With the 2023 NFL off-season quickly approaching, it is time to take a look at the New York Jets current roster structure. Numerous key starters and contributors to the team’s emergence this past season are set to hit the free agent market. Whether or not some will be retained remains to be seen, but the Jets team needs list is rather long. If the front office is serious about contending and taking that next step in 2023, the Jets team needs must be addressed.
New York Jets Team Needs in 2023 Off-Season
Tier 1 – Must Address
Here is the bottom line at quarterback – the 2023 starter is not yet under contract. General Manager Joe Douglas knows this team on paper is a playoff-caliber roster with the right player under center. Currently under contract are Zach Wilson and Chris Streveler, neither of whom is guaranteed to make the roster. Wilson is more likely than not, but there remains the question of whether or not he gets traded. Meanwhile, Streveler is hoping that new Offensive Coordinator Nathaniel Hackett keeps him in the fold as a Taysom Hill-type package player. Odds are Joe Flacco will not be retained, but if Mike White returns depends on the caliber and price tag of whomever Douglas goes out and acquires. Either way, the quarterback position is the top priority for the franchise this off-season.
2.) Offensive Tackle
These are the players who started or were intended to start at left or right tackle for the Jets in 2022: George Fant, Duane Brown, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Max Mitchell, Mike Remmers, Cedric Ogbuehi, Mekhi Becton. Seven different players attempted to solidify the tackle position for Gang Green and could not hold down the fort. Injuries across the offensive line played a role, but there is no way the Jets will improve offensively if not setting things in stone at tackle early. Becton is no guarantee to be healthy, same with Duane Brown. Fant, Remmers, and Ogbuehi will all be unrestricted free agents. Max Mitchell showed flashes of promise and deserves an extended look at right tackle, and Vera-Tucker can be a plug-and-play All-Pro anywhere if healthy. Outside of those two, who knows what will end up happening?
The third slot of tier 1 could have gone to the interior offensive line, however, that would undersell the need to figure out the safety positions. Unlike during the Jamal Adams-Marcus Maye days, safety needs to be revamped from top to bottom. Jordan Whitehead was solid at strong safety but not great, as Lamarcus Joyner’s three interceptions mask his lackluster coverage. The elite cornerback play helped, though the Jets have a way to improve. Former third-round pick Ashtyn Davis is on the roster block after becoming solely a special team player. Also under contract are second-year defensive back Tony Adams, and veteran Will Parks who was recently re-signed. Figuring out safety will go a long way toward building a multi-year powerhouse defensively.
Tier 2 – Need to Fill Out
4.) Interior Offensive Lineman
Again, Alijah Vera-Tucker could play either tackle or guard spot. Outside of the USC product though, things aren’t too promising. A big off-season signing last year, Laken Tomlinson was plagued by inconsistent play all season. As a matter of fact, with the way his contract is structured, the Jets could be willing to part ways already. At the same time, to only other interior linemen under contract are Dru Samia and Chris Glaser. Center Connor McGovern is set to be a free agent, joined by Nate Herbig and Dan Feeney. In other words, the entirety of the interior offensive line needs to be reworked. If it were not for Vera-Tucker, interior offensive linemen would be in tier 1 over safeties.
When talking about the Jets linebackers, the first player to talk about is Quincy Williams. The 98th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft and September 2021 Jets waiver claim has emerged as a legitimate starter. This past season he started a career-high 15 games, posting 106 tackles, three sacks, and 10 tackles for a loss. While not perfect in coverage, Williams will be a hot commodity should he hit the market. Keeping him around with his younger brother Quinnen would be ideal.
As for the rest of the position, next to discuss is C.J. Mosley. Until this past season, there remained an argument to cut ties with the former top free agent signing. Then, at 30 years old, Mosley was the rock of an elite Jets defense, earning Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors. Should Joe Douglas want to save money, he will attempt to restructure Mosley’s contract to a more team-friendly deal. After all, Chazz Surratt, Jamien Sherwood, and Hamsah Nasirildeen are the only others under contract for 2023. Kwon Alexander and Marcell Harris join Quincy Williams as unrestricted free agents. It will be interesting to see how much money Joe Douglas is willing to deal to his linebackers this off-season.
