This Sunday, the Green Bay Packers play the against New York Jets in the final road game of their season. Michael Nania of Gang Green Nation was kind enough to answer some of our questions about the Jets and provide some insight into their strengths and weaknesses.
APC: The Jets will enter the offseason with considerable cap space (more than $106.6 million, according to Over the Cap’s projections) and a top-5 draft pick. Given those resources, how would you go about rebuilding their roster?
Offense, offense, offense. It’s an offensive league. Check the top of the leaderboards in offensive DVOA versus defensive DVOA, and you’ll see that it’s the teams who dominate on the offensive side that are preparing for January football, while many of the teams dominating the defensive side are already preparing for the draft.
The Jets defense has holes but it isn’t terrible. The team should aggressively chase an edge pass rusher, both in free agency and the first round of the draft, but otherwise, offense needs to be the priority. They’ve floated around the middle in most defensive categories all year, and have spent most of the season in the top-five of red zone and third down defense. They’re imperfect, but decent enough to play second fiddle for just one offseason. The Jets are extremely sore for offensive talent - they rarely invest in that side in the draft, and when they do, those picks usually bust. Sam Darnold can’t continue to play behind a bottom-five offensive line and throw passes to punt returners when his top receivers go down.
New York needs to be all-in on Le’Veon Bell. There are a lot of legitimate questions that come with bringing him in at the price he’ll demand, from running back value, to his mileage, to his motivation, but the Jets almost have no choice. He is the league’s all-time leader in scrimmage yards per game through five seasons in the league. The Jets have cap to blow and a terrible offense with little talent and years of unproductive football under its belt. Bell can impact the game as a receiver and blocker as well as any running back has ever been able to. Take the shot and get Darnold a weapon that defensive coordinators will actually have to acknowledge. Nobody else out there will be as likely to boost the offense as Bell will be, even if the bust potential exists. It’s rare for players who rank as highly at their positions as Bell to shake free. Eventually your gobs of cap space have to go to elite players and bona fide upgrades, not faux stars like Trumaine Johnson and replaceable parts like Isaiah Crowell and Spencer Long.
At wide receiver, the Jets should tender RFA Robby Anderson and extend Quincy Enunwa. Both are homegrown quality players with an elite tool (Anderson’s deep ball, Enunwa’s YAC) and need to be kept around - but neither is a WR1 that can carry an offense. The Jets could use that guy. They should look to make an aggressive move for a player that can fill that role of a big-bodied, jump-ball winning X receiver. Maybe a trade for A.J. Green, a la Brandon Marshall in 2015? That guy will be tough to find, though. If the Jets can’t get that #1 guy, they still should comb for weapons at receiver. Tyrell Williams and Golden Tate come to mind first. You can’t have enough weapons. Players will go down, and you don’t want your developing franchise face to be throwing to special teamers when they do.
The Jets also need at least two new offensive line starters, especially at left guard at center. They should go all-out for Rams LG Roger Saffold or Broncos C Matt Paradis if they hit the market. If they can’t get either of those two, they should still be looking to outbid any other contenders for solid starters on the market. Offensive line should be at the top of the list (along with edge rusher) in the first round of the draft, and the team would be wise to add at least one or maybe even two more linemen after the first round.
Overall, the Jets just need to aggressively attack the offense in both free agency and the draft. Get as many weapons as possible and stockpile as much offensive line talent as the room can fit. The NFL is all about building around rookie quarterback contracts. As Darnold enters years two, three and four - that’s your window. Get him the tools he can use to develop.
We’d like to thank Michael for his insight. Be sure to check out our Q&A session over at Gang Green Nation as well as their fantastic coverage of all things Jets. As always, keep your internet machines tuned to Acme Packing Company for our comprehensive game-day coverage of Packers versus Jets.