The Jets are on the verge of signing quarterback Aaron Rodgers in a trade with the Packers, a move that many believe would cement the team’s status as a serious conference contender.
But even if Gang Green acquires Rodgers, there’s still a lot of work to be done.
A week into the trade period, the Jets continue to have some needs to address on both sides of the ball. According to Over The Cap, the Jets have $11.2 million in salary cap space. However, the team can gain more cap space with a few moves.
If the Jets release wide receiver Corey Davis, they’ll get $10.5 million in savings. Davis could be released or traded after the Jets signed former Packers receiver Allen Lazard to a four-year, $44 million deal last week.
Gang Green could also add an additional $15.4 million if he releases defensive end Carl Lawson, who will be in the final year of a three-year, $45 million deal he signed in 2021.
The Jets haven’t made many moves since free agency began outside of Lazard and in the trade for safety Chuck Clark. Due to the potential Rodgers trade, the Jets will undoubtedly be giving up at least one draft pick, if not more. So the Jets will need free agency to fill some of their needs because they might have limited picks in the April draft.
Here are the needs the other Jets must address in free agency:
The Jets don’t have a starting center on their roster. Last year’s starter Connor McGovern is a free agent as it looks like the Jets are ready to go in a different direction. Pro Football Focus gave him a 69.6 rating after allowing five sacks.
Gang Green’s offensive line struggled with consistency last season after making 11 different starting lineups and allowing 42 sacks, the 14th-most in the league last year. The Jets tried to sign Jake Brendel, but he signed a four-year contract extension with the 49ers.
Many of the best centers have already been signed, including Bradley Bozeman and Jason Kelce. But there are veterans the Jets could target.
One of them is former Titans center Ben Jones, who was released earlier this month after seven seasons at Tennessee with a failed physical pick. Jones was instrumental in helping Titans running back Derrick Henry rush for 6,042 yards and 56 touchdowns from 2019-22.
A couple of reasons Jones could join the Jets is that he recognizes some familiar faces. Former Tennessee offensive line coach Keith Carter is now the Jets’ offensive line coach/run game coordinator.
Additionally, the Jets hired former Titans offensive coordinator Todd Downing. Both Carter and Downing were fired in January after the Titans finished 7-10.
If the Jets don’t sign Jones, the team could look to the draft to find their next starting center.
The Jets have Quinnen Williams, who had a breakout season in 2022 after recording 55 tackles and 12 sacks. But the team needs a starter alongside him and more depth at the position, as Solomon Thomas is the only other experienced defensive tackle on the roster.
Sheldon Rankins, who led a Jets defense that finished fourth in the league in points allowed and yards per game, signed a one-year, $10.5 million deal with the Texans.
Additionally, backup defensive tackle Nathan Shephard signed a three-year, $15 million deal with the Saints.
Michael Brockers and Derrick Nnadi are two players the Jets could potentially target on the open market.
Yeah, I know this may sound crazy, but the Jets need a running back this offseason. Breece Hall tore his ACL last October and while he is expected to make a full comeback, who knows how long it will take for him to return to his rookie season form.
Michael Carter and Zonovan “Bam” Knight are on the list, but the Jets’ offense and rushing attack suffered without Hall, rushing for more than 100 total yards in just three of their last nine games.
There are some veteran running backs who could help the Jets on the cheap.
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Kareem Hunt might be the best of the available options, having served as Nick Chubb’s backup in Cleveland for the past four seasons. Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette are also free agents, but their best days seem to be behind them.
Whatever the Jets’ goal is, it should be relatively cheap. During the early stages of free agency, teams have been reluctant to pay veteran running backs big money. Gang Green could also look at the draft to select a running back in the third or fourth round.
Duane Brown will return for his second season with the Jets. But he will turn 38 in August and the Jets need to find a long-term solution at left tackle. Additionally, Brown dealt with a shoulder injury and ultimately underwent surgery in the offseason.
Former first-round pick Mekhi Becton appears to be in great shape, but he has played one game in two seasons. Donovan Smith and Taylor Lewan are possible options for the Jets. With Carter on the Jets’ coaching staff, Lewan is the best option.
Even if Brown does return, the Jets could also use more security at right tackle, since George Fant is a free agent and a blood-clotting condition ended Max Mitchell’s season prematurely.
“You would love to add as many players as possible,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said of the tackle position. “You don’t want to force it, obviously, you want to make sure that you’re always doing what’s best for the organization and if at that point the best thing for the organization is the best player, whatever it is, you.” I always love to add, the more the merrier.
“You know how Joe (Douglas) and I feel about our offensive and defensive lines, I joke about it, but in every joke, there is a little bit of truth and Joe will have 52 offensive linemen on the roster, one quarterback. if he could.”