Lichtenstein: Taking A Look At An Ideal Jets Offseason

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By WFAN Sports Radio 101.9 FM/66AM New York

As of this writing, the NFL is still planning on moving forward with its 2020 league year. The new collective bargaining agreement was approved by the players on Sunday, which eliminated one potential source of uncertainty. 

Assuming the NFL can proceed without a hitch, Jets general manager Joe Douglas will finally be able to get started on his difficult rebuilding task this week. I delved into Douglas’ highest priorities in past posts. With so many, however, it would be foolish to expect that Douglas can plug every gaping hole in his first swings at free agency and the draft. 

With that in mind, what would a successful offseason look like for the Jets?

Here’s a summary of my wish list:

Impactful cuts: Trumaine Johnson (CB), Daryl Roberts (CB), Nate Hairston (CB), Avery Williamson (LB), Brian Winters (G), Quincy Enunwa (WR—see below), Josh Bellamy (WR)

These seven cuts would provide about an additional $37.5 million in 2020 salary cap savings on top of the approximately $41 million in space already on the Jets’ books. Johnson has been the only reported casualty to date. Roberts, Hairston and Bellamy seem like no-brainers. The fates of Winters and Williamson could depend on what Douglas accomplishes in the free agent market. Enunwa has injury guarantees in his contract—the cost/benefit analysis would preclude the Jets from releasing him if he hasn’t been medically cleared.

The Jets' Trumaine Johnson reacts against the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium on Oct. 13, 2019. Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Must extends: Brian Poole (CB), Kelvin Beachum (T), Alex Lewis (G), Neville Hewitt (LB), Arthur Maulet (CB—restricted),

Poole was one of the league’s best slot corners last season. At $3 million for one year, he was prior GM Mike Maccagnan’s best value play in his tenure. Poole could double that salary in a new multiyear deal.  If you are puzzled as to why Beachum is on this list, the Jets were 7-3 in games in which both he and quarterback Sam Darnold were active. Per ProFootballFocus.com, his pass blocking grade was at least above average in each of those games save for the Bengals blip.

Unlike the other offensive linemen in the marketplace, Beachum shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. Similarly, Lewis, Maulet and Hewitt can probably be retained at cost-effective numbers. In addition, it would be nice if the Jets gave running back Bilal Powell another year (and then used him).

Key departures: Robby Anderson (WR), Jordan Jenkins (LB), Brandon Copeland (LB), Ryan Kalil (C), Brandon Shell (T), Trevor Siemian (QB), Lachlan Edwards (P), Sam Ficken (K), Ty Montgomery (RB)

The comprehensive list is far lengthier — the Jets have 29 players from their 2019 year-end roster who are free agents. Focusing on starters, Anderson simply isn’t a $15 million per-year, number one wideout.  Jenkins is also overrated — Terrell Basham had more pressures coming around the edge in fewer pass rush opportunities.

Douglas gambled and lost on Kalil last season, but fortunately it was just a one-year shot. Folks forget how awful Siemian was before his ankle got crushed in the Cleveland debacle — see you later. In addition, neither specialist deserves to return — no further explanation needed.   

Robby Anderson(Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

Free agent acquisitions: Dante Fowler Jr. (Edge), Graham Glasgow (G), Halapoulivaati Vaitai (T), Breshad Perriman (WR), Ronald Darby (CB)

Fowler and Glasgow will have to be overpaid to choose this market (and its taxes) — thinking a $35 million combined 2020 cap hit gets it done. They should be worth it. Fowler is an elite pass rusher while the versatile Glasgow was PFF’s eighth-highest graded guard last season.

I’ll be curious to see the bidding on Perriman, who has never produced big stats but will be chased in a very thin WR market. The Jets need his speed.  It shouldn’t be a surprise if former Philadelphia assistant Douglas targets two ex-Eagles in right tackle Vaitai and cornerback Darby.  Both can be value plays the way Poole and receiver Jamison Crowder were a year ago.       

Draft: Henry Ruggs III (WR), Cesar Ruiz (C), Isaiah Wilson (T), Jaylon Johnson (CB)

I know, just about every expert has the Jets taking a tackle with the 11th overall pick in the first round.  Those that predicted a receiver opted for either CeeDee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy, Ruggs III’s Alabama teammate.

Folks, Ruggs III is the real deal. Sub 4.3 speed with good size and hands, he’s the explosive playmaker Douglas keeps talking about. Ruggs III shouldn’t be discounted because his numbers were hurt by Alabama boasting four wideouts who are potential first-round NFL picks.  He can be the Jets’ Tyreke Hill.  If it’s too much of a reach for the slot, trade down and get another pick. Just get him.  In the next rounds, Douglas can pick up his center, a tackle project, and a corner to develop who is built for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ press coverages.   

For a FAN’s perspective of the Nets, Devils and Jets, follow Steve on Twitter: @SteveLichtenst1