6.) Defensive Lineman
An elite unit in 2022, the Jets defensive line will see some, but minimal movement. John Franklin-Myers, Jermaine Johnson, Michael Clemons, Tanzel Smart, Bradlee Anae, and Marquiss Spencer will return in 2023. Vinny Curry is the lone free agent at defensive end. Another former big-splash free-agent addition, Carl Lawson, could be a cap casualty. Under contract for just one more year, the Jets could save over $15 million in cap space with his release. Ideally, New York would turn around and offer restricted free agent Bryce Huff some of that money, as in limited playtime, he has become a dangerous pass-rushing threat.
The interior will hopefully see the most changes. The first is Quinnen Williams must be extended beyond 2023. Under contract for this season, Quinnen is coming off not only his first Pro Bowl season but one that earned him first-team All-Pro honors. He will only be 26 years old in 2023, making this an easy decision. As for the rest, all of Sheldon Rankings, Solomon Thomas, and Nathan Shepherd, will be hitting the market. The team should upgrade its run defense along the interior rotation, so it remains to be seen whether or not any of them will be retained.
Tier 3 – Adjustments to Depth Chart
7.) Special Teams
The first position group in need of adjustments on tier three is the special team’s corps. For starters, kicker Greg Zuerlein is a free agent. In reality, he was the team’s best kicker in years, playing all 17 games, missing 30 of 37 field goal tries, and missing just one out of 29 extra-point attempts. Zuerlein will be 37 in 2023, and Douglas may try to find upgrades, just like at punter. Braden Mann is under contract for one more season but had punts go awry in crucial moments that lost the team games this past year. Either cutting Mann altogether or bringing in a real threat to compete in camp with him is necessary. Lastly, long snapper Thomas Hennessy remains under contract through the 2023 season.
8.) Wide Receiver
At wide receiver, Joe Douglas needs to simply tinker with the position group. Garrett Wilson should take a massive leap into superstardom with better quarterback play in 2023. Elijah Moore and Denzel Mims should both be back with the team barring being part of a trade package. The questions loom around Corey Davis and Braxton Berrios. Davis is likely to be a cap casualty unless traded, whereas Berrios’ down-year could argue a restructured deal or release as he is set to make over $8 million in 2023. Also under contract are Malik Taylor, Rodney Adams, and Irvin Charles, while Jeff Smith is a restricted free agent. In all likelihood, New York looks to upgrade over Corey Davis and possibly bring in extra depth.
Tier 4 – Setup for Success in 2023
9.) Running Back
Going into next year, the Jets do not need to stress about their running backs, tight ends, and cornerbacks. Starting with the running backs, a healthy Breece Hall will allow the Jets to play with Michael Carter and Zonovan Knight as complementary backs. James Robinson, who is a restricted free agent might join Ty Johnson on the free agent market after seeing little playtime after being acquired at the trade deadline.
10.) Tight End
At tight end, Gang Green is setup for success. Tyler Conklin was everything the Jets could have hoped for regarding what he brought to the receiving game. C.J. Uzomah gave the Jets the reliable blocking tight end they desperately needed. Next year, expect to see more from Jeremy Ruckert, and Kenny Yeboah also remains with the team another year.
As for the cornerback room, does one need to even explain? Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed were arguably the league’s best cornerback duo in 2022. Michael Carter II is a stout nickel cornerback, and Brandin Echols will be healthy. Justin Hardee earned Pro Bowl honors for his special team’s abilities, as the team also brings back depth in Bryce Hall, Craig James, Jimmy Moreland, and Zane Lewis. It will be interesting to see if the Jets deal Bryce Hall, who only played 15 defensive snaps in 2022 after starting 17 games with 16 pass deflections in 2021.
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