On Monday, March 14th, 2022, the New York Jets dove into the free agency pool shortly after the legal tampering window opened. Just two days later at 4:00 pm, they began making signings official, as the new league year began. As General Manager Joe Douglas sought to take advantage of the team’s available cap space, he looked to build a young, hungry squad better than the 4-13 Jets this past season. Therefore, let’s break down the new additions to the Jets roster so far for 2022.
READ MORE: Chargers Free Agent Additions
Grading New York Jets 2022 Free Agent Additions
Offensive Guard Laken Tomlinson
Contract: Three-years, $40 million ($13.3 million AAV)
What is not to like about the addition of Laken Tomlinson? A former first-round pick by the Detroit Lions in 2015, Tomlinson hit stride once being dealt to the San Francisco 49ers prior to 2017. In five years for the 49ers, Tomlinson missed just one game, developing into a stud at left guard. Then, this past season, Tomlinson earned his first Pro Bowl nod.
Now, signing a 30-year-old to a big multi-year deal is notable, however, Tomlinson is playing the best football of his career. This past season, Tomlinson received a 75.3 run-blocking grade from PFF, which ranked 13th among 80 eligible guards. Additionally, his 69.2 pass-blocking grade ranked 27th of 80. As previously mentioned, Tomlinson has also only missed one game in his career, providing durability along the interior. Combined with Alijah Vera-Tucker, the Jets now have two Pro Bowl-caliber guards entering 2022.
Coming into the off-season upgrading at right guard was a priority. Even though Tomlinson has played on the left side his whole career, he, not Vera-Tucker, will be moving to the right side. By the looks of the contract, it does not appear the position switch concerns the team. Between Tomlinson’s athleticism and experience in the NFL, having him period will provide an immediate upgrade. All in all, Douglas found excellent value in one of the game’s best guards and upgraded at a major position of need.
Tight End C.J. Uzomah
Contract: Three-year, $24 million ($8 million AAV)
It seems as if it has been years since the Jets cared to address the tight end position. In signing C.J. Uzomah, they finally end that streak. At 6’6” and 260-pounds, Uzomah is the big, middle-of-the-field, and red zone target New York has been missing since Dustin Keller last played for them in 2012. A fifth-round pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2015, Uzomah developed not only into an excellent run blocker but a threat in the passing game too. There is no doubt that Uzomah played a big role in the Bengals Super Bowl appearance this past season.
Like Tomlinson, Uzomah is coming off of a career year. The 29-year-old set career-high marks with 49 receptions, 493 yards, and five touchdowns. Uzomah also put his versatility on full display, lining up everywhere from inline to the slot, as well as out wide and in the backfield. A great athlete, Uzomah is a Jet not only to improve the tight end unit but be a leader for a young offense.
LaFleur wants to use 12 personnel sets, meaning he needs reliable tight ends that can both block and catch. Uzomah brings just that and maybe set up for a career year. The Bengals only had so many targets to offer Uzomah considering their young rising stars at receiver. Coming to New York could unlock the dominant receiver in the Auburn product. Overall, the addition of an experienced tight end who is a perfect scheme fit is a great move by the Jets.
Cornerback D.J. Reed
Contract: Three-year, $33 million ($11 million AAV)
At 5’9” and 193-pounds, D.J. Reed’s size does not scream “starting boundary corner”. Nevertheless, the former fifth-round pick in 2018 has developed into a very good one. Taken by the 49ers, Reed quickly developed into a solid contributor, but a crowded unit left him on waivers following his second season. Quickly, the Seattle Seahawks picked up the Kansas State product and gave him the opportunity to prove himself as a starter.
This past season, Reed played in 14 games, starting everyone for the first time in his career. He recorded career-highs with 78 total tackles and 10 pass deflections to go along with two interceptions. Even at his size, Reed proved he can hold his own on the outside, as on 88 targets, only 47.7% of passes were complete. He gave up a passer rating of just 67.8 and was Pro Football Focus’ eighth highest-graded corner out of 116 eligible in 2021. In other words, Reed has the potential to continue to be a very good player.
As Reed enters his age 26 season, he will be reuniting with his old 49ers defensive coordinator in Jets Head Coach Robert Saleh. Reed fits the bill of a physical corner who defends the run well and holds his own in man coverage. Between Reed, Bryce Hall, and Brandin Echols, the Jets have three promising cornerbacks capable of starting on the outside. Ultimately, while the value is a little high for a one-year starter, the ceiling is well worth the contract Reed signed with Gang Green.
