OFFSEASON REVIEW: NEW YORK JETS
By Bonnie Flame Jr.
As one season ends and another one begins, 32 NFL franchises put 2020 firmly in the rear view mirror and gear up for another tilt at the Vince Lombardi Trophy. The hard work starts here, and for many has already begun; general managers and head coaches are finalising their staff and looking ahead to turning their rosters into potential challengers.
In this series we identify the key components that go into building a winning team, and what each franchise needs to do to be in the mix come the playoffs next January. We continue our team by team offseason review with a look at the New York Jets:
Entering the 2020 season there was optimism that the Jets could make strides. They had finished the previous season 7-9, winning six of their last eight. Additionally, the second year under a new offensive system often leads to improvement.
During the offseason, the Jets had revamped their offensive line, hoping it would lead to more consistency on offense. Unfortunately, that was not to be the case. The Jets finished 32nd in points scored and yards gained. They struggled to find that consistency on offense and did not win a game until Week 15.
The Jets finished the 2020 season going 2-1 over their final three games. However, the disastrous nature of the season led to the Jets firing head coach Adam Gase.
The Jets were extremely active in the head coach market this past offseason. They ultimately hired Robert Saleh, who had impressed as the defensive coordinator in San Francisco.
Saleh not only brings a wealth of experience on defense, but also brings with him a young offensive coordinator who has worked under Kyle Shanahan over the course of the last decade. Mike LaFleur will be tasked with bringing the Jets offense up to speed in the 2021 season.
Between Fleur’s control of the offense and Saleh overseeing the defense, along with defensive coordinator Jeff Ulrich, the Jets will be looking for an immediate improvement. They have a talented roster in places, and a change in coaching staff could be perfect to bring the best out of them.
State Of The Roster
The Jets roster is a mixed bag of talented players with the need to fill holes surrounding them. Getting the most out of quarterback Sam Darnold could be the main priority for this coaching staff in 2021 (assuming the Jets do not draft a QB in April).
Regardless of who is under center, the offense desperately needs to be addressed. The offensive line is a major concern, with Mekhi Becton the only player guaranteed to return as a starter in 2021.
In terms of their offensive skill positions, upgrades are required across the board. Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder need another top-tier receiver to work alongside them. Chris Herndon did not develop how the Jets organisation would have hoped. Meanwhile, the release of Le’Veon Bell has left the Jets extremely short on experience in the backfield.
Defensively there is a lot to like, but there is still work to be done. Replacing their free agents will be key, as will adding more talent alongside them. The pieces are there for this unit to be successful, but they need good coaching and an infusion of talent to be considered a top-tier unit.
Salary Cap & Cut Candidates
Salary cap space is not an issue for the Jets as they came into March with more than $67 million in cap space. If the Jets were serious about really going all in on their team they could make further cap moves. However, George Fant is realistically the main player they could look to move and create serious money.
Releasing Fant would clear $7.85 million, while the release of guard Alex Lewis would clear a further $5.2 million. However, releasing both of those would leave the Jets needing to replace at least two offensive linemen. After completely changing the group in 2020, doing so again in 2021 would be less than optimal.
The Jets main free agents are centred on their defense. Neville Hewitt played well at linebacker, while Brian Poole, Marcus Maye, and Bradley McDougald offer experience and talent in the secondary. Upfront, they are set to lose Tarrell Basham and Jordan Jenkins. Neither set the world alight last season, but both positions potentially need to be addressed.
Offensively, they are set to lose Frank Gore, Breshad Perriman, and Joe Flacco. All three played their roles in 2020, but none will be considered priority options to return in 2021.
The Jets have a lot of options of how they can build this roster. That is in part because they have plenty of needs. On offense, they could do with upgrading at running back, wide receiver, tight end, and on their offensive line. That is a big reason why using the second overall selection on a QB is risky. Bringing in a young player with limited supporting cast is a risky move in terms of their progression.
Defensively, they need to decide whether Jabari Zuniga can fill one of the outside pass rushing spots. If he cannot, then they need to potentially look to add two outside linebackers in the upcoming offseason. The potential return of C.J. Mosley should be a boost to the linebacker group that is losing Neville Hewitt.
On the backend of the defense, the Jets need both upgrades and replacements. They need to replace Poole and Maye, while also considering upgrades on the outside at corner. Retaining one of Maye and McDougald would limit the damage that could be caused to the secondary this offseason.