The disastrous 2020 NFL season for the New York Jets is over. Now the Jets can shift their collective focus to the 2021 free agency period and attempt to fix the numerous gaps in their roster. To get to that point, the Jets need to first decide on the 25 players who will become free agents once the 2021 offseason officially kicks off.
Robert Saleh and Joe Douglas have their work cut out for them this offseason
“Having their work cut out for them” might be the biggest understatement of the year. The Jets were in full “Tank for Trevor” mode, but that doesn’t mean a thing to players. Not only did they win, but went on a winning streak. Sure it was just two games, but it was enough to move the Jets out of pole position and land the second overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
More questions than answers
What the Jets do from this point on is honestly up in the air. Does new head coach Robert Saleh believe Sam Darnold can be the QB of the future? Was it all a failure of development under Adam Gase, and implementing a new system similar to the Kyle Shanahan approach be enough to get him on the right track?
Or has that window closed, and now the team decides that anyone who “sees ghosts” is better served being traded away for assets and taking either Ohio State QB Justin Fields or BYU QB Zach Wilson with the second pick in the draft? Whatever path they choose, the Jets have plenty of cap space to make additions in the 2021 free agency period.
New York has the second-most cap space as free agency approaches in 2021
According to Over the Cap, the New York Jets will enter free agency in 2021 with $66.438 million in cap space. This offseason should see the Jets being quite busy between the two first-round draft picks and the cap space. The Jets could clear additional space based on decisions made to their players who will become free agents in 2021.
As mentioned, Darnold is a question mark but is not yet a free agent. Sam Darnold is going into the final year of his deal, and he’s only going to make a $920,000 base salary in 2021. They can either move him or keep him on his final year and as a backup or as the starter until they feel either Fields of Wilson is ready to take over.
The same can be said for IDL Henry Anderson, who becomes a free agent in 2022. He is set to get a base salary of $8.2 million in 2021, though none of it is guaranteed. Anderson has said he was frustrated by the lack of playing time, and there’s a chance he will not be on the roster next season with that large of a salary. The Jets could release him without penalty.
Anderson is the first of many defensive players for the Jets that are scheduled to become free agents in 2021.
The New York Jets’ defense could look quite different in 2021 after free agency ends
In terms of total snaps played in 2020, seven of their top nine defensive players will be free agents in 2021.
Leading this list is safety Marcus Maye. Since Jamal Adams’ departure, Maye took on increased responsibility and became a veteran voice in the secondary. He responded by putting together the best seasons of his career as a result.
Marcus Maye’s emergence
Ending 2020 with a pair of interceptions, he also deflected more passes (11), made more tackles (88), and registered more sacks (2.0) than he had in the previous season. All of this lead to Maye being voted team MVP for 2020. Maye deserves a larger contract after the season he had at 27 years old, age isn’t a massive factor yet.
Another name to watch is CB Brian Poole, who will hit free agency in 2021. Poole signed with the team on a one-year, $5 million contract before last season. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury cut his season short, and he only appeared in nine games. Playing primarily in the slot, his contract likely won’t get too expensive. The Jets are weak at corner the way it is; they certainly can’t afford to let some walk in free agency.
New York has offensive questions to answer as well in free agency
Outside the Darnold decision, the team needs to decide on WR Breshad Perriman. After blowing up in the final games in 2019 when both Mike Evans and Chris Godwin were injured, Perriman was added to bolster one of the worst WR groups in the NFL. Perriman signed a one-year, $6.5 million deal but underperformed. Perriman appeared in only 12 games due to injuries, where he caught 30 of his 60 targets for 505 yards and scored 3 touchdowns.
The wide receiver position will be a massive topic of discussion for the team as they look to add skill and depth during the free agency period of 2021. With several elite free agents hitting the market like Allen Robinson, Chris Godwin, and JuJu Smith-Schuster, it is likely the Jets allow Perriman to walk in order to sign an elite option. After all, a franchise QB will need weapons to throw to.
Two other Jets players who are free agents could make the decision for the team if they choose to hang up the cleats. Both QB Joe Flacco and RB Frank Gore are in their last season under contract in the NFL, and it remains unclear if they will play in 2021 or retire.
New York Jets’ 2021 offensive free agents
RB Josh Adams, 25
C Josh Andrews, 30
TE Daniel Brown, 29
G Pat Elflein, 27
QB Joe Flacco, 36
RB Frank Gore, 38
WR Breshad Perriman, 28
WR Jeff Smith, 24
WR Vyncint Smith, 25
TE Ross Travis, 28
New York Jets’ 2021 defensive and special teams free agents
LB Tarell Bashman, 27
CB Kyron Brown, 25
DT Trevon Coley, 27
S Matthias Farley, 29
LB Bryce Hager, 29
LB Neville Hewitt, 28
CB Bennett Jackson, 30
LB Harvey Langi, 29
LB Frankie Luvu, 25
CB Arthur Maulet, 28
S Marcus Maye, 27
S Bradley McDougald, 31
LB Patrick Onwuasor, 29
CB Brain Poole, 29
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