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One Year Rebuild: New York Jets

The Jets are a model of consistency, just not the type of consistency you want to be remembered for. With Head Coach Adam Gase now out of a job, but only after his performance put the Jets in poll position for, and then cost the team the first overall pick. This is the latest example of the brutality that New Yorkers call being a Jets fan, but don’t worry I am here to offer a path for success.

For the One Year Rebuild, I break down what I believe an ideal offseason for a struggling franchise looks like through the first three rounds of the NFL Draft and some key free agent signings. 

Disclaimer: The One Year Rebuild isn’t meant to give your team the Super Bowl right away, most rebuilds don’t end that way if we are being honest, all that I am trying to do is give my path for success to fans that desperately need one.

Background: The Jets rebuild can be quicker or slower than we expected, but the team does have a lot of decisions to make. Who will be the next head coach? Does the team give Sam Darnold another chance to be the franchise quarterback or do they select a QB? Do they go all in or do they wait? How should the Jets approach the Jets? The Jets offseason essentially hinges on a series of incredibly difficult questions that I am going to try and answer in this article. 

With over $70 million in cap space and five picks in the first three rounds, The Jets can either push the envelope on this rebuild or take it slow. But if you know anything about the New York fans, they are impatient and starved for success, so if I was General Manager Joe Douglas, I would make sure to make some sort of splash. 

Sewell or Sell: How the Jets Should handle the first round of the Draft

Oregon’s Penei Sewll is a rare athletic talent and could be on his way to New York. (Photo courtesy of Samuel Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Jets are in a win-win situation with the second overall pick, they can get one of the draft’s best talents, get a new franchise quarterback or just add to their warchest of draft picks and trade down. To be clear, I am saying the Jets should give Darnold one more year. As good as Justin Fields looked against Clemson his inconsistencies throughout the year still bother me and I think Darnold has a lot of untapped potential. That’s why if the Jets keep this pick they should select Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell. Sewell is only 20-years-old and already an NFL specimen that some see as the best offensive line prospect of the 21st century. The Jets invested a first round pick last year in Mekhi Becton, but having two incredibly talented offensive tackles protecting Darnold is not a bad thing and could be an important step towards Darnold starting all 16 games for the first time in his career. 

As much as I love Sewell, the Jets are filled with holes and trading down is the best move. The second overall pick is valuable and if Fields looks like a future franchise QB against Alabama in the National Championship Game, it may get even more valuable with a litany of QB needy teams clamoring to trade up for the former five-star recruit. Some teams may even be willing to trade up for Sewell, but selling this pick to the highest bidder to give the team increased depth is the obvious first option and will be one of the major storylines of the Jets offseason. 

Douglas also acquired the Seahawks first round pick that will likely be around 25th overall, virtue of the Jamal Adams blockbuster that took place over the offseason. 

The best option for this pick is the tried and tested best player available approach. The Jets aren’t good enough to focus on need. In fact, I’m not sure there is a position on this roster that isn’t a need, but getting a talented player with this selection will go a long way towards changing that. If Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins is available he becomes an obvious selection, as him and C.J. Mosley have the potential to make the league’s most formidable linebacker duo, but this is assuming the Jets stick to their 3-4 scheme that they currently have. Assuming they don’t take an offensive tackle earlier in the draft Notre Dame’s Liam Eichenberg would be a great fit in New York, as would  Texas offensive tackle Sam Cosmi. 

There is nothing that isn’t an option for the Jets at this point besides a quarterback, whether it’s linebacker, offensive line, wide receiver, a corner or even a running back like Najee Harris is well within the realm of possibility. I hope this pick helps address the team’s needs on defense, but whoever gets selected here needs to be one of the best players on the board. 

Secure a Pass Catcher: Where the Jets should go in Round 2

Terrace Marshall Jr. could be a great fit in the Jets receiving core if selected by the team. (Photo courtesy of Scott Clause/USA Today Network)

The Jets have three selections in the top 34 picks of the NFL Draft. I’d like to see one go towards an offensive lineman whether that be Sewell or a lower ranked tackle like Eichenberg, another to go towards the defense, ideally this would be the Seattle pick where you grab the best defensive player on the board like Collins or Florida State corner Asante Samuel Jr., who I recently mocked to the Jets. With this third pick, if the Jets don’t already dip into this pool, I’d like to see the team grab a wide receiver.

This is an extremely deep receiver draft and the Jets need a well rounded receiver who can line up on the boundary and allow Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder to do what they do best. Mims is a great field stretcher and Crowder operates as the ideal safety net. LSU’s Terrace Marshall Jr. is the ideal fit complement to the duo, he’s well rounded and has proven that he projects to be an immediate contributor at the next level.

Ohio State’s Chris Olave is a poor man’s Devonta Smith in my opinion and a definite possibility and a good fit here. One sleeper who can rise into this selection during the draft process is Auburn wide receiver Seth Williams.  Williams’ stats aren’t amazing, but he’s arguably the best contested catch receiver in this entire draft. He may not be considered one of the elite receiver prospects in this draft, but his talent speaks for itself, don’t sleep on Seth Williams and don’t be shocked if he’s in play at this selection. 

