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New York Jets: Updated Defensive Needs Plus Potential Targets in Free Agency
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12 Mar 2019 01:42 PM EST

-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: Linebacker CJ Mosley breaks up pass against the New England Patriots. (Image Source: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

The New York Jets entered the offseason with over $90 million in cap space, the second-most in the NFL. Teams have begun to negotiate with free agents, but free agency doesn’t officially begin until 4:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday when the new league year starts. Here’s a look at the NYJ’s biggest needs on defense heading into free agency, as well as some potential targets:

1. Outside Linebacker: Tarell Basham, Jordan Jenkins, Frankie Luvu

It’s been a long time since the New York Jets have had an edge rusher that strikes fear in opponents and outside linebacker has regularly ranked among their biggest needs heading into free agency (as well as the draft) for years now. On Monday, it appeared they finally addressed the position with the pending signing of free agent linebacker Anthony Barr away from the Minnesota Vikings. However, on Tuesday Barr reversed course and has decided to return to the Vikings, who have upped their offer, which leaves the Jets in the lurch as they look to address their biggest need on defense. If a big ticket free agent such as Barr can’t be added, the Jets could address the position via the draft with an edge rusher such as Kentucky’s Josh Allen.  

Potential Targets: Ezekiel Ansah, Shaquil Barrett, Jamie Collins, Justin Houston, Derrick Morgan, Alex Okafor

2. Cornerback: Tevaughn Campbell, Jeremy Clark, Trumaine Johnson, Derrick Jones, Arthur Maulet, Parry Nickerson, Darryl Roberts, Rashard Robinson

Former Los Angeles Ram Trumaine Johnson was their big ticket free agent signing last season and he needs to do better, but that’s a conversation for another day. The question now is who will line up opposite Johnson, as well as handle the primary slot duties. While backup Darryl Roberts has been retained, slot corner Buster Skrine has signed with the Chicago Bears and according to reports the Jets will not attempt to re-sign Morris Claiborne, which leaves the team with a pair of openings. They could try to fill one of those spots from within but must sign at least one starting caliber coverman via free agency, ideally two.

Potential Targets: Bryce Callahan, Ronald Darby, Pierre Desir, Jason McCourty, Rashaan Melvin, Steven Nelson, Bradley Roby, Jason Verrett

3. Nose Tackle: Destiny Vaeao

Starting noseman Steve McLendon and backup Mike Pennel (declined option) are both free agents and the Jets need to plug up the middle, a critical piece to their 3-4 scheme. They are extremely thin at the position unless they believe one of their young defensive ends can shift inside. A starter needs to be added and probably an experienced backup as well.

Potential Targets: Zach Kerr, Bennie Logan, Al Woods

4. Defensive End: Folorunso Fatukasi, Bronson Kaufusi, Nathan Shephard, Charles Tapper, Leonard Williams

In Leonard Williams, the Jets have a stud along the defensive line but Henry Anderson is a free agent and there’s an opening opposite Williams at D-end. While the Jets appear ready to part ways with certain free agents like the aforementioned Morris Claiborne and wide out Jermaine Kearse, it is believed they would like to retain Anderson. What are the other options? Second-year man Nathan Shephard, sign a veteran via free agency, or go young via the draft (Alabama’s Quinnen Williams). If they do go the free agent route, expect them to sign a middle-of-the-road type like Anderson as insurance in case they go another direction in the draft.

Potential Targets: Henry Anderson, Chris Covington, Timmy Jernigan, Darius Philon

5. Inside Linebacker: Harvey Langi, Darron Lee, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Avery Williamson, Anthony Wint

With both starters—Avery Williamson and Darron Lee—back, inside linebacker didn’t appear to be high on New York’s free agent wish list. But as soon as we heard the Jets connected to several of the top free agent linebackers it became quickly apparent that the club didn’t feel the same way. With an $85 million deal over five years, including $51 million in guaranteed money, Mike Maccagnan pried Pro Bowl linebacker CJ Mosley away from the Baltimore Ravens to anchor New York’s defense and play alongside Williamson, which makes Lee expendable.

Signed: CJ Mosley

Daniel Mogollon is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America. He is also a voter for the Thorpe and the Rotary Lombardi Award, as well as the Latino Sports MVP Awards. You can reach him via email:

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