Safety Jordan Whitehead
Contract: Two-year, $14.5 million ($7.25 million AAV)
Last season, the safety position did not work out as planned for the Jets. Injuries ravaged the unit, as the Jets saw eight different safeties start in 17 weeks. This season, the Jets look to change that, starting with the addition of Jordan Whitehead. A fourth-round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2018, Whitehead went on to start 55 of 59 games played on his rookie contract. Having only missed six games in his career, the versatile safety is going to provide a major boost to the team in 2022.
During this past season, Jordan Whitehead started all 14 games played, posting some of the best numbers of his career. He hauled in two interceptions, deflecting eight total passes, forced a fumble, and have five tackles for a loss. Whitehead almost remained consistent in the tackling department, recording 69-76 tackles every year of his career. Whitehead also is coming off his best year in coverage, after only allowing a 62.6 passer rating when targeted. Strong numbers like these in both run and pass defense are why the Jets signed Whitehead.
Except, Whitehead might only be just getting started. Only 25-year-old, Whitehead will have the chance to become a staple of the Jets secondary. Under Saleh, Whitehead is in line to replace Marcus Maye, the Jets previous do-it-all safety. A Pittsburgh product and cousin of Jets legend Darrelle Revis, Whitehead’s heavy-hitting mentality will shine against the run, as he will get used often in the box. While he may not be a true center fielder in the backend, Whitehead also can hold his own in coverage. After all, Tampa Bay not only used him as a strong safety this past season, but as a free safety, wide cornerback, slot corner, in the box, or even as a pass rusher. Considering his versatility, hard-hitting mentality, and speed, Whitehead is a homerun hit of a free agent signing by New York.
Tight End Tyler Conklin
Contract: Three-year, $21 million ($7 million AAV)
Coming into the off-season, one could have expected Joe Douglas to double-dip at tight end. A position that has been underused for a decade now by the Jets, it was time to change things. Especially considering the value of one in LaFleur’s offense. Instead of signing Uzomah and drafting a high-upside backup, Douglas wanted to add another starting-caliber tight end in Tyler Conklin. The former fifth-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings in 2018 has improved every year of his career, leading up to a career year in 2021. Thus, setting him up with a strong market in free agency.
Entering a contract year, Conklin had totaled one touchdown on 32 receptions and 329 receiving yards in three years. But with Irv Smith Jr getting hurt early on in the campaign, Conklin stepped into the light and thrived. Playing 81% of offensive snaps, Conklin amassed 593 receiving yards and three touchdowns on 61 receptions. An excellent underneath target, Conklin has yard-after-catch upside, having averaged 5.4 yards after reception in 2021. Clearly, the Jets are building a growing, experienced tight end duo for 2022.
Both are starting-caliber tight ends who boast strong hands, yard-after-catch upside, and will thrive in LaFleur’s offensive system. Without a doubt, the Jets (at least on paper), have their most talented tight end unit in years set up for 2022.
Defensive End Jacob Martin
Contract: Three-year, $13.5 million ($4.5 million AAV)
For years, the pass rush has been an issue for the New York Jets. The inconsistency of some players, the health of others, whatever problem that could be had at the position has been one. This off-season, it was a priority to further address it. With the addition of Jacob Martin, the Jets do just that. A sixth-round pick by the Seattle Seahawks in 2018, Martin made his way to the Houston Texans and has gotten better every year.
This past season, Martin started 14 of 17 games played, after only having one previous start in his first three years. In 2021, Martin finished with 23 total tackles, two forced fumbles, three pass deflections, and even a safety. His four sacks may not jump off the stat sheet, however, his 19 pressures do. Only playing 61% of snaps in 2021, Martin only had his first large body of work this year. Who knows what the 26-year-old pass rusher is capable of in a larger role?
With the Jets, Martin will not be a starter… barring injury. Carl Lawson is expected back after missing all of 2021, and the Jets have John Franklin-Myers as an option opposite of him. Plus, Gang Green could very well end up taking an edge rusher early in the 2022 NFL Draft. For New York, the Martin signing was about depth and adding a situational rusher with upside. Martin provides exactly that, although, a more established rusher could have come in handy too.
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