Take a TE and RB: Two places to go for the Jets in round three.

Hunter Long was a star during his time at Boston College and his NFL career could start as a member of the Jets. (Photo courtesy of Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports)

With the 65th overall pick I’d like to see the Jets select a tight end and while that may seem like a reach, I think the theme of this draft should be to surround Sam Darnold. My favorite sleeper at the tight end position who should still be on the board is Boston College standout Hunter Long. Long’s versatility and receiving prowess (685 yards and five touchdowns this season) should give him the ability to be a day one contributor. He has also shown that he is a willing blocker, even if his technique needs refinement, I see Long as a potential top-15 tight end in the NFL and one of its most well rounded if developed properly. I

f the Jets don’t want Long or he is already selected I see no issue with getting a safety. They don’t need a true center-fielder like Andre Cisco or Trevon Moehrig, Gang Green needs a difference-maker who can come up and play in the box, making Florida State’s Hamsah Nasirildeen the perfect fit. Another underrated fit here may be Pittsburgh’s Paris Ford. Ford is too slim to consistently play in the box, but he is a hard-hitting emotional leader with versatility. He may have had an underwhelming 2020 season, but his 2019 tape made him look like a potential star and if a team gets that version of Ford he will be a steal. 

The Jets have one more selection in the third round and with the team lacking any semblance of a running game and addressing the offensive tackle position earlier in the draft I think this is a perfect time to take a running back. The Jets only have La’Mical Perine, a rookie fourth round pick out of Florida, who I am high on, but also aware he only averaged 3.6 yards per carry and needs to have a more diverse group around him. The reshuffling in the running back pecking order in this draft has been rapid and consistent, don’t be surprised if a top-five or top-ten you see now looks nothing like the order you see come draft time. The three backs who I think should be considered for the Jets at this spot are Memphis’ Kenneth Gainwell, Oklahoma State’s Chuba Hubbard and Ohio State’s Trey Sermon. 

Gainwell and Sermon are two of the toughest runners in this draft and Hubbard was a potential first round pick before struggling this season. But his ability as a home run threat and array of open field moves make him a desirable commodity. Hubbard’s knack to bust a game open with a single touch makes him the perfect pairing with Perine who is a power back that can tire defenses, ideally making big holes for Hubbard more of a regular occurrence. If this happens and these two perform to their potential they can be the Jets version of Jonathon Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, a perfect thunder and lightning duo in New York. 

Free Agency:

Marcus Maye has established himself as a team leader and a great safety since the Jamal Adams trade. (Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

The Jets have a load of cap space which means they have the ability to hand star safety Marcus Maye a blank check to keep him in New York for the foreseeable future. After the loss of Jamal Adams, Maye has shown his true quality as one of the league’s best and most well-rounded free safeties. Before Douglas makes any acquisition he must ensure that the centerpiece of his defense is under contract for the entire rebuild. I also think the Jets should bring back Brian Poole, while he’s not the most well known commodity,  he’s one of the NFL’s best nickel corners and a vital veteran presence for the upcoming years. 

One of my more controversial thoughts is that the Jets should move on from George Fant. Douglas and the Jets splashed on the former Seahawks offensive tackle in one of the off-season’s more surprising and confusing signings of the 2020 offseason, but Fant has been a pleasant surprise for the Jets. However, the Jets can save upwards of $7 million by moving on from Fant and easily replace him in the draft for less money, giving the team a cheaper longer-term solution with more upside. Fant started 14 games for the Jets, the most of his career, but there’s a reason many thought he was overpaid when he signed, he was plagued by injuries and inconsistency with Seattle. It’s not very often those problems fix themselves and the Jets should get out of this deal before it turns into a disaster.  

Allen Robinson has been one of the league’s unheralded receivers for years, this offseason his talent will be rewarded with a huge payday. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Adding an offensive tackle and receiver in the draft gives the Jets a fairly complete top-to-bottom unit, but I do think they should splash on a lead receiver, that being Allen Robinson. If you aren’t familiar with Robinson’s talent he once accrued more than 1,400 yards with Blake Bortles throwing him the ball. I think that should tell you all that’s needed to splash on the Bears receiver. 

If he wants Amari Cooper money, then Joe Douglas should remember that his team has cap space and a quarterback in desperate need of a No.1 receiver because neither Jamison Crowder or Denzel Mims are that. So, pay the man who carried the Chicago Bears into the playoffs and had 1,250 yards, despite being stuck with Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles throwing him the ball. To quote the great Rod Tidwell (Jerry Maguire reference) “Show me the money.” 

The last major offensive addition I think the Jets should make is to their running back room and this signing will be under the radar, but adding a third back to Perine and a rookie will be crucial. An often discarded running back who I think makes a perfect one-year rental is Devontae Booker. While he never lived up to the lofty expectations that were set for him in Denver he has been a nice backup and a back that can be relied on when needed. In 382 career carries, Booker has 1,526 yards and nine touchdowns, a nice return for the sample size. Booker will never be a star, but he can be a reliable veteran backfield presence for a team that desperately needs one. 

