After a season that initially showed so much promise, but then ended in disappointing fashion, the Jets are preparing for a crucial offseason.
Given the way the season ended, it wouldn’t be a shock if Robert Saleh and Joe Douglas have been told they will lose their jobs if they fail to make the postseason in 2023. On this basis, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them go all-in during the offseason.
Some of the upcoming moves are obvious: Re-signing Quinnen Williams is a no-brainer and addressing the quarterback position will be an obvious priority, for example. However, let’s see if we can make some more specific guesses for the kind of moves they’ll end up making.
With that in mind, here are some bold predictions for the Jets this offseason...
1. Jimmy Garoppolo will end up as the starting quarterback
The Jets obviously need a new starting quarterback after Zach Wilson’s disappointing regression this past season, and Mike White not doing enough to prove he’s a viable option as he struggled to stay on the field after some early success. It seems likely the team will go down the veteran route to hopefully ensure more consistency at this critical position.
Each of the veterans who could potentially be available have their pros and cons. Some may not be available, some are not ideal fits, and some probably wouldn’t want to come to the Jets. Garoppolo looks the most suitable fit out of the potential options to be available. Look for Douglas to leave no stone unturned in the trade market over the next few months, much like he did at the receiver position last year, before ultimately swinging a deal for the 31-year old.
Re-signing White to a backup level deal and retaining Wilson as a development option would probably be smart, given Garoppolo’s own durability issues in the past. You can’t rule out the Jets drafting a quarterback either, perhaps on day two.
2. Connor McGovern, Sheldon Rankins, and Corey Davis won’t be back
The Jets will need to move on from some of their veteran leaders in 2023. Although they will probably be keen to retain McGovern and Rankins after each had a solid season as a starter in 2022, there will be demand for each of them, so don’t be surprised if they sign elsewhere -- like Folorunso Fatukasi did last offseason.
Davis has a high cap number in 2023 and looks like a potential cap casualty after he struggled to stay on the field and saw a drop-off in statistical productivity in his second year with the Jets.
The replacement for each of these players could potentially come from the draft, as these are three positions that would seem like logical targets in the early rounds.
3. Despite struggles in 2022, don’t expect too much investment on the offensive line
A common refrain this offseason will be that the Jets must fix their offensive line, but they had so many injuries in 2022 that it might be difficult to justify throwing even more resources at a unit that they’ve already spent so much on. Everything hinges on Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker’s return, which could elevate this group to be one of the league’s best. Duane Brown will probably be retained as a safety net for Becton, while Max Mitchell’s return will also boost this unit.
Of course, they can’t completely rely on all the injured players returning at the same level. In fact, this was something that affected them in 2022 as both Becton and George Fant were returning from knee injuries and neither was able to get back to full strength before the season. Becton missed the whole year and Fant struggled badly as he was never 100 percent, despite rehabbing on injured reserve for a few months in the middle of the season.
A decision must be made on whether to bring back Fant and Nate Herbig, who filled in well at right guard but could be looking for a starting opportunity elsewhere. Otherwise, they will probably not make any big changes to this unit unless they are forced to at a later date.
4. Bryce Huff, Michael Carter, and Denzel Mims will be traded, but Elijah Moore won’t be
After knocking the 2022 draft out of the park, Douglas will do what he can to add to his pick haul before April, even if that’s just so they have more ammunition to potentially trade up and address their biggest needs.
Elijah Moore already requested a trade, but his value is low after a disappointing second season, and the Jets consider him someone who has only scratched the surface of his full potential. Look for the Jets to retain Moore and instead make some low level deals involving players they consider to be surplus.
Huff played well in 2022 and there should be demand for him from anyone looking to bolster their pass rush. Look for the Jets to tender him as a restricted free agent at the second-round level and then trade him for a lower pick. Huff’s only role was as a situational pass rusher and they started feeding those reps to Jermaine Johnson by the end of the season, so they already have a succession plan in place with Johnson’s role destined to increase in year two.
Carter showed terrific potential in his rookie year, but the likes of Zonovan Knight and Ty Johnson were getting reps ahead of him by the end of the season. And with Breece Hall returning from injury, a change of scenery could be the best thing for both the team and player. As for Mims, the possibility of trading him has been discussed for a while now, and the Jets will hope he showed enough flashes in his limited action down the stretch to entice someone to give up a pick for him.
5. The Jets’ biggest free agent signing will be CJ Gardner-Johnson
The Jets are in the middle of the pack when it comes to cap space heading into the offseason, but addressing the quarterback position and re-signing Williams will eat into that. Nevertheless, they have enough flexibility that they should be able to make a couple of splashes in free agency.
While the Jets could look to add a defensive tackle or a veteran receiver, a starting safety seems the most obvious position for them to make a big splash. Jessie Bates III will hit free agency again after being franchise tagged last year, but he’ll be expensive with a lot of potential suitors. Gardner-Johnson had a few injury issues in 2022, so he could be a slightly more affordable option.
It might be tempting for the Jets to instead raid their divisional rivals and go after a more experienced veteran in Jordan Poyer. However, with Jordan Whitehead a free agent, that might be too much of a short-term move unless the team is high on someone like Tony Adams developing into a full-time starter.