could bring in. He has produced at least nine sacks in back-to-back seasons, and as long as he can stay healthy, he would be a good compliment to Leonard Williams on the outside (if Williams' 4-3 scheme doesn't move Williams to tackle). Like Ford, Clowney would also generate about $16 million this offseason.
Lucas also points out Lawrence, another intriguing option at defensive end. Lawrence has easily been the Cowboys' best pass rusher this season with 10.5 sacks that followed a 14.5-sack 2017 season. And it is that production that might see the 26-year-old beat out Von Miller as the highest-paid end in the league.
The Cowboys failed to reach an extension with Lawrence last offseason, and they have the option to issue the franchise tag yet again. But the Jets have the space to make at deal with Lawrence's $19.6 million market value in mind, so he'll be a player to watch.
Going back to more offensive weapons, Tate would be another established veteran with reliable hands for Sam Darnold to work with. Playing for both the Lions and Eagles this season, Tate totaled 795 yards and four touchdowns on 74 receptions. Tate is the most intriguing receiver out of a small wide receiver free-agent market.
But, at 30, is Tate worth the $10.2 million he is projected to see per season? Before this season, Tate had four straight years with 90 or more receptions, and was a 1,000-yard receiver in three of those four seasons. Switching teams and playbooks in the middle of the season had a learning curve, which stunted Tate's production. He has been nothing but consistent throughout his career, and the Jets could bank on that consistency this offseason.
One name that wasn't mentioned, though was Antonio Brown. Why not? Well, it looks like the SNY crew isn't too fond of the Jets trading for the star receiver, whose controversy in the Steelers' locker room may put him on the trade block.
In fact, Colon has already went in-depth about how Darnold and Brown wouldn't be a good mix in East Rutherford.
"You think a guy like Antonio Brown would be good for the psyche of Sam Darnold?" Colon questioned. "Not at all. He wouldn't know how to handle Antonio Brown if he's not getting the ball in the first half."
Overall, these wishlists show make one point clear: The Jets need to improve their defensive front seven, and add an offensive playmaker for the offense to take the next step under Gase. We'll see if the Jets ultimately have the same mindset when free agency kicks off March 13.