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New York Jets: Defensive Needs & Potential Targets Heading into Free Agency
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12 Mar 2018 04:42 PM EST

-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: New York Jets cornerback Morris Claiborne makes tackle. (Image Source: Ed Mulholland/Getty Images)

The New York Jets enter free agency with around $90 million in cap space, an NFL record. Teams can begin to negotiate with free agents today, but cannot officially sign them until 4:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday. Having already previewed their offensive needs, here’s a look at the NYJ’s biggest needs on defense heading into free agency, as well as some potential targets:

1. Cornerback: Buster Skrine, Juston Burris, Darryl Roberts, Rashard Robinson, Jeremy Clark, Derrick Jones, Xavier Coleman, Bryson Keeton

Key Free Agent: Morris Claiborne

There’s depth and even some intriguing long-term projects but the Jets must sign two starting caliber cornerbacks in free agency. This is the top priority on defense and it starts with re-signing Morris Claiborne, who did enough is his one-year tryout with the Jets to earn a long-term deal. Even if they do bring Claiborne back, the team can’t stop there. Big-name free agents like Trumaine Johnson and Malcolm Butler are expected to be top targets this week.

Potential Targets: Trumaine Johnson, Malcolm Butler, Aaron Colvin, Patrick Robinson, Rashaan Melvin, E.J. Gaines, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Bashaud Breeland, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Jeremy Lane

2. Defensive End: Leonard Williams, Obum Gwacham, Claude Pelon

Key Free Agent: Kony Ealy

Once a position of strength has become a position of need. Last offseason they traded Sheldon Richardson and this year they’ve released Muhammad Wilkerson, who’s diminished play and increased headache inducing made him expendable at his salary. No one is arguing against moving on from Richardson or Wilkerson, but now they must be replaced. Bringing back Kony Ealy (9 PDs) might make sense, he flashed some promise last season, but likely in a backup role. The addition of Ndamukong Suh to the free-agent market is very intriguing.

Potential Targets: Ndamukong Suh, Star Lotulelei, Sheldon Richardson, Shamar Stephen, DaQuan Jones, Tyrunn Walker

3. Inside Linebacker: Darron Lee, Micah Awe

Key Free Agent: Demario Davis

Bringing back Demario Davis has to be high on New York’s to-do list this week. He had an excellent 2017 campaign, as he finally performed like the player the Jets expected when they originally drafted Davis in 2012. He’s a leader and a productive player, who forms a nice one-two punch with up-and-comer Darron Lee.

Potential Targets: Nigel Bradham, NaVorro Bowman, Avery Williamson, Jon Bostic, Anthony Hitchens, Josh Bynes

4. Outside Linebacker: Jordan Jenkins, Lorenzo Mauldin, Josh Martin, Dylan Donahue

Key Free Agent: David Bass

Despite the presence of two recent Day 2 selections and some decent depth, I’m tempted to have outside linebacker higher on the list. The Jets have been desperate for an edge rusher for years. It seems like pass rusher will perpetually be among the team’s needs. They may have found one starter in Jordan Jenkins, who is solid but not spectacular. What they need opposite the Georgia man is an explosive pass rusher. They could bring back David Bass, who actually tied Muhammad Wilkerson for second on the team with 3.5 sacks, but he’s better suited for a backup role.

Potential Targets: Alex Okafor, Trent Murphy, Julius Peppers, Barkevious Mingo, Connor Barwin, Jerry Attaochu, Willie Young, Pernell McPhee

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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