Joe Douglas and the rest of the Jets organization have some spectacular work turning around the Jets roster since taking over in 2019. But the roster is not without its holes going into week one of the 2020 season, and there are some positions that are strong now that could become priority needs come 2023 if the right things don’t go the Jets way. So what are the key positions of need for 2023, and who could be available in the draft or free agency that the Jets could look to add?
The Jets roster is nearly unrecognisable from the train wreck that Mike Maccagnan left when he was shuttled out of the door in 2019. Going over some of the position battles for other articles, and rewatching old games for player profiles, it still doesn’t fail to shock when you see some of the guys who were playing in starting roles back in 2019 and 2020.
Looking at the edge rusher room on the defence as an example: when Joe Douglas went into the 2020 off-season he had Jordan Jenkins, Tarrel Basham, Henry Anderson and Kyle Phillips. Today: Carl Lawson, John Franklin-Myers Jermaine Johnson, Micheal Clemons, Bryce Huff and Jacob Martin. Sure there’s been investment – a first round pick, a big free agent contract; but there’s also been smart moves – waiver wire pick ups, UDFAs and late free agency additions.
In 3 off-seasons the offence is so stacked at every position that QB remains the only real question mark; and we will know by the end of the year if Zach Wilson is the guy. The Jets finally have a TE room with players who would make another roster in the NFL. The WR room and RB rooms are so well stocked Jets Twitter is arguing about RB3 and WR5.
There are still holes though, and at the end of 2022 contracts will be coming to an end, and some players need to have a big year to give the staff confidence they are the right guys going forward.
Positions Of Desperate Need
Seeing Ashtyn Davis and a UDFA sitting behind a Lamarcus Joyner, a veteran who hasn’t played the safety position in three years, should fill Jets fans with dread. As of right now this is the most pressing position of need on the Jets roster. Jordan Whitehead is a great addition at Strong Safety but the Free Safety position and the depth is frightening.
There’s some future projects like Jason Pinnock and Tony Adams who if given time may turn into good players, and if nothing else sort out the depth. But the starting safety spot opposite Whitehead should be job number one for JD and the front office either before the 2020 trade deadline, or in the next offseason.
Options: Free agency – Jessie Bates III. I don’t honestly expect Douglas to invest what it will take to land Bates but it would be nice. Draft – Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M. Johnson would be a versatile addition to our backfield, and 2023 is the year JD should invest in the safety position with a late first round pick.
With CJ Mosley named captain again in 2022 and his contracted restructured to give the team much needed flexibility the Jets have at least one position in the middle of the field covered for the next couple of years.
Beyond Mosley though are question marks: Quincy Williams is a player the staff love and he certainly has the energy and the heavy hitting ability to be a force if he can show that he has the mental ability. Kwon Alexander is a veteran presence, but can he stay healthy, and will the team be willing to invest in him beyond this one year contract. Jamien Sherwood is a 2nd year player the team hopes becomes something, and they’ve stashed Hamsah Nasirildeen on the practice squad to see how he develops.
The Jets could end the season with anywhere between 1 and 5 LB who can be counted on for 2023. Realistically it’s 2 players; Mosley and either Williams or Sherwood going into next off-season so the Jets need to ask how much they’re willing to invest in this position.
Options: Free agency – Azzez Al-Shaair, currently with San Francisco and had a rise in play in 2021. Draft – Jack Campbell, Iowa. A potential 2nd round pick for the Jets in 2023.
Interior Defensive Line
The defensive line is vastly improved at edge, but on the interior is is surprisingly thin. Quinnen Williams should have the type of season that lands him with a contract extension and beyond that we can expect Clemons and JFM to rotate between IDL and DE in the system.
Rankins and Thomas likely won’t be back next year, and even if Shephard somehow sticks around he isn’t a starter. Jonathan Marshall is a developmental player on the practice squad but the Jets still need another quality starter on this team.
Options: Free agency – Jerry Tillery, former 1st round pick by the Chargers in 2019. Hasn’t lived up to the pick, but the potential is still there and the Jets could get him at a good price and see if they can revive his career. Draft – Jaquelin Roy, LSU. If Roy can work on his deficiencies in the run game this season he would be an ideal fit on the Jets.
Positions That Could Fall Off A Cliff
There is a real possibility that the Jets could end 2022 needing two new starting Tackles. People out there in draft-land sounded this warning bell slightly too early with calls for the team to spend the 4th overall pick on a Tackle in 2022. Tackle though does have the potential to be a problem area in 2023.
Fant is playing on the final year of his contract; the team and his agent are working on an extension which we will wait to see if that turns into anything concrete. Fant may decide to go into the free agent market and see if he can maximize his value should he have another strong year at LT.
Becton will likely miss all of 2022 and depending on his recovery the team should have him next year although he will be a question mark. Duane Brown is a one year stop gap, and Max Mitchell is a 4th round rookie so his role next year is TBD.
Options: Free agency – Jack Conklin, currently with the Browns. If Fant walks Conklin would be the cheaper option at right tackle which would allow Becton or a draft pick to take the left spot. Draft – Paris Johnson, Ohio State. I’d fully expect Joe Douglas to take a Tackle with his 1st round pick if it looks like a position of need in 2023. His movement skills and athleticism would make him a contender to make the Jets draft board as he’d fit well in their zone scheme.
Connor McGovern is, like Fant, playing on the final year of his contract. He’s getting paid like a top 10 centre and playing like a top 20 centre. If the Jets do want to bring him back the offer will likely reflect that, so will he value himself higher and force the Jets to look elsewhere?
It’s easy to flip-flop on this one depending on what day of the week it is, and how much coffee you’ve had. A top 20 centre is a perfectly okay thing to have, and consistency on the interior of the OL for the line play, and for the QB could be more valuable than we fans really consider.
Options: Free agency – Bradley Bozeman, if he can clean up the penalties the Panthers Centre could be a less expensive option of the Jets to look at, and he’ll only be 28 years old. Draft – Ricky Stromberg, Arkansas. Athletic senior who should fit the Jets scheme. Unlikely to need a 1st round investment and could be a late 2nd or early 3rd round option for the Jets.
A Middle Ground
In reality it will unlikely to be as grim a picture as has been painted here. Joe Douglas will make it a point to make sure he doesn’t leave himself this exposed and re-sign Fant or McGovern. The young players will continue to develop and the likes of Pinnock, Williams and Mitchell will be primed to take starter roles in 2023.
However the Jets choose to address their roster holes in 2023 the hope is that 2022 was so successful that they’re not picking in the top five again, and while that puts some of the bigger names out of our reach, it will make the draft lead up so much more interesting for us fans as the pool of prospects to watch film on, and read draft reports about will increase dramatically.