FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The Jets knew the cornerback position was their biggest flaw, even before Trumaine Johnson injured his hamstring at practice on Sunday. They were shorthanded from the start at one of the most important positions in football.
Now, with Johnson out for the foreseeable future -- "I don't think it's going to be months," Adam Gase said, "but I mean, we'll see." -- the situation is dire.
"If they need me to go to corner, I'll go to corner," safety Jamal Adams said. "Dead serious."
Seriously, they need some help.
Of course they're not going to move their Pro Bowl safety to corner any time soon, especially since they're not exactly deep at safety either, which means GM Joe Douglas needs to work some magic and find some help at his most precarious position. The Jets do have Darryl Roberts and they brought in free agent slot man Brian Poole, and that's not a bad place to start.
After that they have … well, not much. Undrafted rookie Kyron Brown, second-year pro Parry Nickerson, and third-year pro Arthur Maulet are next up on the depth chart, and if they're pressed into heavy duty during the season they will make inviting targets for the quarterbacks of the AFC East. Even Roberts and Poole aren't exactly lock-down corners, which is a problem in today's pass-happy NFL.
Really, it says a lot that the Jets were counting so heavily on Johnson, who at the end of last season was largely considered a $72.5 million free-agent bust. So yeah, the Jets have a big problem.
"I guess I don't look at it like that," Gase said. "I look at it as: Trumaine is down right now. This is a great opportunity for a lot of guys. Like somebody has a chance to step up and make a name for themselves. I mean it's a great opportunity. When you're a next-man-up mentality, you're not going to sit there and worry about, 'Hey what should we do?'"
But, Gase said, "That's what personnel guys get paid for," which is where Douglas will come in.
Unfortunately for the rookie GM, there aren't a lot of options. There has been a lot of speculation about possible trades with the Eagles and Ravens, two of his old teams, but it's not like either one of them are eager to cough up a starting cornerback before the summer is over. The Eagles, while deep, are dealing with injuries at that position as it is. And both teams know that cornerbacks are a premium position. Teams that have them aren't usually willing to give them up.
And the free-agent market isn't going to offer any more help either. The best player and biggest name available was ex-Jet Mo Claiborne, who many assumed would eventually re-sign with the Jets. But that was before the world learned of his four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy and before he signed a one-year deal with the Chiefs.
So what options do the Jets and Douglas have? Not many. But here's a quick look at who's still available and what else Douglas can do:
- Free agent Sam Shields - Shields returned to the NFL last season after missing nearly two full seasons due to concussions. He played mostly special teams for the Rams last season. His health makes him a risk, but he shouldn't cost much. Still only 31.
- Free agent Brent Grimes - He's 36, has battled shoulder injuries, and carries a lot of baggage. He complained he was underpaid at $7 million last season and ripped into the Bucs on his outspoken wife's podcast.
- Free agent Shareece Wright - The 32-year-old journeyman has been with six teams in eight years. The Jets are probably better off giving their young players a shot, but if they don't work out he'd be decent depth.
- Free agent Davon House - Missed most of last season with a shoulder injury. A decent depth player who is still only 30 years old.
- Trade for Eagles CB Jalen Mills - The Eagles are overflowing with young and starting-caliber cornerbacks, and obviously Douglas -- the former Philly VP of player personnel -- knows it. Their depth took a hit with a foot injury to Cre'Von LeBlanc that could keep him out another month or so, but they replaced him with veteran free agent Orlando Scandrick. There was talk around the draft that the Eagles were shopping the 25-year-old Mills, who hasn't practiced this summer as he recovers from foot surgery. If he's healthy and really available he seems like a good option. Douglas should have the inside scoop on that.
- Scour the waiver wire - You never know who will be on the waiver wire after teams start paring down their roster on Aug. 31. Just keep in mind that there's usually a reason those players are being cut. There likely won't be any starting-caliber corners anyway. But keep an eye on the Eagles again, since they can't keep all their corners. If there are any ones about to get dumped that Douglas likes, he'll surely pre-emptively offer a conditional seventh-round pick.