Now that we’ve analyzed the New York Jets’ internal free agents and the decisions they’ll have to make, we can now key in on some external free agents the Jets could target. Other than quarterback, the three biggest areas of need are arguably Linebacker, Safety, and the Offensive Line. We’ll go through the stats on some of the top free agents in each area and decide who the Jets should target.
Before last night, CJ Mosley was the only starter still under contract for the 2023 season, so the Jets need to test the waters at linebacker in free agency and/or the draft. Kwon Alexander and Quincy Williams were decent linebackers, but both had key weaknesses, so the Jets need to decide if they want to bring both back (after just resigning Quincy last night), or go get some new ones.
David’s been great with the Buccaneers, especially in coverage where he had the second highest PFF coverage grade for linebackers (88). He’s a VERY consistent veteran (that grade is only the 3rd highest of his career), and even added 3 sacks and 2 forced fumbles this past season. Could be a pricey short term option and he’s not as much of a standout player in the run defense, but a player the Jets should look into.
Edwards had a career season with the Eagles and the 6th highest PFF grade on defense for linebackers. He’s about equally as stellar in the run defense as he is in coverage, so he’s an all-around great player the Jets could add. If there’s one clear weakness it’s that he did miss 16 tackles, which is about the same as Quincy Williams.
Long also had a breakout season in 2022, and has been improving each season since he’s entered the league. His strength is in the run defense, having the 5th highest PFF grade in that area (89). Like Edwards, he missed a good amount of tackles with 17, and it could be risky to go for a player with only one great season, but he’s what the Jets are looking for in defending the run.
Another player who had a career season in 2022, Edmunds’ strengths are similar to David’s, as he was the best linebacker in coverage according to PFF. However, he was graded lower than Quincy and Kwon in terms of run defense, so I think the Jets will look otherwise in the free agency market.
Leighton Vander Esch
Vander Esch was an above average linebacker in 2022 for the Cowboys, having the 23rd best defensive grade and 11th best coverage grade. Like Edmunds, he’s not as great in the run defense and not a huge upgrade over Quincy and Kwon there, but he did only miss 6 tackles all season.
In my opinion, Okereke is probably the most intriguing option for the Jets, and he likely won’t be the priciest option. Okereke had the 15th highest run defense grade at 79.5 and has been a tackling machine (though he did miss 18 in 2022). He isn’t the best coverage linebacker, but the Jets cornerbacks are good enough lock-down players to mask that.
Priority list of top linebackers: Okereke, Long, Edwards, David, Vander Esch, Edmunds
Since the cornerbacks were stellar, the below-average safety play flew under the radar for most of 2022. The duo of Whitehead and Joyner were in no way a top safety group, and with Joyner likely not being resigned and the potential for Whitehead getting cut, the Jets need an overhaul at this position. They did just trade for Ravens safety/swiss-army-knife type player Chuck Clark, so they’re off to a great start, but they’re in no way done.
Bates isn’t the best free agent safety in coverage, allowing 14.7 yards per reception and receivers to catch over 65% of passes thrown his way, but he’s absolutely amazing in the run defense. He was the 6th highest graded safety in that aspect, which is arguably more of what the Jets need given their strength at cornerback. But if the Jets feel they need a safety that is lock-down in coverage, don’t be surprised if they pass on the pricey Bates.
Poyer is one of those players who is a big name, but his stats don’t really back it up as of lately. He was only the 48th highest graded safety (right below Whitehead), and his play is probably on the decline given his age. He did only allow 8.9 yards per reception and caught 4 interceptions, but he allowed receivers to catch 72.7% passes that came his way. He’s not a player I think the Jets will target.
Rapp had a career year on a Rams roster where everyone else declined. He had a top 10 run defense grade (82.3), and was also above average in coverage (only allowed 7.5 yards per reception). He’ll likely be a cheap option to add to the safety room, let’s just hope he can repeat what he did in 2022.
Bell isn’t the most flashy safety on this list, but he is by far the most consistent one. He had the 35th highest grade this season (69.3), and his grades have been fairly the same each season. The Jets will value his consistent play, but he will need to clean up on the missed tackles, since he had 13 this past season.
CJ had a great season with the Eagles, but his stats were surprisingly lower than most would think. He was the 73rd graded safety in run defense and missed 12 tackles, something that the Jets definitely won’t like to see. He was much better in coverage, grabbing 6 interceptions and holding receivers to 8.7 yards per reception, so that’s promising.
Amos has been a standout safety until a really off 2022 season. He was the 7th lowest graded safety this season, something he’s not used to at all. He was MUCH better in run defense than coverage (and was a tackling machine), so let’s hope that this season was just a fluke.
Priority list of top safeties: Bell, Rapp, Bates, Amos, Gardner-Johnson, Poyer
The Jets simply need offensive lineman that will stay on the field for all 17 games, and the only one who did that last season was Connor McGovern, who is now a free agent (though it would be smart for the Jets to bring him back). Not saying that the Jets need to go out and get one of the big free agent names on the offensive line, but let’s take a look at who’s out there.
Orlando Brown (T)
Brown likely won’t be returning to the Chiefs, so he’s one of the top tackles out there (graded as the 19th best by PFF in 2022). He’s super consistent is equally as good in pass blocking and run blocking. He did allow a ridiculously high 47 pressures in 2022, something that Mahomes can scramble out of, but I wouldn’t count on the Jets quarterbacks to do that.
Kaleb McGary (T)
McGary had his best season by far, and was the overall 4th highest graded tackle in 2022 (86.6). He was insanely good at run blocking, but pretty underwhelming in the pass block and did allow 6 sacks, so can he keep it up next year?
Mike McGlinchey (T)
Like Brown, McGlinchey is a super consistent tackle whose PFF grades have been just about the same each season. He’s also kinda like McGary in the fact that he’s much better in the run block than pass block (allowed 6 sacks and 27 pressures in 2022).
Ethan Pocic (C)
If the Jets do let McGovern walk (hopefully not), Pocic is the best free agent center out there. His grade of 79 was 3rd best of all centers, and he was outstanding in both run blocking and pass blocking. It was his best season by far, but he’s been improving each season so 2022 was probably not a fluke. He only allowed 2 sacks, 10 pressures, and ZERO hits.
Isaac Seumalo (G)
If the Jets don’t believe in Tomlinson, Seumalo is a great and consistent option at guard out in free agency. He had the 10th highest grade and only allowed 1 sack (but 20 pressures).
Nate Davis (G)
Davis isn’t quite on the level of Seumalo, but he’s a player who is great at run blocking (his grade of 69.8 was the 13th highest of all guards). He struggles a little in pass blocking (giving up 3 sacks in 2022), but he’s a consistent player.