Jets' Top Players to Avoid in 2021 NFL Free Agency

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IMarch 1, 2021

Jets' Top Players to Avoid in 2021 NFL Free Agency

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    It has the potential to be a busy offseason for the New York Jets. Assuming the NFL's salary cap will be around $180.5 million in 2021, Over the Cap projects the Jets to have nearly $68 million in cap space, which would be the second-most in the league behind only the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    Free agency begins at 4 p.m. ET on March 17, but the NFL's legal tampering period begins two days earlier. That's when the Jets can start considering how best to utilize their available cap space to assemble the best possible roster for the 2021 season.

    New York went 2-14 last season, marking its fifth straight year with a losing record. What's more, the Jets haven't reached the playoffs since the 2010 campaign. And there are quite a few holes on their roster that they need to address to start to turn things around.

    However, if New York wants to have success soon, it will likely need to make wise free-agent investments, which also means not giving contracts to players who may not live up to expectations.

    Here are three players the Jets should avoid during this year's free-agency period.

JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    The Jets could benefit from adding top playmakers to their offense, and there are a few talented wide receivers on the free-agent market. But one New York shouldn't try to sign this offseason is JuJu Smith-Schuster, who will likely garner plenty of attention from numerous teams.

    Over the past two seasons, Smith-Schuster hasn't played as well as he did in his first two years in the NFL. In 16 games in 2020, the 24-year-old had 97 receptions for 831 yards and a career-high nine touchdowns, but that was a lower yardage total than he had in each of his first two seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Not only has Smith-Schuster lacked some consistency, but he also drew attention this past year because of the videos he posted on TikTok, which included dancing on other teams' on-field logos.

    Instead of Smith-Schuster, New York should pursue another top-tier free-agent receiver, such as Allen Robinson II or Chris Godwin. And if it misses out on one of them, it might be wiser to spend less than it would on Smith-Schuster to add a less proven receiver or two who could break out soon.

    Smith-Schuster is likely to sign a big contract with a team needing a wide receiver this offseason (or perhaps he could return to the Steelers), so the Jets shouldn't get in on the bidding.

A.J. Bouye, CB

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    A.J. Bouye is a former Pro Bowler who had his best seasons while playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2017 to 2019. However, he struggled after getting traded to the Denver Broncos last season, playing only seven games because of a shoulder injury and receiving a six-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances.

    Although Bouye will miss the first two games of the 2021 season because of that suspension, the 29-year-old cornerback will likely still draw interest on the free-agent market. He had six interceptions in 16 games in 2017, and despite not recording any this past season, he's young enough that he could return to form.

    The Jets could use a boost to their secondary, and they likely should sign a free-agent cornerback to help do so. However, they are not in a position to take a chance on Bouye, who could also struggle once he gets back on the field in 2021.

    If New York wants a veteran cornerback, it could be wise to sign Richard Sherman, who spent the past three seasons playing for the San Francisco 49ers, with new Jets head coach Robert Saleh serving as their defensive coordinator. Not only could Sherman be more affordable, but there's also likely a bit less of a risk than there would be with Bouye.

Brandon Scherff, OG

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    Daniel Kucin Jr./Associated Press

    The Jets offensive line is getting better and has the potential to keep doing so in the future. Mekhi Becton is a key building block at left tackle after he was selected in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft, and New York has several other strong players up front.

    However, the Jets still need to improve on the interior of the offensive line, particularly at the guard spots. So it wouldn't be surprising if they were to sign one or two during free agency. However, they shouldn't consider inking Brandon Scherff to a deal, even though he's played well throughout his six-year career for Washington.

    Injuries have limited Scherff to 32 games over the past three seasons, and he hasn't played a full 16 games in a year since 2016. So there could be concern about his durability moving forward, which makes it risky to give him a big contract this offseason.

    If the Jets want to spend big on a guard, it could be better to go after Joe Thuney, who is also one of the top available guards on the market after spending his first five NFL seasons with the New England Patriots. Thuney has never missed a game, and he has the potential to take the New York offensive line to the next level.

    There are also some other strong guards for the Jets to consider if they miss out on Thuney, including some who may be more affordable than him or Scherff.