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The Jets' top positions of need and the (non-QB) free agent who can help


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By Zack Rosenblatt 

 

The Jets have been putting all their attention on trying to reel in Aaron Rodgers, but when the free agency negotiating window opens Monday at noon ET, they’ll have plenty of other needs to address, too. Teams can agree to contracts during the two-day negotiating window, then sign them beginning at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

The Jets hope to know what Rodgers wants to do before noon hits — but free agency will begin with or without his decision.

So here’s a look at the Jets’ biggest needs (non-quarterback) and few potential targets at each spot, listed in order of what should be a priority:

The Athletic’s top 150 free agency ranking is in parentheses.

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Offensive line

(Jets free agents: George Fant, Nate Herbig, Connor McGovern, Cedric Ogbuehi, Mike Remmers, Dan Feeney, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif)

OT Andre Dillard, PHI (No. 125): Jets general manager Joe Douglas was with the Eagles when they drafted Dillard in the first round. He fell behind Jordan Mailata but Dillard is still well-regarded around the league and added some experience at guard in 2022. He’s still only 27, too.

C Jake Brendel, SF (No. 113): The 30-year-old should cost less than McGovern but he was a solid center for the 49ers last year, his first as a full-time starter, and Robert Saleh knows him from San Francisco. PFF ranked him 15th of 34 centers to play at least 500 snaps — and seventh in pass-blocking.

OT Billy Turner, DEN (N/A): The Jets need some reliable depth at tackle and Turner could provide some competition at right tackle with Mekhi Becton and Max Mitchell. Turner played for offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett in Green Bay and followed him to Denver last year, too. The 31-year-old has started 50 games over the last four years for Hackett.

G/C Aaron Brewer, TEN (N/A): He started 22 games the last two years for Jets offensive line coach Keith Carter in Tennessee and has experience at both guard and center. A depth option on the interior.

Defensive tackle

(Jets free agents: Sheldon Rankins, Nathan Shepherd, Solomon Thomas)

Fletcher Cox, PHI (No. 48): Even a 32-year-old Cox on the decline still had seven sacks in 2022. He’s spent his entire 11-year career in Philadelphia but could break free — and Douglas knows as well as anyone what he’s capable of. Quinnen Williams has mentioned Cox in the past as someone he’s studied, so there would be a leadership aspect as well. The Athletic’s Bo Wulf wrote that “it has seemed since he re-signed with the Eagles last spring that 2022 was his last hurrah in Philadelphia.”

Larry Ogunjobi, PIT (No. 61): The Jets pursued Ogunjobi last summer but initially lost out to the Bears, who gave him a three-year, $40 million deal. That was negated when he failed a physical, so Ogunjobi signed with the Steelers. He dealt with multiple injuries in 2022 but was still solid, and the Jets need defensive tackles with so many hitting free agency.

Linval Joseph, PHI (No. 143): The Jets tried to sign Joseph multiple times last season. They might’ve during training camp but instead opted to use most of their available cap space on left tackle Duane Brown after Becton was injured. Eventually, Joseph signed with the Eagles and the 34-year-old showed he still has something left in the tank as a rotational defensive lineman.

Safety

(Jets free agent: Lamarcus Joyner)

Jimmie Ward, SF (No. 42): Saleh helped to unlock Ward’s potential in San Francisco and he made it clear that he doesn’t want to play nickel corner anymore, which he did in 2022. The Jets just traded for Chuck Clark but it’s unclear if Jordan Whitehead is a good fit playing next to him. If the Jets part ways with Whitehead, Ward would make sense as a target.

Adrian Amos, GB (No. 122): He’s been on a downswing in recent years but is still only 29 and at his best was one of the best coverage safeties in the NFL, which was an issue at the position for the Jets last year.

Wide receiver

(Jets free agent: Jeff Smith)

Odell Beckham (No. 29): The mercurial three-time Pro Bowler is healthy and might wind up as one of the most sought-after wide receivers in a weak free agency class. He’s been FaceTiming with Jets star Sauce Gardner lately, and New York was at Beckham’s workout in Arizona last week. If the Jets cut Corey Davis — not guaranteed — then maybe Beckham would make sense as a target. Otherwise, he might be too pricey/risky to sign to a significant contract, especially since he hasn’t even played since 2021.

Allen Lazard, GB (No. 85): An obvious potential target with or without Rodgers since Lazard played for Hackett in Green Bay. He had his best season in 2022 (60 catches, 788 yards, 6 TDs) but fits the profile of a Davis replacement more than someone who should play alongside him, with Garrett Wilson and Elijah Moore already in tow.

Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, TEN (N/A): A cheaper depth option who came into his own the last two years with Jets passing game coordinator Todd Downing as his offensive coordinator (873 yards, seven touchdowns in 33 games).

Linebacker

(Jets free agent: Kwon Alexander)

Tremaine Edmunds, BUF (No. 8): It’s a bit of a pipe dream, but Saleh has never hidden his affinity for the freakish Edmunds, who stands at 6-5, 250, with elite athleticism. The chances of this happening decreased after Quincy Williams re-signed on Sunday, but maybe in a universe where the Jets decided to move on from C.J. Mosley (unlikely), this would be possible.

Eric Kendricks, MIN (No. 41): The 31-year-old Kendricks still has something left in the tank (280 tackles, six sacks, 16 tackles for loss, seven QB hits the last two years) and he played for defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich at UCLA.

Azeez Al-Shaair, SF (No. 88): He played for Saleh in San Francisco and is an ideal free-agent target as a young player (25) ready to take the next step into full-time starter. He had 44 tackles in 12 games (nine starts) last season.

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Running back

(Jets free agents: Ty Johnson, James Robinson)

1. Jamaal Williams, DET (No. 75): The Jets’ chances would obviously be helped by Rodgers, but Williams would be an intriguing target anyway. Go Long’s Ty Dunne reported the Jets had already shown interest and it makes sense — Breece Hall is coming off a torn ACL and running backs rarely play with the same explosiveness in their first year back after such an injury. Just ask Saquon Barkley. Williams has been in timeshares throughout his career and is coming off his best season as a pro: 1,066 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns.

2. Raheem Mostert, MIA (N/A): He’s as explosive and fast as any running back when healthy, which he was for Miami last year, when he averaged nearly 5 yards a carry (4.9) in 16 games. Saleh knows him well from their days with the 49ers.

3. Dontrell Hilliard, TEN (N/A): He’s shown flashes when filling in for Derrick Henry and a couple of new Jets coaches, Downing and Carter, were with him in Tennessee. He’s averaged 6.3 yards per carry in spot duty for the Titans the last two years.

(Photo of Allen Lazard: Nic Antaya / Getty Images)

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