Jets general manager Joe Douglas addressed the team’s biggest need on offense this week by signing three linemen. The defense, however, still needs plenty of work.
Douglas did not do much to address glaring defensive needs at edge rusher and cornerback. He agreed to a deal to bring back slot corner Brian Poole earlier in the week, then brought back cornerback Arthur Maulet on a one-year deal that was agreed to Friday. The Jets also agreed Friday to a one-year, $2 million deal with linebacker Neville Hewitt.
Douglas’ biggest move at cornerback this week was dumping Trumaine Johnson. Maybe the Jets are viewing Johnson as a cautionary tale and doing the right thing by not throwing money at their roster holes early in free agency. Former GM Mike Maccagnan signed Johnson to a five-year, $72.5 million deal in 2018 with $34 million guaranteed. That contract turned out to be one of the worst the Jets have ever handed out.
There is no question, however, the Jets still need to address cornerback and edge rusher. At the moment, their starting cornerbacks would be Brian Poole inside and some combination of Darryl Roberts, Bless Austin, Nate Hairston and Maulet on the outside. That is not exactly vintage Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, the shutdown combination the Jets had 10 years ago.
The Jets could argue that those lesser names played better than Johnson did last season for far less money as proof that defensive coordinator Gregg Williams can scheme around talent deficiencies and big names don’t always mean big production. Williams played a lot of Cover 2 defense last year with the safeties helping hide the deficiencies on the outside. The Jets finished 17th in passing defense and only allowed two 300-yard passing games, both in September.
Douglas still has plenty of time to address cornerback. The top free agents still available are Logan Ryan, Jimmy Smith, Daryl Worley, Aqib Talib, Ronald Darby, Bashaud Breeland and Xavier Rhodes. There is a good chance the prices will bottom out now that the first wave of free agency is over, and Douglas may pounce.
He also may choose to wait until the NFL Draft to find help at the position. Top cornerback Jeff Okudah of Ohio State is expected to be off the board before the Jets draft at No. 11, but Florida’s C.J. Henderson could be a target there, or Douglas could find one in the later rounds.
As for edge rusher, the now 14-year search continues. The Jets appear to be willing to let outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins leave in free agency, which is somewhat of a surprise. Jenkins led the team with eight sacks last year. If Jenkins goes, the Jets will need multiple edge rushers.
The top edge rusher on the market is Seattle’s Jadeveon Clowney, but he reportedly is seeking $20 million per year. There is no way Douglas would go near that price. If Clowney’s market craters, perhaps Douglas would get involved but it seems more likely that Clowney returns to the Seahawks for a cheaper deal.
After Clowney, the market is thin. Jabaal Sheard, Cameron Wake, Markus Golden and Vinny Curry are all options. Pass rushers in the draft are hard to find outside of the first round and this year there seems to be a major drop-off after Chase Young, who is expected to be taken No. 2 by the Redskins.
It still is only March. The Jets will not have a game for 5 ½ months. Right now, the holes at cornerback and edge rusher are glaring. By September, Douglas needs to make sure they no longer feel that way.