Coming into the 2021 NFL season, it was always about development for the New York Jets. For a team in a rebuild, New York wanted to evaluate the talent on the roster and determine the building blocks for 2022. In their rollercoaster of a season that finished with a 4-13 record, the Jets saw numerous core pieces emerge. Now, as General Manager Joe Douglas and the Jets gear up for their biggest off-season to date, it is time to determine which upcoming free agents are worth retaining.
Ranking the New York Jets 2022 Unrestricted Free Agents
Notable Other Jets Free Agents
With the way Douglas constructed the roster, New York has plenty of depth pieces set to hit the market. On offense, veteran receiver Keelan Cole, tight end Tyler Kroft, and versatile offensive lineman Dan Feeney will hit the market. All may have played key roles in Gang Green’s offense this past season, though not enough to identify them as “must re-sign”. Meanwhile, on defense, linebacker Jarrad Davis and safety LaMarcus Joyner were set to be key starters until injuries derailed their campaigns. Additionally, former third-round pick Nathan Shepherd, who never found his footing outside of being a rotational defensive lineman, will hit the market.
8.) Quarterback Joe Flacco
Why is Joe Flacco on this list? Well, in short, it is because the Jets need a backup quarterback. The legendary Mike White is a restricted free agent, but Zach Wilson needs a veteran mentor behind him. After all, that is why the Jets traded for Flacco mid-season when the injury bug hit. In two games played for the Jets this past season, Flacco completed 27 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns. More importantly, Flacco led a functional offense that was competitive in his one start, a 24-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins. While Flacco does have a feel for the offense, he will be 37 in 2022. There are other options such as Nick Foles or Tyrod Taylor set to be available, yet Flacco may be the most cost-friendly backup option for Douglas in free agency.
7.) Running Back Tevin Coleman
Last free agency, the Jets brought in Tevin Coleman on a one-year deal to join their backfield. The running back understood the offense very well, having played for Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur during his two years in San Francisco. Coming off of injury too, it was a gamble for the Jets, and one that ultimately paid off. In 11 games (five starts), Coleman averaged 4.2 yards per carry on his way to 356 yards rushing in 2021. Considering he was effective behind what was a wildly inconsistent offensive line, re-signing Coleman has to be on the table. The former Indiana Hoosier will be 29 next season and will not be too expensive to retain.
6.) Wide Receiver Jamison Crowder
The case for Jamison Crowder to be brought back is an interesting one. Crowder came to Florham Park on a three-year deal in 2019, and over the first two was easily the Jets top receiver. In 28 games from 2019-2020, Crowder had 137 receptions for 1,532 yards and 12 touchdowns. However, injuries began playing a larger role this past season, as he only finished with 51 receptions, 447 yards, and two touchdowns. Considering the direction, the Jets are heading on offense, New York could look to move on from the slot-only receiver.
Then again, Crowder will only be 29 years old in 2022 and already has experience catching Wilson’s passes. When healthy, Crowder is a starting slot receiver on most teams, so his price tag may wind up being too high for Douglas to bring back. Especially as the Jets may look into an upgrade at receiver, with to-be free agents Chris Godwin, Mike Williams, and Christian Kirk offering more upside.
5.) Right Guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif
How does a to-be 31-year-old right guard make this list? Well, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is one of the biggest reasons behind the Jets offense’s uptick in production during the second half of the season. Acquired at the trade deadline, Duvernay-Tardif went on to take over the struggling Greg Van Roten’s starting right guard gig and never looked back. In eight games (seven starts), the medical doctor paved way for an effective rushing attack that allowed Wilson and company to take that next step.
As Douglas aims to solidify Wilson’s blockers long-term, it is not as much about bringing back Duvernay-Tardif specifically as much as it is upgrading at the position altogether. Either way, re-signing Duvernay-Tardif would be a genius move. He knows the offense, will not be expensive and is an upgrade over Van Roten, who is a likely cap casualty. One name to look out for as an upgrade is Laken Tomlinson, who is coming off a phenomenal year for the 49ers and will be a free agent.