With the additions of Booker and Robinson, plus a second-year Mekhi Becton and an interior offensive line that gains more experience together, I think both the Jets running and passing games have a lot of upside, not to mention all the tools needed to support Sam Darnold. But that defense needs a lot of work. 

I actually like the foundations of this unit, with Maye, former top-five pick in defensive tackle Quinnen Williams and hopefully C.J. Mosley makes a return. The building blocks are there for the Jets defense, it just needs to add support over the next two or three years. 

This defense I am building will have growing pains, especially since I am making the surprising declaration that the Jets should maintain their corners instead of sign one. Bryce Hall is a lot better than the fifth-round grade the Jets used on him and has the potential to be a reliable starter. Additionally, Blessaun Austin and rookies Lamar Jackson and Javelin Guidry have had flashes that I think are worth exploring and I said previously this should be a position that the Jets should look at during the draft. The Jets will have potential at corner which they should have a full grasp on before investing in veteran stopgaps and denying those young guys playing time. 

Karl Joseph isn’t a superstar, but he can be a leader on this Jets defense and help it find an identity. (Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)

While I do think the Jets should run risks at corner, I also think they need to sign a safety partner for Marcus Maye, especially with incumbent starter Bradley McDougald likely departing in free agency. There are two ideal options for the Jets at this position and the first one is Karl Joseph. The former first round pick has been impressive with the Cleveland Browns this season racking up 67 tackles in 14 games for the Browns.

Joseph is a ferocious hard-hitting, experienced safety who advanced metrics may not love, but he does provide value  and won’t be too costly. He is a veteran who sets a tone on the field and if signed can be a leader and help this defense find an identity. The other option started his career in the NFC East and played college ball at Rutgers which is in the same state as the Jets play, that being former Patriot and current Detroit Lions starter Duron Harmon. Harmon brings a pedigree of winning and experience to the Jets defense, being a three-time Super Bowl Champion in New England and has continued to be extremely reliable in Detroit. The 6-foot-1 safety can come up and play in the box or drop back into coverage, he may not be exceptional at either role, but he’s reliable at both and that combination of versatility and trust is something the next Jets defensive coordinator will need. 

Gang Green has a competent defensive line in their current scheme, the aforementioned Quinnen Williams, Forolunso Fatukasi and either Henry Anderson, John Franklin-Meyers and Nathan Shepherd is a really solid group, especially the first two. Any issues this part of the unit has can be solved with a single addition that doesn’t need to be figured out right away. But the edge rusher situation needs to be addressed. Jordan Jenkins obviously needs to be brought back to the team and his injury shortened 2020 season may help make that a possibility, as he may be cheaper than expected, but he does need a partner to wreak havoc opposite of him and there are plenty of options for the Jets to splurge on in free agency. 

The best pass rusher on the board is Von Miller, if the new Broncos general manager declines his club option. Despite his age climbing and the fact that he is coming off of a season-ending injury I still believe Denver keeps him around. But if the Broncos decide to move on the future Hall of Famer would be a home run signing for the Jets.

I don’t expect Miller to leave Denver, so the pass rusher I am eyeing for Douglas and the Jets is Leonard Floyd. Floyd has always had great talent, but finally put it together with the Rams this season racking up 10.5 sacks on the west coast and positioning himself for a healthy payday. Floyd is a great talent, he and Jenkins would make a potentially fearsome tandem in New York. A sleeper option would be Markus Golden, who is extremely athletic and found success in New York with the Giants recently. Golden is the epitome of a boom-or-bust, he has two seasons of 10-plus sacks since 2016 and three seasons with less than five sacks, but two of them were hampered by injury. But if Golden booms, tell all quarterbacks to beware.. 

The last position I think the Jets should address is a linebacker partner for C.J. Mosley, assuming Zaven Collins doesn’t fall to them in the draft. My ideal selection is someone the Jets recently traded away and that is Avery Williamson. A reunion would be beneficial for both sides and give the Jets stability in the middle. If they want a riskier bet, Denzel Perryman of the Los Angeles Chargers is hitting the market and may have his share of suitors.

Pro Football Focus’ second ranked linebacker has shown he is well-rounded and proficient in just about anything needed. He may be one of the league’s most underrated linebackers and a perfect fit next to Mosley. Perryman thrived in the Chargers 4-3 scheme, but his ability in pursuit and coverage speaks for itself and I do think he can make the transition to a 3-4, once again, assuming the Jets new staff doesn’t switch to a 4-3, which is a real possibility anytime a team undergoes a change in their coaching staff. 

The rebuild I have outlined doesn’t make the Jets a playoff contender right away, but what it does offer is an answer to a lot of questions. It answers whether or not Darnold can be a franchise quarterback, while building a good supporting cast for the next signal caller should Darnold falter next season. This rebuild also allows you to add talent around Maye, Mosley and Williams, while getting a true handle on the talent on your defensive line and corner back group. This rebuild makes a splash, but at the same time sets up the next coaching staff to have a lot of their reservations about the roster answered by the next offseason. 

The Jets may not be competing for a division title next year, but if they follow this plan the formula will be there for them to compete before they know it.

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