Mike Maccagnan and the New York Jets entered the free agency period with high expectations and the largest amount of cap space in the entire league. Yes, the Jets fell short of winning the Kirk Cousins Sweepstakes, but it’s clear Maccagnan had a solid plan B to execute with the money saved on not signing Cousins. Positions that desperately needed a reboot for the Jets were quickly filled, and though some moves may be deemed questionable, most seem to be approved by a majority of the fan base and media. While discussion has centered around the quarterback position, here are grades for five targets Gang Green landed in the preliminary stages of free agency to round out the rest of their roster.
Trumaine Johnson, CB
Deal: 5 yr/ $72.5 million
This one was a no-brainer. At the time, the Jets had not yet inked their best cornerback from last year in Morris Claiborne, and Johnson was among the most talented options available at the position. Though his interception total from the past two seasons is less than his total in 2015 of seven, Johnson is still an elite corner and a solid veteran presence to pair with sophomore safeties Marcus Maye and Jamal Adams. His price of $72 million is a sizable chunk of cash, but for his value, it was the right move to kick-start the team’s signing period.
Isaiah Crowell, RB
Deal: 3 yr/ $12 million
The Jets needed someone to replace the retired Matt Forte, and Crowell is more than serviceable, as he is somewhat of a perfect nostalgic hybrid of Thomas Jones and Chris Ivory. His elusiveness and toughness like Jones possessed in his New York tenure, along with Ivory’s head-down running style, resulted in two consecutive seasons eclipsing 1,000+ yards from scrimmage. He has yet to rush for 1,000 in a season, but at age 25, the time for Crowell to prove to the league what type of running back he can live up to, is now.
Avery Williamson, LB
Deal: 3 yr/ $22.5 million
While, I am glad that the Jets got a young talent at the linebacker position like Avery Williamson, the reason this signing is graded a B and not an A- or A, is because the Jets should have brought back Demario Davis. Williamson has the potential to develop into a similar type of player that Davis emerged into last season. Williamson’s deal is not ludicrously overpriced for an emerging linebacker who fits the Jets’ 3-4 scheme, but the asking price between the two was not much. When asked about why the team signed Williamson, Todd Bowles stated, “He’s a very solid tackler and very good at making some space tackles, which is important for us. Obviously, he’s a little bit younger, but we thought he’s a very good football player.”
Terrelle Pryor, WR
Deal: 1 yr/ $4.5 million
Depending on which Terrelle Pryor we see, this signing could either be a C or an A. At first, you could attempt to blame his declining production on the quarterback position, but then the realization that he had his best season in 2016 with Josh McCown/Cody Kessler/RGIII/Kevin Hogan rather than in Washington last year with public enemy #1, Kirk Cousins. The Jets did need to make an addition at the wide receiver position, and Pryor’s deal will force him to get back to 2016 form. With Robby Anderson facing a possible suspension, as well as the status of Quincy Enunwa up in the air after missing all of 2017, the Jets needed someone to pair with Jermaine Kearse to have at least some certainty and depth at the position. Missing out on Allen Robinson, Jordy Nelson, Jarvis Landry, and others stung Jet fans at first, but if Pryor can get back to his former self from just two years ago, this signing could pay off massively for the team.
Andre Roberts, WR/KR/PR
Deal: 1 yr/ $1.05 million
Yes, Andre Roberts is 30 years old, and yes, his receiving skills are subpar, but he is already (on paper) the best special teams’ returner that the team has had since the Brad Smith/Joe McKnight era. Roberts has three career return touchdowns, one kickoff, two from punts, and has a career return average of 23.4 yards on kickoffs. The speedster out of The Citadel in 2010 has played on four different teams, yet none have been as desperate for help in the return game. The Jets have gone without a return touchdown, both punt and kickoff, since the 2012 season. Five years without just one of those occurring is inexcusable on both the players and the coaching. It has been rough since guru Mike Westhoff left after that 2012 season, but it is up to the new coaches and players, to end the special teams drought in 2018.. Roberts’ contract is merely a dent in the cap space for the Jets, and was a more than necessary move made by the front office.