4.) Safety Marcus Maye
Like Crowder, Marcus Maye has been one of the few bright spots for the Jets in recent years. The former 2017 second-round pick was coming off of a career year in 2020 when he established himself among the best safeties in the game. His play led to Douglas placing the franchise tag on him last off-season, preventing him from hitting the market and receiving the long-term deal he was looking for. Thus, bringing into question whether not he’d ever get that deal from the Jets.
Playing under the franchise tag, Maye’s 2021 season couldn’t have gone worse. Maye was underwhelming in coverage in six starts, as his season ended in Week 9 when he suffered a torn Achilles. Already on the older side, Maye will be 29 years old next season coming off of injury. Certainly, with this being his second season-ending injury in five seasons, it will impact his market.
The Florida product may be looking for a fresh start this off-season and to get that long-term deal he has rightfully earned during his time with the Jets. Considering how he was playing in 2021 and his injury, his market could very well lead the Jets to bring him back on a more team-friendly deal in 2022. At the same time, knowing Maye’s track record, he may look to cash in as a free agent. Should Maye walk, Douglas will need to quickly pivot towards revamping the safety position.
3.) Defensive Tackle Folorunso Fatukasi
Whether or not the Jets bring back Folorunso Fatukasi, they must address their run defense. The team finished 29th in rushing yards allowed and dead last in rushing touchdowns given up. That being said, it would be foolish to not try and re-sign Fatukasi.
From 2019-2020, Fatukasi was emerging as one of the best-run stuffers in the league. A former sixth-round pick out of Connecticut in 2018, Fatukasi was one of the very few Mike Maccagnan late-round picks to pan out. In 2021 though, Fatukasi had an average season despite seeing the most snaps on defense of his career. A clear-cut bounce-back candidate, Fatukasi will turn 27 prior to free agency. In an older free agency class of defensive tackles, it will be interesting to see how his market shapes up. He easily could look for a raise, but it will come down to whether or not Douglas wants to pay a run-stuffer when there are many other needs to be taken care of first.
2.) Offensive Tackle Morgan Moses
Mekhi Becton has all the upside in the world. George Fant is coming off of a career year, but both have an injury history that must be taken into account. New York needs that third starting-caliber tackle, and Morgan Moses gave them that and more in 2021. Having never missed a game since 2014, Moses played all 17 games, making 16 starts. The veteran re-established his value as a starter after Washington cut him last off-season, and he will likely want to cash in. Moses will be 31 years old in 2022 but is interested in returning to Gang Green. For him to return will be based on how much Douglas is willing to pay for a third tackle, given a healthy Becton, and Fant would make Moses merely a swing tackle.
1.) Wide Receiver Braxton Berrios
Is Braxton Berrios the most established of the 2022 Jets free agents? No. In fact, Berrios has the least experience of the eight players ranked. Nonetheless, Berrios has proven to be an integral part of the Jets young offense, and one that has established himself as a potential core piece of the rebuild.
A former New England Patriots sixth-round pick in 2018, Berrios has consistently improved since joining the team as a waiver wire pickup in 2019. The Miami product began as a backend of the depth chart receiver and return specialist and has grown into an offensive swiss-army-knife and elite return man. During that five-game late-season emergence from rookie quarterback Zach Wilson, Berrios had 26 touches for 216 yards and three touchdowns. Berrios also finished the year averaging a league-high 30.4 yards per kick return, while adding a career-high 13.4 yards per punt return.
At 5’9” and 190lbs, Berrios is not the number one receiver the Jets need. Instead, what Berrios offers is something the Jets will not find on the open market. Berrios is only 26 years old, understands LaFleur’s scheme, and has built chemistry as Wilson’s go-to man underneath. Considering Berrios made the Associated Press All-Pro team for his efforts as a kick returner, his price tag will be higher than expected. Nevertheless, Berrios has made his case as the must re-sign player of the Jets free agents for 2022.
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