Jets' Biggest Keys to Having Successful NFL Offseason

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IFebruary 22, 2021

Jets' Biggest Keys to Having Successful NFL Offseason

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    Is Sam Darnold going to be the New York Jets' starting quarterback in 2021? It's possible he will be. Or the Jets could decide to trade him and find a new franchise quarterback, potentially with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft.

    Either way, New York has plenty of other needs to address this offseason. Perhaps Darnold has struggled during his first three NFL seasons because of the team surrounding him. But that's not to say the 23-year-old will surely be back, as there have been rumors of other teams reaching out to the Jets regarding a Darnold trade.

    So while New York will need to make a quarterback decision, that may not be the biggest key to whether it's a successful offseason for the franchise. Whether it's Darnold or somebody else under center in 2021, the Jets' results could be dependent upon the other moves they make over the next few months.

    Here's a look at three of the biggest keys for New York having a successful offseason.

Add More Playmakers to Offense to Help QB

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    No matter who ends up as the Jets' quarterback, he could benefit from the team adding some playmakers to the offense. New York's receiving corps still has some solid options (such as Jamison Crowder and Denzel Mims), but it's lacking a true No. 1 star wide receiver.

    Earlier this month, ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported that the Jets are "taking a look" at top free-agent wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Will Fuller V, as well as some "second-tier options," such as Zach Pascal, who is currently a restricted free agent and could be returning to the Indianapolis Colts. If New York landed one of these receivers, particularly Smith-Schuster or Fuller, it would provide a huge boost to its offense.

    The Jets have some youngsters returning to their backfield, such as Ty Johnson and La'Mical Perine, but veteran running back Frank Gore is hitting free agency. So it could also be beneficial for them to add an experienced back to become their top rushing option in 2021.

    It's also possible that New York could address one of these needs with its top draft pick. Former Alabama standouts DeVonta Smith (the reigning Heisman Trophy winner) and Jaylen Waddle and former LSU receiver Ja'Marr Chase are among the top playmakers in this year's draft class, and any of those players could potentially turn into an offensive star in the future.

    Whether it's through free agency, trades, the draft or a combination of the three, the Jets need more big-time offensive playmakers to help take their offense to the next level.

Continue to Strengthen the Offensive Line

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    Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press

    The Jets offensive line has improved in the past year, mainly due to the acquisition of left tackle Mekhi Becton, who they selected with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft. They also got strong play from center Connor McGovern and right tackle George Fant this past season.

    But New York still needs to get better up front, particularly at the guard positions. And with Alex Lewis (set to make $6.9 million in 2021) and Greg Van Roten ($3.4 million) being potential release candidates, the Jets may want to try to address one or both guard positions this offseason.

    One way that New York could potentially do that is by pursuing Joe Thuney, who is an unrestricted free agent after spending his first five seasons with the New England Patriots (playing 2020 on the franchise tag). Not only would the Jets be bolstering their own offensive line by signing Thuney, but they'd also be taking away from one of their AFC East rivals.

    Thuney would come at a high price, though. So if New York wants to improve at guard without spending a ton, perhaps free agents Matt Feiler or Mike Iupati could be potential targets.

    The Jets need to do a better job of protecting their quarterback, and bettering the guard spots should help them do that. The 21-year-old Becton will likely keep improving, and it will help to have some strong players alongside him.

Find Players Who Will Fit Saleh's Defensive Scheme

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    Jennifer Stewart/Associated Press

    During his time as the San Francisco 49ers' defensive coordinator from 2017-20, Robert Saleh helped turn the team's defense into a strong unit. Now the Jets head coach, Saleh will be looking to do the same, as will new New York defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich.

    But if the Jets are going to show defensive improvement in the near future, they'll need to address several holes this offseason. New York will be shifting from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3, so it will need to also find players who can fit that scheme well.

    The Jets will likely add a cornerback, as their current unit (which features Bryce Hall and Bless Austin) could benefit from the presence of a proven defensive back. Perhaps Saleh will want to bring in veteran Richard Sherman, who spent the past three seasons playing for him in San Francisco, to provide leadership and solid play (assuming he can stay healthy after playing only five games in 2020).

    Another way New York could improve its defense is by adding a top pass-rusher. Shaquil Barrett, J.J. Watt and Bud Dupree are among the top edge-rushers available in free agency. But the Jets could also address the need with a more affordable player or through the draft.

    There are numerous ways that New York can improve its defense, and how free agency unfolds could impact the moves it makes. But if the Jets can add to those needed areas, it should be a successful offseason for them on the defensive side of the ball.

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