The following is a guest post by Braydon Tomac on how he would get the New York Jets on the correct flight path. If you’d like to contribute an article to our site, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jets flight path
The biggest issue in East Rutherford was not a quarterback, lack of weapons or poor defence. The biggest problem was culture, and the hiring of Robert Saleh is a leap in the right direction. It cannot be expressed more on how great of hiring this is to begin the rebuild.
Saleh is a high energy leader, who is defensive mind and known for a deadly front seven. The Jets can be seriously competitive in three years if they continue to make great moves; here is the course general manager, Joe Douglas should steer this franchise.
Douglas promised this offseason either Sam Darnold or their second pick in the draft would be traded. As we play out potential offseason scenarios, the best course of action is for the Jets to trade pick two rather than Darnold.
Here’s why; Darnold has been given the job of fixing this dumpster fire of a franchise. He is only going to be 24 in the 2021/22 season and has had extremely poor protection. There are three questions we need to ask before saying Darnold needs to go:
What kind of offence does Mike LaFleur want to run? Darnold can make all the throws required within the confines of the 49ers scheme. One could argue he could have even hit that open deep ball to Sanders that Garoppolo missed in last year’s Super Bowl.
Who do the Jets replace Darnold with while improving the team? There isn’t an answer here that makes a ton of sense. We have seen one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL this year lead one of the worst teams to a 4-12 season (Deshaun Watson). Trading for a quarterback truly isn’t realistic for the roster structure because then we’re facing the reality of the Jetes being the Texans 2.0.
Since the new coach will have input into who the QB will be moving forward, Robert Saleh did get this up close look at Sam Darnold back in week 2. #Jets
— Dan Graca (@DanGraca) January 13, 2021
With their second pick they can get the argued second-best QB in the class; Ohio State’s Justin Fields or BYU’s Zach Wilson. Wilson would fit right into a LaFleur offence, but is he much of an upgrade from Sam Darnold? Many don’t believe so, nor is it a good idea to throw another 21-year old into a team whose ceiling in 2021 is realistically 9-7. However, 6-10 is more likely at this juncture.
What is Darnold’s value? Teams aren’t lining up to trade for Darnold with how his career has gone so far. There will definitely be interest from teams like the Colts; who believe they could fix his confidence, in turn, getting the best game out of him. But there likely isn’t a return satisfactory enough for the Jets to give up on a kid who is extremely talented.
The return on your capital for pick two with the buzz that is surrounding Fields and Wilson is far more. Acquiring capital down the road should be the goal. Therefore, when the foundation is set, and the team has forward-moving momentum a rookie QB can come in and succeed.
Plenty of work to be done
Trading pick two protects the team whether Darnold succeeds or not. They likely won’t move the pick until Draft Day when there is a peak value. So while we patiently wait for that day to come, let’s explore other areas of the roster that could use reconstruction while building a winning culture.
According to Overthecap.com, the Jets have $70.6 million in cap space to head into the re-signing phase then free agency. There are some favourable contracts the Jets can get out of.
- Cutting defensive end Henry Anderson, the Jets would create $8.2 million in cap space. His stat line in 2020 left much to be desired with 0.5 sacks and 42 tackles this season.
- Cutting tackle George Fant would create $8.1million in cap space. Fant just hasn’t been a great tackle and it is a great draft class to upgrade at this position.
With now $86.9 million in cap space, the Jets need to work on bringing back safety Marcus Maye. His contract is likely going to cost around $10 million a year. In this scenario, the organization convinces him to buy into what the Jets are building, the importance he will have on being the key part of the secondary, and paying him more than a fair value.
Heading into free agency we know Sam Darnold has to prove his worth in 2021. With $76.9 million in cap space, there are a lot of holes to fill.
Positions of need
- Running back
- Wide receiver
- Offensive line
- Defensive end
- Interior defensive linemen
- Defensive secondary
Jets culture builders
When implementing a brand new culture, it’s not only vital that the entire coaching staff is on the same page, but that the players are buying in too. To further drive the point home, bringing in players who have played under Saleh would expedite this process.
The Jets would be wise to target a future Hall of Famer who loves playing for him; Richard Sherman. This secondary has been weak, and Sherman has been playing excellent football as a veteran.
Sherman knows what winning looks like, he can bring a winning mentality to the locker, and can be an important captain to help create a “Saleh way”. The contract would likely be a two-year deal averaging $10 million a year.
It’s worth noting Sherman is his own agent and believes in letting his play earn him money so there would likely be bonuses that could put this contract to $15 million a year.
That leaves the Jets with $61.9 million in cap space with a whole lot more talent out there.
Any franchise looking for a HC should listen to Richard Sherman’s take on Robert Saleh pic.twitter.com/FQFwGADNqO
— Billy M (@BillyM_91) November 30, 2020
Making a splash
Another glaring need is the receiver position. This next signing fills that glaring receiver one spot. Juju Smith-Schuster taking on New York. The fit is perfect with 2020 second-round pick Denzel Mimms who should be the second option in that offence with Crowder as a trusted slot option.
It is likely the Steelers move on from Juju with the emergence of Dionte Johnson and Chase Claypool. Juju and Darnold were fun to watch together at USC and it’s likely they could find that connection again in New York. Juju is going to cost, but jerseys and tickets will sell.
A solid deal to land Juju would come in at a four-year, $65 million deal averaging $16.25 million per season. This leaves the Jets with $44.65 million in available cap space.
