A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:
1. One-year wonders: As predicted, the Jets have been active in NFL free agency — 13 deals in 14 days, dating to the start of the legal tampering period. It’s not hard to figure out the common denominator in these contracts.
Nine of the 13 contracts are one-year deals, most notably linebacker Jordan Jenkins and wide receiver Breshad Perriman. Of the four players with multi-year agreements, three can be released after one season with minimal cap implications. The only player with enough guaranteed money to have roster security is center Connor McGovern.
Why so many short-term commitments?
Because of depth issues on both sides of the ball, Jets general manager Joe Douglas is attacking free agency with a quantity-over-quality approach. Some of that can be attributed to a semi-tight cap situation, as New York began with an estimated $50 million in room. The Jets have missed out on some big-game players, but Douglas was willing to sacrifice that for long-term flexibility.
It creates an intriguing situation in 2021. They have only $121 million committed to the ’21 cap, which gives them $81 million in projected cap space, per overthecap.com. The cap will get a nice bump once the NFL negotiates its new TV contracts. You also have to think running back Le’Veon Bell won’t be around, which would add another $11.5 million in the kitty.
The Jets will have plenty of room to re-sign star safety Jamal Adams (if he still doesn’t have a long-term extension) and perhaps do something with quarterback Sam Darnold, who will be eligible for a new deal in 2021. There aren’t many huge contracts looming on the Jets’ horizon — safety Marcus Maye is their only prominent free agent in ’21 — so Douglas will have the ability to be a big player in free agency if he decides to go that route.
Of course, the fan base has heard this before: Wait ’til next year. Previous GMs have tried this method only to botch the execution, so it’s OK to be skeptical. For now, Douglas is the proverbial next man up.
2. Catch a rising star? The Perriman-for-Robby Anderson swap at wide receiver is fascinating because of the similarities in style. The Jets believe Perriman’s prolific, five-game finish is closer to a harbinger than an aberration. Let’s take a closer look.
Perriman became the only player in the past 15 seasons to have 500 yards, five touchdowns and 20 yards per catch in his team’s final five games — a rather stunning stat. He finally resembled the lightning-fast receiver he was supposed to be when he was drafted 26th overall in 2015.
But you have to be careful not to put too much stock in late-season performances. Evaluations can be skewed, especially if opponents are playing meaningless football. In Perriman’s case, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers faced the 29th and 32nd-ranked pass defenses in that span — the Houston Texans and Detroit Lions, respectively.
Perriman played his best game of the season against the Lions (five catches, 113 yards and three touchdowns), but a quick review of the tape shows he wasn’t covered by premier cornerback Darius Slay on any of those touchdown receptions.
One personnel director said Perriman “offers size and vertical speed. He’s not a great route runner, but he’s a downfield guy.” An opposing coach, who has studied Perriman and Anderson on tape, drew a favorable comparison between the players.
“Both fast,” the coach said. “Breshad, obviously, is bigger [weight-wise]. Robby is quicker, but they’re very similar as far as the type of player. Breshad came on the last few games and played well, but they’re kind of the same guy.”
Asked if it’s a toss up, the coach said, “Depending on the scheme, yes. Robby is more proven over the years, though.”
I think Perriman was a good rebound after losing Anderson, considering the money savings, but it’s unrealistic to expect 50 catches, Anderson’s four-year average. The new arrangement can work if the Jets supplement Perriman’s deep speed with a stud from the draft.
3. Did you know? Anderson has caught 54.3% of his career targets, the lowest percentage in the league among the 35 players with at least 350 targets from 2016 to 2019, per ESPN Stats & Information research. A lot of those targets were deep, low-percentage throws, but, no, it’s not like Atlanta’s Julio Jones just left the building. It’ll be interesting to see how Anderson fares in Carolina with Teddy Bridgewater, who doesn’t have a big arm.
4. New York Ravens: In his first nine months on the job, Douglas has reached into his past several times for players. He spent 15 years with the Baltimore Ravens as a scout, which explains the influx of ex-Ravens.
Since free agency started, Douglas re-signed guard Alex Lewis and added Perriman and linebacker Patrick Onwuasor. The trend started last season, when he traded for Lewis and acquired linebacker Albert McClellan (current free agent), running back Kenneth Dixon, defensive lineman Bronson Kaufusi and cornerback Maurice Canady (now a member of the Dallas Cowboys).
The most notable ex-Raven is linebacker C.J. Mosley, but he was signed by the previous GM, Mike Maccagnan.
5. Tightening the belt: Cap room is becoming an issue for the Jets. While it’s difficult to determine the team’s exact cap position, an educated estimate puts them under $10 million. They will need about $9 million to sign their draft picks, per overthecap.com, but don’t forget, they get $11 million once Trumaine Johnson‘s release hits the books on June 1. Basically, his ouster will provide their draft money.
For now, the Jets are in a bit of a pinch, but there’s no reason to panic. Fans tend to get too caught up in cap space. Remember, the number can be manipulated. The Jets can recoup nearly $14 million by releasing linebacker Avery Williamson and guard Brian Winters. There’s always the chance they could get one or both to take a pay cut.
Contracts are being processed slower than usual because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has delayed physical exams. A contract can’t be finalized until the player passes his physical.
6. Sorry, no comp: If you expect the Jets to get a 2021 compensatory pick for losing Anderson, fuhgettaboutit. Yes, he agreed to a lucrative deal with the Panthers (a reported two years, $20 million), but the Jets have signed too many free agents to qualify for a pick. Overthecap, which is highly accurate with its 32-pick compensatory projections, predicts the Jets will get shut out. Again.