Reviewing the New York Jets’ 2022 offseason
The New York Jets entered the 2022 offseason with massive expectations and a unique opportunity to improve. General manager Joe Douglas had an abundance of resources to his disposal between free agency and the draft. With Robert Saleh and Zach Wilson leading the team into its crucial second year of a new era, there needed to be an influx in talent.
Let’s take a look at the upgrades made from the free agent and draft class the Jets put together as well as the remaining questions on the roster.
Free agency review
A few of the Jets’ most notable weaknesses entering the offseason were safety, tight end, and guard. They were all addressed by Douglas in the first wave of free agency.
Adding 2021 Pro Bowl guard Laken Tomlinson to kick off the free agency process was exciting for the Jets. His four years of experience with Saleh and Mike LaFleur (2017-20) should aid the transition process. Tomlinson provides experience, durability, and success in New York’s offensive scheme.
Former Buccaneers safety Jordan Whitehead was a strong signing for the Jets. A 25-year-old with Super Bowl experience who will hold down the strong safety position, Whitehead is an immediate upgrade at the position. He is a tough, physical player who will make contributions in the box and around the line of scrimmage.
Completely turning over the tight end unit was a must for Douglas. He started this process fantastically well early in free agency. Signing both CJ Uzomah and Tyler Conklin to three-year deals was very comforting for Jets fans. Both players can run-block and pass-block effectively. As receivers, they complement one another well. Conklin has sure hands and great route-running ability. Uzomah will fit in the offense with his ability after the catch using his size and speed.
It was unknown how the Jets would approach cornerback in free agency. Ultimately, Douglas ended up making a big-time move by reuniting DJ Reed with Saleh. Still only 25 years old and entering his prime, Reed is coming off a career year, fits the scheme, and upgrades an impact position.
The depth of the defensive line was bolstered with two pass-rushers in Jacob Martin and Solomon Thomas. Martin has tons of speed and bend on the edge. Thomas brings prior experience with Saleh and will help on the interior.
Needs at kicker and linebacker were addressed later on in the process with veterans Greg Zuerlein and Marcell Harris.
New York’s most recent move, adding interior offensive lineman Nate Herbig, was a solid one. Herbig has quality experience with 17 starts over the last two years and is an upgrade for the depth of the interior offensive line. He offers flexibility to play guard and center.
Following the moves made by Douglas in free agency, it was widely anticipated that two of the four premium picks the Jets had at the top of the draft would go to edge and wide receiver. From there, most expected the Jets to target a new cornerback, running back, and offensive tackle at some point in the draft.
The Jets would come away with Sauce Gardner, Garrett Wilson, Jermaine Johnson, and Breece Hall from their first four picks, shattering even the greatest expectations. Douglas did a tremendous job with the four premium picks he worked to stockpile over the last few years.
Hall and Wilson are two young playmakers who add speed to the Jets offense. Both players are relatively complete with their skillsets at their respective position. They will greatly help Zach Wilson in his development.
With Gardner and Johnson, the two biggest-impact defensive positions are massively improved. Each prospect has a high floor. Gardner and Johnson will help not only the Jets’ pass defense but also a run defense that struggled a year ago.
Drafting Jeremy Ruckert in the third round was exceptional for the Jets, capping off the rebuild at tight end with a third new addition. Ruckert will have a specific role in the offense right away as a rookie.
The class was rounded out with more depth on both sides of the line, as Max Mitchell and Micheal Clemons were both acquired early in the fourth round.
Taking an offensive lineman in Mitchell was not too much of a surprise considering the need for a third offensive tackle. Clemons came from out of nowhere to most. He does have some potential as a pass rusher and as a 25-year-old rookie should be expected to make an immediate impact.
It is also worth noting the commendable job Douglas did of keeping much of the depth from 2021 intact. The Jets re-signed the following 12 players:
- Braxton Berrios, WR
- Dan Feeney, iOL
- Lamarcus Joyner, S
- Tevin Coleman, RB
- Joe Flacco, QB
- Vinny Curry, EDGE
- Nick Bawden, FB
- Eddy Pineiro, K
- Will Parks, S
- Conor McDermott, OT
- Nathan Shepherd, DT
- Mike White, QB (RFA)
It is safe to say Douglas exceeded or at least met the goals of most fans going into this critical offseason.
The three most likely concerns people have when looking at the Jets roster at the moment are nose tackle, linebacker, and free safety. In particular, will the run defense up the middle be improved from a year ago considering the unknowns at the nose and linebacker?
Overall, the Jets came out of free agency and the draft with significantly more starting-level talent. Even the depth on this roster is in much better shape. There will be some tough roster decisions later on in the summer.