Rounding out the Jets roster
Making a splash signing on both sides it is time to get frugal as there are still a lot of holes and draftees will need to be paid.
Defensive end Solomon Thomas two-year, six million dollars per year average. He found a place in Saleh’s 49ers defence and likely isn’t returning to the 49ers crowded edge room.
Strong safety Keanu Neal one-year, four million dollars “prove-it” deal. He hasn’t stayed healthy for the Falcons but the former first-round pick has shown he belongs when on the field. Coming off a torn-Achilles he isn’t likely to be highly sought after keeping the price down.
Tackle Demar Dotson one-year, two million. Dotson has been far from reliable this season for Denver but when he has been able to play he has played well. He would be a perfect depth tackle.
Quarterbacks CJ Beathard or Nick Mullens three-year, three million per year average. Either one Mike LaFleur can get his hands on would make sense. They can come and support Darnold to learn the new offence and can be trusted to come in and run it if need be.
Defensive end Ryan Kerrigan two-year, $7.5 million per year average. The longtime captain for Washington can come in and be the veteran on the line, he’s a great fit in this defence and can fill the role nicely.
Jets draft deals
With only $22.15 million left in cap space, the focus now shifts to the draft. A lot of pressing needs now have players who can fill voids and fit what the staff likes to do.
Entering draft night everyone is eager to hear the team’s name that moves up to pick. In 2012 we saw the Washington Football Team move up to the second pick for Robert Griffin III (RG3). In this trade St. Louis (now Los Angles) Rams received:
• Picks No. 6, 39 in the 2012 draft
• 1st in the 2013 draft
• 1st in the 2014 draft
With Denver finding themselves with Drew Lock pencilled into the starting quarterback spot on the depth chart and fans growing tired of poor quarterback play. We could see the new Broncos general manager, George Paton getting the green light to move up and get his guy. Similar deals could be struck with Carolina or Detroit (if they trade Matt Stafford).
The Broncos trade:
Picks 9, 41 in 2021
1st in the 2022 draft
3rd in the 2023 draft
Mock it up
With so much to happen before the draft that will affect these players’ pro rankings (mainly team interviews), it’s hard to get the values to spot on. Multiple mock draft websites were used to come up with a median draft value for each player. This insured the mock is kept as realistic of who’s potentially available.
Pick 9: Patrick Surtain II, cornerback, Alabama. Some might say Surtain the second was destined for this as a son of former Chiefs & Dolphins corner. Surtain II across the way from Richard Sherman will have teams respect this pass defence. The biggest question to Surtain II game will be his speed, something to watch for in his evaluations.
Pick 23: Samuel Cosmi, offensive tackle, Texas. It is a great year to be in need of a tackle, and that’s why it’s not necessary to grab one at nine. At 23 the Jets are selecting a player who can be a day 1 starter at right tackle. Between former first-round pick Becton and Cosmi; Darnold will have his outsides secured for the first time in his career.
Pick 30 via Trade: Carlos Basham Jr. defensive end, Wake Forest. With the amount of draft capital, the Jets have they can afford to get back into the first and take advantage of the potential use of a fifth-year option. For pick 30, the Jets move picks 34 & 86 for pick 30 to select Basham Jr.
While the Jets could likely land him at 34 on day two the fifth-year option is extremely important for a player who will need work. In the first year, he will be able to come in and create havoc in the backfield but he isn’t a day one every-down player. He will play a very great role in the defence and complement the edge signings discussed above.
Pick 41 (via Denver): Travis Etienne, running back, Clemson. Etienne showed just how good of a receiving back he was this season having 588 yards. He is a true every-down back and a breath of fresh air to a backfield that was led by Frank Gore last season.
Pick 66: Shaun Wade, hybrid safety/slot corner, Ohio State. This man was burnt toast in the National Championship game vs Devonta Smith proving he isn’t an outside corner for the NFL. However, he has shown a lot of promising play that should translate well to an NFL slot corner but his role won’t be expanded early on in his career.
The latter rounds
Typically, you see a lot of moving around from teams in these rounds but for simplicity, there will be no more trades.
Pick 103: Drake Jackson, center, Kentucky. Connor McGovern has two years left on his contract, Jackson is going to need time to develop as an NFL calibre centre.
Pick 143: Dazz Newsome, wide receiver, North Carolina. Newsome has the upside to be a slot machine in the NFL. Depth behind Crowder makes sense.
Pick 152: Cade Mayes, interior offensive lineman, Tennessee. Mayes played all five positions at Tennessee and has the upside to be a starting guard.
Pick 182: Kenny Yeboah, tight-end, Ole Miss. Yeboah is a tremendous athlete who has a long way to go. If you get the most out of him you might yourself a Darren Waller type player.
Patience, patience, patience
The Jets flight path to the top of the AFC will be a long journey, but if they are smart they will use this as a foundational year. Unfortunately, this will be a long process which is not something New York fans will want to hear as they now have the longest current playoff drought with the 2010 season being the last time the Jets made the playoffs. Cleveland (2002) and Tampa Bay (2007) snapped theirs this season.
However, by giving Sam Darnold his fourth year to earn a fifth-year option they could potentially acquire four top 50 players while having three firsts in 2022 to draft a quarterback if Darnold doesn’t work out. It’ll start with the culture and if they do it right, end with years of playoff success and perhaps a Super Bowl title to boot.
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