Top Free Agent Targets for the New York Jets

New York should do everything it can to protect Sam Darnold

With NFL free agency set to begin on March 18th, rumors have started circulating about where players will sign. Big names like Tom Brady and Melvin Gordon could be on the move. However, neither of those two players will be targets of the New York Jets. Instead, the Jets will be focused on other positions of need. New York currently has the 14th most cap space at just over 49 million dollars. The Jets however, could bring that number up to around 76 million (which would be 6th most in the NFL) by releasing a few players. This list would include Trumaine Johnson (which would save $3M), Darryl Roberts ($6M), Brian Winters ($7M), Josh Bellamy ($2.25M), Nate Hairston ($2.14M), and Avery Williamson ($6.5M). With all of that cap space, the Jets figure to be big spenders during free agency, and for good reason. The 7–9 Jets have some holes they need to fill if they want to become serious contenders. Below I will name the top-five free agents the Jets should target.

Jack Conklin (OT)

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It’s not often that a premier offensive tackle hits the open market, but that’s just what Jack Conklin is. The 25 year old was a first-team all-pro selection in 2016, and is just what the Jets need. According to Pro Football Focus, the Jets had the 5th worst offensive line in 2019. New York averaged 0.7 rushing yards before contact, which was the lowest of any team in the NFL. In 2019, Conklin showed that he is one of the best run-blocking tackles in the entire league, and was part of an offensive line which led the way for the league leading rusher (Derrick Henry). After bouncing back from injury and playing all 16 games this past season, Conklin proved he should be a target for the Jets this offseason.

Joe Thuney (OG)

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Signing guard Joe Thuney would help the Jets in two ways. First, it would give New York a boost on the offensive line. Second, it would help weaken the division leading New England Patriots. Thuney is the top guard on the market, and the Jets should do whatever they can to sign him. A second-team all-pro selection last season, Thuney allowed only one sack all season, despite playing the second most snaps in the league (1140). Thuney would significantly help improve a Jets offensive line that allowed the fourth-most sacks in the NFL (52).

Dante Fowler Jr. (OLB)

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Multiple edge-rushers are set to hit free agency, however some are expected to be franchise tagged. Dante Fowler Jr. is not one of those, and is someone the Jets should be targeting. During the 2019 season, the Jets only had 35 sacks which ranked in the bottom-ten of the NFL. Fowler, who had a career high 11.5 sacks last year, would help improve a unit the Jets have struggled with for some time.

Yannick Ngakoue (DE)

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Another pass rusher the Jets should be targeting is defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. Jets safety Jamal Adams has publicly expressed that he wants New York to target Ngakoue in free agency. The Jets would be smart to listen to Adams. Ngakoue has 37.5 sacks over the course of his four-year career. Ngakoue also hasn’t had less then eight sacks in a season since he has entered the NFL; a number which would have tied him for the Jets lead last season.

Byron Jones (CB)

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With the Jets planning to release cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson and Darryl Roberts, New York will have a need at the position. Byron Jones will be expensive, but the Jets should take a look at signing the talented cornerback. According the Pro Football Focus, Jones was one of the best corners in the league in 2018. Jones didn’t have the same type of season in 2019, but he was still a quality corner. If the price is acceptable, the Jet should look to target Jones who can help improve their middle of the pack pass defense (ranked 16th in the NFL).

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University at Buffalo ’20 | BA in Communication | Writer for The Sports Scientist

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