Smooth Takeoff: New York Jets Lock Up Huge Talent in NFL Free Agency

Smooth Takeoff: New York Jets Lock Up Huge Talent in NFL Free Agency 5

As promised by GM Mike Maccagnan the Jets have been active to start free agency. After a slow start that left many fans(myself included) wondering if the team would show some signs of life they finally made a flurry of signings. They have reached agreements with free-agent Quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and Josh McCown, RB Isaiah Crowell, LB Avery Williamson, C Spencer Long, and the best available CB in Trumaine Johnson.

Contract Details:

  • QB Teddy Bridgewater – 1 year/$5 million ($5M Guaranteed)
  • CB Trumaine Johnson – 5 years/$72.5 million ($34M Guaranteed)
  • RB Isaiah Crowell – 3 years/TBA
  • QB Josh McCown – 1 year/$10 million ($10M Guaranteed)
  • LB Avery Williamson – 3 years/$22.5 million ($16M Guaranteed)
  • C Spencer Long – TBA

Quarterbacks

Smooth Takeoff: New York Jets Lock Up Huge Talent in NFL Free Agency 6Josh McCown was with the team in 2017 and enjoyed a career year before breaking his hand in week 14 while Bridgewater was last relevant in 2015 before he suffered a devastating knee injury in 2016 during practice. The Vikings former first-round pick missed that whole season and found himself as the odd man out when he returned late last season taking a few snaps in garbage time.

With Case Keenum playing great football and having a career year there was no longer a place for Bridgewater in Minnesota. The Vikings have since moved on from Keenum who is signing with the Broncos and have agreed to a deal with the prize of the offseason in QB Kirk Cousins.

The Jets lost out in the Cousins sweepstakes unable to even secure a meeting with the QB and set their sights on Bridgewater and their own free-agent in McCown. The two were able to quickly strike a deal, especially McCown who had stated in the past that he wanted to return to the team.  The signings leave current Jets Quarterbacks Christian Hackenberg and especially Bryce Petty on dangerously thin ice as one or both should be released.

In Bridgewater, New York gets a solid QB that can “bridge” to a young Quarterback should they select one in the draft next month, preferably Josh Rosen or Baker Mayfield. But they may opt to trade back now or use a later selection on a Lamar Jackson/Mason Rudolph type. The problem is how does a rookie QB get the necessary reps as a third stringer? This makes the signings of both Bridgewater and McCown a bit of a head-scratcher. Although McCown can be somewhat of an insurance policy if Bridgewater’s health does not hold up and the rookie is not ready to go, albeit an expensive insurance policy at $10 million.

McCown was reportedly told that he will go into training camp as the starter which is also puzzling. He is certainly a proven leader, a presence in the locker room, and had a very good season in 2017, but to expect the soon to be 39-year-old to replicate that success will be difficult to rely on. You know what you’re getting from McCown and buying into a career year at age 38 probably isn’t a good bet. Bridgewater is a bit of an unknown and offers some upside so the hope should be that all three get a fair shake in camp and somebody can beat out McCown.

Teddy is an accurate passer which is perfect for OC Jeremy Bates’ West Coast Offense and should fit nicely with receivers Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, and Jermaine Kearse. He completed 65.3% of his passes while throwing for 3231 yards, 14 touchdowns and helped lead the Vikings to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth in 2015. He tends to protect the football which McCown has had struggles with in the past, but he isn’t the most accurate deep ball thrower and is more of a dink and dunk QB. If he can recapture his 2015 form and build on that he could help fix the Jets never-ending QB drama, but to expect him to be their savior or long-term answer is probably a longshot. He’s also hungry looking to get his career back on track and proving all of the doubters wrong. The biggest question, however, will be his health. How will his surgically-repaired knee hold up especially after absorbing a few big hits from opposing defenders?

The best case scenario for the Jets would be Bridgewater and whichever QB they draft panning out. A team can never have enough Quarterbacks if they actually perform well and can always use one, likely Teddy as a trade chip. Although, a one year deal does make that less likely. The worst case scenario is both bust and they are right back to where they started. Looking for a new Quarterback.

Isaiah Crowell

Smooth Takeoff: New York Jets Lock Up Huge Talent in NFL Free Agency 75th year running back Isaiah Crowell will sign a 3 year deal with the Jets after spending his first 4 seasons in Cleveland. Crowell is a physical, between the tackles runner that should complement current backs, Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire. He ran for 853 yards averaging 4.1 yards per carry and scored 2 touchdowns behind Pro Football Focus’s 14th ranked offensive line in the Browns. He also caught 28 passes for 182 yards in 2017.

Crowell figures to be an early down back and should fill the old Chris Ivory role of 1st and 2nd down rushing duties, short-yardage, and goal line. He can also catch passes out of the backfield but it’s not a major strength of his. Powell and McGuire will probably mix in to handle 3rd and passing downs sprinkling in a few carries here and there to spell Crowell. This should prove to be a solid signing as the Jets needed a veteran back with the departure of Matt Forte.

Spencer Long

Long a former 3rd round pick of the Redskins adds some toughness and versatility to a Jets offensive line that certainly needs it. New York’s line was PFF’s 30th ranked unit in 2017 allowing 177 pressures and giving up 25 sacks which was the 6th most in the league. Long, 27 provides an upgrade at the center position over free agent Wesley Johnson but his injuries are a bit of a concern. He’s never played a full 16 game season in the NFL. Last year his season ended short playing in only 7 games before suffering leg injuries. He was the #19 center last season according to Pro Football Focus which doesn’t sound great but he’s solid in pass protection finishing with a grade of 98.2 in pass blocking efficiency which ranked #11. If he can stay healthy he’s young enough to anchor the Jets line for years to come.

Trumaine Johnson

In my opinon, the best and biggest signing so far by the Jets is former Rams Cornerback Trumaine Johnson since they basically had no legit corners on the team besides Buster Skrine. He defended 13 passes, had 2 interceptions, and allowed 1 touchdown last season. The deal is said to be for a whopping $14.5 million per year which would make Johnson the 2nd highest paid CB in 2018 behind only Josh Norman. Johnson is still only 28-years-old and one of the leagues top corners. Although he was rated as the Pro Football Focus 68th CB in 2017 and given a grade of 74.2 the Jets are getting a 6’1, 205lb press-man corner that Todd Bowles has long coveted since becoming head coach of the team. He figures to follow opposing team’s #1 Wide Receivers. If the Jets can re-sign Morris Claiborne or bring in a free agent like E.J. Gaines they can really bolster their secondary teaming them up with safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye.

Avery Williamson

Current Linebacker, Darron Lee will have a new partner to patrol the middle of the field with the signing of inside Linebacker Avery Williamson. The acquisition of Williamson seemed to fly under the radar with all of the other moves that New York made, but should certainly not be discounted. A 5th round pick in the 2014 draft he started all 16 games in 2016 and 2017 exceeding 100 tackles twice in his 4-year career.  His arrival certainly signals the departure of Demario Davis who had a great 2017 season but priced himself out of the Jets range as the two were said to be far apart in contract negotiations. In Williamson, the Jets are basically getting a younger (26), cheaper version of Davis, but he’s a two-down linebacker that tends to have a hard time in pass coverage.

All in all the Jets have actually started off with a bang filling a lot of their needs with younger players especially after a pedestrian start to free agency. There is still plenty of work to be done. With an older QB, an injury risk QB, or a rookie QB they must still try to address some depth along the offensive line to properly protect them. Solidifying some type of pass-rush, and signing a Tight End will also be key. If they can plug a few more holes before the draft next month General Manager Mike Maccagnan can consider the first part of the offseason as a job well done.

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