2022 New York Jets Offseason Preview
The final whistle of the Super Bowl marks the end of the 2021 season. That solidifies all draft positions and gets us looking to free agency as the next chance for teams to make significant changes to their rosters. In this series, I’ll break down the needs and goals of every team as it relates to the 2022 offseason. Included will be cap space, cut candidates, positions of need, and plenty of other useful stats and notes as we prepare for free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft. Special thanks to Over the Cap, Pro Football Reference, Pro Football Focus, and Ben Baldwin’s RBSDM.com for all of the useful stats they track and house.
Jets 2021 Recap
The Jets began yet another rebuild in 2021 and it featured all of the hallmarks of a season starting from square one. Gang Green fans’ cups spilled over with hope as rookie quarterback Zach Wilson took the stage for the first time. In an omen of things to come, Wilson would take six sacks and throw an interception during New York’s opener, a loss to the Panthers. With Wilson throwing two touchdowns in that game, his rookie year still had plenty of room to get worse. Wilson’s impressive moments were fleeting and it’s not a stretch to say all of his backups looked better than him. An inept pass defense compounded the Jets’ issues, leading to them getting buried on both sides of the ball. Robert Saleh’s first year as a head coach was underwhelming despite the reasonably low expectations set for him.
Key Offensive Stats
- Points per game: 18.2 (28th)
- Dropback EPA: -.07 (28th)
- Passing yards per game: 208 (20th)
- Rush EPA: -.08 (18th)
- Rushing yards per game: 98 (27th)
Rookie quarterbacks take their lumps and many outright flop before going on to find success. That’s no surprise. What was most frustrating during Wilson’s debut was his inability to produce big plays. Among all first-round quarterbacks since the turn of the century, Wilson’s touchdown rate of 2.3 percent ranked bottom-five. He ranked 33rd in Pro Football Focus Passing Grade on throws 20 yards downfield and was only effective as a runner, adding 185 yards and four scores. Other rookies did step up for the Jets though. Michael Carter showed promise as a runner and a receiver out of the backfield, posting 964 total yards at 5.3 yards per touch. After a rocky start, Elijah Moore got hot down the stretch, scoring five times and earning 472 yards over his final seven games. The Jets’ offense has quietly amassed some talent, they just need their quarterback to unlock it.
Key Defensive Stats
- Points per game: 29.6 (32nd)
- Dropback EPA: .26 (32nd)
- Passing yards per game: 259 (30th)
- Rush EPA: -.03 (23rd)
- Rushing yards per game: 138 (29th)
The defense, on the other hand, doesn’t have as easy of a path to a quick turnaround. No team gave up more expected points on dropbacks than the Jets and a cursory glance at their talent shows why. Their corners were picked apart all year while the safeties weren’t the saving grace many expected them to be. Marcus Maye had a down year while playing six games and Lamarcus Joyner suffered a season-ending injury in Week 1. With no help over the top, the Jets gave up the highest rate of passes that went for 20 or more yards. Their run defense wasn’t great but it will likely be put in the backburner as adding more talent to the secondary has to be GM Joe Douglas‘s top priority.
Jets 2022 Offseason
Total Draft Value
Notable Free Agents
Notes: New York’s total draft value is the sum of the value of every pick they own using the Fitzgerald-Spielberger NFL Draft Trade Value Chart. The values are only estimates until the NFL announces compensatory picks. Cap savings are listed assuming the player is cut before June 1st.
The Jets are loaded with capital to make upgrades at every position. They have more cap space than all but four teams and can part ways with a handful of players to get even more money back. Trading Jamal Adams and Sam Darnold gave them extra picks at the top of the first and second rounds this year while they also hold their own picks through three rounds. Few teams are going to see an influx of talent like the Jets will this spring.
The Jets only had one cornerback, Brandin Echols, who allowed a passer rating below 100 when targeted. They did not have a corner ranked inside the top-50 according to PFF. New York will be doing plenty of scouting on Notre Dame safety and LSU corner Derek Stingley Jr., among many others.
Both of the jets’ starting safeties from Week 1 are expected to be gone in free agency. Ashtyn Davis, a third-round pick from the team’s 2020 draft class, filled in this year and could compete for a full-time role in 2022. However, that still leaves the team a starter short and they would be wise not to put all of their eggs in Davis’s basket at strong safety.
The Jets could also benefit from another receiver but if everyone gets healthy and Braxton Berrios is re-signed, tight end becomes a priority. Wilson averaged more adjusted yards per attempt when targeting tight ends than receivers this year despite his tight ends being backup-caliber at best. With Griffin expected to be cut and Tyler Kroft a free agent, a big-name signing from the Jets is on the table.
A few offensive staffers were shuffled but the bones of the coaching group remain intact. Though Wilson’s season looks ghastly on the whole, he did start to pull things together at the end of the year. He scored three times without throwing any interceptions in his final three games while increasing his production on the ground as well. Though the coaches won’t change, there are adjustments they can make to help the second-year passer.
Wilson made an impact with his legs but the Jets used RPOs and play-action sparingly. He sat near the bottom in play-action rate and the Jets ran fewer RPOs than the average offense. In Wilson’s final season at BYU, his team leaned into an outside zone ground game and it sent his production on play fakes. Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur should tap into his Shanahan roots and give Wilson more looks that are similar to what he excelled with in college.
The Jets have plenty of gaps on their roster but the good news is that they have just as many avenues to patch those holes. They enter the offseason with loads of cap space and the picks they gained from their trades couldn’t have panned out any better. The first order of business will be to keep their best talent in-house. Berrios, an All-Pro returner, flashed run-after-the-catch abilities in his third year season and could be brought back as a replacement to Crowder in the slot. Left tackle George Fant was named the starter by Saleh in an interview at the Senior Bowl. That means former first-round pick Mekhi Becton will either be moved to the right side of the line or could be on the trading block.
With much of their offense taken care of, the Jets should be spending the rest of their resources on defensemen. More specifically, they need to address their lack of coverage. The return of pass-rusher Carl Lawson, who missed all of 2021 because of a torn Achilles’, will be the only big addition their defensive line needs and it’s already on the books. They hold multiple top-10 picks in a draft stocked with defensive talent and it’s possible that they spend both of those selections on additions to their secondary. If Saleh is as much of a defensive mastermind as he was billed to be, a revamped defensive core should be enough for the Jets to make a considerable leap in 2022.