With free agency upon us, teams are hoping to make big splashes in order to turn their franchise around. For one team, making the biggest of splashes must start now if they are hoping to make any run at hoisting the Lombardi Trophy anytime soon. That team is the New York Jets.
Free agency in 2018 will be what defines the New York Jets moving forward, not the 2018 NFL Draft. The NFL Draft is important for building, but free agency is where they can bring top talent veterans to contribute right away and really solidify their foundation moving forward.
The Jets need to add free agents in order to eventually become Super Bowl contenders. The 2018 NFL free agency class is solid, but not necessarily deep at any position. That said, there is some quality at positions of need for the them. If they can land four or five franchise changing players, it will help set them up for any chance at making a Super Bowl run. Let’s take a look at the top potential free agents the Jets should target that could help turn them into title threats.
RB Le’Veon Bell (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Give the man his money! Le’Veon Bell is the best position player that could become available in free agency. The Steelers can franchise tag him again, but that might not be wise given the way it went down last time. The Steelers could also use a transition tag on him.
The Jets have an obvious need at running back given the age and decline of Matt Forte and the inconsistency of Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire. There’s no reason to pass up on a back like Bell, if he were to hit the market. Bell would present a matchup problem for anyone, and he would give the Jets a talented player offensively that they currently don’t have.
Bell is just entering his prime and could give the Jets a huge weapon. He’s one of the best running backs in the NFL and would immediately improve the Jets offense in multiple ways. He racked up 1,800 yards from scrimmage in consecutive seasons and should be able to replicate those numbers in 2018.
He played on the franchise tag this past season for $12 million after turning down a three year deal that averaged $14 million per season. It might be a stretch to expect the Jets to pay $16 million or more for a running back, but Bell would be the guy to spend it on and lock up for years to come.
Nate Solder has been outstanding in his final game before heading into free agency. Top available blocker.
— Brent Sobleski (@brentsobleski) February 5, 2018
OT Nate Solder (New England Patriots)
It all starts up front in the trenches, and with the Jets offensive line needing as much help as possible the Jets could sign Nate Solder and move current Jets’ current left tackle Kelvin Beachum to right tackle. Then, the Jets could focus their draft efforts on the interior aspect of the offensive line.
The Jets need to rebuild the offensive line in the offseason, and it starts with protecting the quarterback’s blindside. Solder is still one of the best left tackles in the game, and the Jets could also weaken a division rival in the process of improving their team.
It doesn’t make a difference who their franchise quarterback is with the current offensive line they have. Once they can solidify the offensive line, then they can establish a consistent running game and a more consistent passing game. They need an overhaul, and it can start with Solder who would make all the difference in the world with him at left tackle.
NT Dontari Poe (Atlanta Falcons)
The Jets have a big hole in the middle of the defense. They need a true nose tackle that can eat up blocks and allow their middle linebackers to get to the running back. Poe is a very good starter they can win with versus both zone and gap schemes due to his athletic ability, competitive toughness, mental processing, ability to play vs. run and pass, and pursuit ability.
Poe was playing as a defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme in Atlanta, but his natural position is at nose tackle, where he played for the start of his career with the Kansas City Chiefs. Throwing him on the line with Muhammed Wilkerson and Leonard Williams would make all the difference in the world.
Atlanta signed Poe to a 1-year, $7.5 million deal along with a $500k bonus. The silver lining is that he had a down year statistically (only 2.5 sacks, 39 tackles), so his market value may have diminished, giving the Jets an opportunity to get a quality nose tackle for good value.
If the Jets want to improve defensively and allow other players to succeed, then adding a run stuffing, double team commanding, hog molly would definitely be a step in the right direction.
Malcolm Butler is going to come to the Jets with the sole purpose of beat the Pats twice a year – and I’m OK with that #Jets
— HomeoftheJets (@HomeoftheJets1) February 5, 2018
CB Malcolm Butler (New England Patriots)
Even if the Jets bring back both Morris Claiborne and Buster Skrine, they’re going to need a starting cornerback. Butler, who turns 28 in March, could be a perfect fit. Super Bowl LII left many clueless as to why he didn’t find his way onto the field this past Sunday. There were a few speculations as to why Bill Belichick didn’t play his best cornerback in the biggest game of the season, but either way, all directions are pointing to him hitting the free agency market.
The hero of Super Bowl XLIX obviously has plenty of winning pedigree and would immediately become the best cornerback on the Jets’ roster. He had two interceptions in 2017 and three forced fumbles. Butler has played every game for three consecutive seasons (except Super Bowl LII). A 2015 Pro Bowler who made $3.9 million with the Patriots this past season as a restricted free agent, will be seeking a big payday and the Jets would be an ideal landing spot.
While there might be some holes still missing after acquiring some of the top free agents, other positions that are needed such as a quarterback, wide receiver, edge rusher and interior offensive lineman can easily be found in the draft.
There has been lots of chatter of the Jets being linked to Kirk Cousins recently. While this might be a possibility, it is also possible that they could get their “guy” in Baker Mayfield, who I see having some similarities to former Jets’ quarterback, “Broadway Joe” Namath in him within the first ten picks.
These acquisitions would be a huge stepping stone for their franchise, and I expect the Jets to be very aggressive come free agency and the draft in hopes to build a monster of a team in New York to compete with teams in the AFC East and make a run for it in the playoffs and potentially a shot at the Super Bowl.