Jets paint themselves into a corner(back); can they buy their way out?


A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:

1. Corner market: It happens every two or three years; the Jets, desperate for a CB1, pay a premium price for a big-name free agent. It was Darrelle Revis in 2015 ($39 million guaranteed) and Trumaine Johnson ($34 million) in 2018. To say both disappointed would be an understatement. Now, with NFL free agency fast approaching, New York is showing interest in two of the top cornerbacks on the market, the Dallas CowboysByron Jones and the Carolina PanthersJames Bradberry, sources said.

The Jets would have to win a bidding war to land one of them, and I’m not sure general manager Joe Douglas will want to reset the cornerback market, but he will explore it because of the glaring need. It’s a slippery slope. Premier cornerbacks rarely hit the market. When a good one does, he gets paid like a premier player even though he isn’t. Sometimes there’s a home run. (See: Stephon Gilmore and the New England Patriots) Most times, it doesn’t work out.

Jones, 27, is a freakish athlete with coverage ability, but he isn’t a ball hawk (zero interceptions since converting to corner in 2018), and he comes from a Cover 3 system in Dallas. Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams prefers corners who can play man-to-man, although he switched to more zone last season to hide the Jets’ deficiencies at the position. No doubt, Jones would be a big upgrade, but is he worth north of $16 million per year? The Philadelphia Eagles reportedly will be a strong suitor.

Bradberry, who will turn 27 in August, never has been selected to a Pro Bowl, but he will score a huge deal from some team. Scheme fit should be a concern for the Jets. In Carolina’s Cover 2 scheme, Bradberry registered the fourth-highest percentage of “off coverage” among cornerbacks with a minimum of 400 snaps, per NFL Next Gen Stats data. Williams isn’t an “off coverage” kind of coach, so you wonder if this a square-hole, round-peg situation. The Washington Redskins, with former Panthers coach Ron Rivera, figure to be in the hunt for Bradberry.

It’s a tough spot for the Jets, who have to balance need and fiscal sanity. After blowing it with Revis and Johnson, maybe the third time will be the charm.

2. Multiple choice: The Jets are scheduled to have a private workout this week with Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs, widely regarded as one of the top four tackles in the draft. Some talent evaluators like USC’s Austin Jackson and believe he should be included among the top of the group.

Picking 11th, Douglas should be in position to land the third or fourth tackle, although there’s no guarantee he will deem that player worthy of the pick. He might see more value in a wide receiver or a cornerback. The sense I get from talking to evaluators is that there is no consensus in the pecking order for the top tackles. One longtime scout said he loves all the options, saying, “You can throw a dart at [those linemen] and hit a good one. They all show up, and they all have the size, physical skills and production that you want.”

3. Say no to Trent Williams: The Jets will monitor the Trent Williams situation, but I would be surprised if they trade for the disgruntled Redskins star. The Jets have been there, done that with aging linemen (see: Ryan Kalil and Kelechi Osemele) and it didn’t work out.

Williams, who will turn 32 in July, is seeking an extension (he is signed for 2020) that will pay him $20 million per year, according to reporting by ESPN’s John Keim. That’s crazy money. Unless they can get Williams for a mid-round pick and his existing contract ($12.5 million), the Jets should pass and look for their left tackle in the draft.

4. Did you know? The Jets have more money invested in running back Le’Veon Bell ($15.5 million cap charge) than the entire offensive line ($12.5 million). That explains a lot.

5. Wanted — big wideout: Not only do the Jets need more speed at wide receiver, especially if they lose Robby Anderson, but they could use a big, physical target who can win his share of contested balls. Quincy Enunwa used to be that kind of player, but now there are questions about his future because of a neck injury.

A wide receiver with those traits is important to New York’s Sam Darnold, who made more tight window throws last season than most quarterbacks. In fact, 16.7% of his attempts were defined as “tight window” (less than one yard separation between the receiver and the nearest defender at pass arrival). That ranked 11th out of 34 qualifying quarterbacks, per NFL Next Gen Stats data. With his style of play — improvisation outside the pocket — Darnold needs targets who can win 50-50 balls. Anderson improved in that area, but that’s not really his game.

In a wideout-rich draft, the Jets probably could find a quality player in the second or third round. Of the first-round prospects, CeeDee Lamb fits the big/physical profile better than Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III. Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim, who could consider a wide receiver with the No. 8 pick, provided a concise summary of the big three.

“Not only is the wide receiver position extremely deep, but they’re all different types,” he said at the scouting combine. “You got Ruggs, who is the straight line, vertical guy. You got Jeudy, who’s bendy and athletic and can run multiple cut routes and is extremely sudden in and out of the breaks. And then you got CeeDee, a guy who’s extremely physical and attacks the ball, just a good football player.”

6. No comps for you: The NFL soon will announce its 2020 compensatory draft picks, which are handed out based on a complex formula that weighs free-agent losses and gains. No, the Jets aren’t getting any comp picks, but they certainly impacted the landscape by signing Bell, linebacker C.J. Mosley and wide receiver Jamison Crowder as free agents. As a result, those players’ previous teams — Pittsburgh Steelers (third round), Baltimore Ravens (fourth) and Redskins (fourth), respectively — are expected to get comp picks, per

Douglas spent 15 years with the Ravens, the league leader (50 picks) since the program began in 1994, but it doesn’t sound like he will try to emulate the Baltimore way — at least not this year. He said obtaining comp picks won’t be the primary focus. Translation: He is planning to be active in free agency.

In case you’re wondering, the Jets have accumulated 14 comp picks since 1994, 30th in the league. They’re caught in a vicious cycle, always trying to sign free agents to atone for draft mistakes.

7. Double shot of Hennessy? If the Jets need to dig for intel on Temple center Matt Hennessy, they don’t have to go far. His older brother, Thomas, has been their long-snapper since 2017.

“We’re super close,” Matt told reporters at the combine. “We used to fight a ton when we were younger, just because we’re both really competitive.

“He’s kind of been one of my biggest influences throughout my teenage years, coming to where I am now.”

Matt attended Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey, like his brother, and grew up a New York Giants fan. He said it would be “awesome” to be drafted by the Jets. Hey, stranger things have happened.

8. Dispatch from Italy: Joe Bommarito, who scouted for the Jets from 2001 to 2013, coaches the Padova Saints in an Italian professional football league — American football, that is. Italy has been hit hard by the coronavirus, and Bommarito, who lives near Venice, reports that two games already have been postponed.

In an email, Bommarito said, “People have been panicking, rushing to the market to buy supplies for a few weeks. When it first hit, the streets were empty and restaurants lost a lot of business.” He said the league recommended not to practice. “But if you do,” he added, “they say you should have a doctor at practice to monitor players. They need to stay a meter apart in the locker room. They can’t shower at practice facilities.”

Bommarito said there’s still a chance the season can be salvaged.

He explained that he and his wife are remaining calm and smart, “washing our hands more per day than we ever have and hoping this virus will run its course.”


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