The New York Jets have a lot of questions to answer in the 2022 NFL offseason. A strong argument can be made that the franchise was in better shape after Adam Gase’s first year. No, really. The Jets finished last in the AFC East yet again.
That is not only because their rookie quarterback struggled, but because they regressed big-time on defense — an assessment that’s proven by nearly any available metric. And defense was supposed to be Saleh’s specialty. Instead, he and general manager Joe Douglas are going to need to invest significantly on both sides of the ball this offseason. Let’s break down the Jets’ pending free agents, team needs, and 2022 NFL Draft picks.
New York Jets 2022 Offseason Preview
Douglas did not really dive into the 2021 free-agent market. Defensive end Carl Lawson (who missed the entire season with a torn Achilles) and wide receiver Corey Davis were the biggest additions. But it’s hard to see how owner Woody Johnson allows another build-exclusively-through-the draft approach.
Early indications are that Douglas did hit on several of his 2021 draft picks — Elijah Moore, Alijah Vera-Tucker, and Michael Carter the most notable. Unfortunately, at the most important position, the jury is still out. The Jets need Zach Wilson to take a quantum leap forward in 2022, and assembling a true supporting cast around him is a must.
Jets have $60.2 million in projected cap space
Source: Spotrac (as of Jan. 9)
The Jets played much of 2021 with essentially two-thirds of a roster. That’s not a clever insult. It’s the truth. COVID-19 shrunk the salary cap. New York’s big dead money sum shrunk it even more, and when injuries hit, roughly $70 million of the Jets’ $210 million adjusted cap number was unavailable to them.
That pain should largely be behind them now. The Jets enter the offseason with a little over $1 million in dead cap and roughly $6 million in rollover money. The Jets are still stuck with C.J. Mosley’s contract for another year, and they have to hope Lawson makes a complete recovery. Those two defenders alone account for roughly $33 million in cap space.
There will be a lot of focus on New York’s decisions heading into the new year. Right tackle George Fant seems like a lock to make the team despite a $10.7 million cap figure that includes no guaranteed money. Cutting Shaq Lawson freed up an additional $9 million in space.
There could also potentially be movement in terms of the offensive line. Connor McGovern is due to count over $10 million against the cap. The Jets could save $9 million by moving on. Then there is a further $3.5 million that could be freed up by releasing Greg Van Roten.
Jets’ 2022 pending free agents
We’ll never understand why the Jets franchise-tagged safety Marcus Maye during a rebuild. The decision looked even worse when Maye tore his Achilles in November. Maye’s contract is up again, and he will almost certainly reach the open market this time around.
The Jets would presumably consider bringing back wide receiver Jamison Crowder and running back Tevin Coleman if the price is right. Meanwhile, tackle Morgan Moses has been a steadying force and probably has done enough to earn mid-level money. However, the decision around Moses could be driven by the future of second-year offensive tackle Mekhi Becton.
How do the Jets’ free agents rank among the best available in 2022? Be sure out our list of top free agents available at each position to find out.
Jets’ team needs
Defense, defense, defense. It wouldn’t surprise us if the Jets use both of their first-round picks on defensive players after signing several in free agency. Pass rushers could be intriguing, but New York has already signed John Franklin-Myers and Carl Lawson to big-money deals and has Shaq Lawson under contract in 2022. That turns the attention to the secondary, where Gang Green needs more known quantities at both cornerback and safety.
They need to solve the problem on the offensive line at center and right guard. The other three positions look set, but that could change if the saga with Bekhi continues. In addition, Wilson needs a clear-cut No. 1 receiver that can do for him what Jaylen Waddle has done for Tua Tagovailoa this year. Perhaps Moore develops into that player. But the team’s investment in Wilson is too important to risk that not happening. It’s better to have too many targets than not enough.
Jets’ top five needs in the 2022 NFL offseason
- Pass rusher
- Offensive line
- Wide receiver
Jets’ 2022 NFL Draft picks
What Douglas has lacked in talent acquisition, he’s more than made up for in draft capital management. The Jets are poised for a monster April with premium picks from the Seahawks (Jamal Adams trade) and Panthers (Sam Darnold trade). The Jets weren’t winning with either player on their roster this year, and now with them both totally off their books, they have the resources to build a better tomorrow — assuming the picks hit. They enter the offseason with seven picks in the first four rounds and nine in the first five.
Here’s how the Jets’ 2022 NFL Draft picks currently stand according to the current 2022 NFL Draft order:
- Round 1 (Pick 4 & Pick 10 — from SEA)
- Round 2 (Pick 3 & Pick 6 — from CAR)
- Round 3 (Pick 5)
- Round 4 (Pick 6 — from CAR & Pick 12 — MIN)
- Round 5 (Pick 3 & Pick 12* — from PIT)
*Pick subject to change based on results from 2021-22 NFL playoffs.