Free agency hasn't worked out well for the Jets. They spent a lot of money under former GM Mike Maccagnan and very few of those contracts have turned out to be worth the money. Some of them, in fact, now look like the worst deals the Jets have ever made.
So it's with that knowledge and a sense of great caution that the Jets head into their first offseason under new GM Joe Douglas. He's armed with about $50 million in salary cap space to spend, and likely a lot more coming when he's finished with his cuts. And he will spend, because he has to on a team filled with far too many holes.
But don't expect the Jets to go crazy, not after spending $52.5 million on Le'Veon Bell and $85 million on C.J. Mosley last offseason, and another $72.5 million on Trumaine Johnson the year before. Many expect Douglas to be more restrained, at least for the most part.
Still, there are a few really enticing players for a team that needs a lot of help. Here are seven free agents the Jets could, and in some cases should, target next month:
WR Amari Cooper
Sam Darnold desperately needs weapons to help him run Adam Gase's offense, and there will be no better receiver on the market than the 6-1, 225-pound Cooper -- if he reaches the market. The Cowboys could use the transition tag on him, even if they decide to franchise quarterback Dak Prescott (in that case, the Jets could still sign him, but the Cowboys would have the right to match). Cooper is a true No. 1 receiver, and will be paid as such -- so $16-17 million per year.
RT Jack Conklin
No one is sure how much of a big spender Douglas is going to be, but almost everyone is sure that he's going to spend a good percentage of his available cap space on a complete offensive line overhaul. Maybe he'll look for under-the-radar players, but he really should start with the best right tackle on the market. Everyone who needs a tackle will be in on this 25-year-old, who will emerge from free agency as the highest paid right tackle in the NFL. That means more than $72 million over four years, with as much as $55 million guaranteed.
G Brandon Scherff
What do the Jets need more, tackles or guards? It's debatable and probably depends on whom Douglas decides to bring back. Most expect him to re-sign guard Alex Lewis, but guard Brian Winters is expected to be a cap casualty and they don't really have a replacement ready. The 28-year-old Scherff (6-5, 315) is one of the best guards in the NFL and he might not be all that expensive. He's battled injuries the last three years (he played only 19 games the last two) so there's some risk. If they can get a short-term, reasonable deal, it's a risk worth taking for the Jets.
WR Emmanuel Sanders
He will be 33 in March and he's not the player he used to be, but he's intriguing for a number of reasons. Perhaps most importantly, the best year of his career (2014 in Denver) came with Gase as his offensive coordinator. So he knows the scheme, can play outside (as he did with Denver in 2014) and even though he's small (5-11, 180) he could be a nice complement to Jamison Crowder. The Jets still need a big receiver, but they could draft one instead and sign Sanders to a shorter, less expensive deal -- maybe something like the three-year, $28.5 million deal they gave Crowder a year ago.
LB Matthew Judon
Douglas loves those ex-Ravens and the Jets definitely need an edge rusher, which makes this 27-year-old a good fit. He had 9 ½ sacks this past season and has 24 ½ over the past three, though he's not considered an elite pass rusher. That won't hold his price down, though. If he doesn't get the franchise tag from Baltimore, he'll get $17 million per year on the open market. Pass rushers get overpaid more than any other position in free agency. But adding a dominant pass rusher to Gregg Williams' defense could be priceless.
DE Yannick Ngakoue
It seems likely that the Jaguars are going to place the franchise tag on Ngakoue, but if they don't, this is the free agent the Jets need to go after. He's 24 years old and has 37 ½ sacks in his career. And many scouts believe he will be a truly elite pass rusher if placed in the right scheme. Of course, if he does hit free agency, he could cost $20 million per year, which is a hefty price to pay for any non-quarterback.
CB Chris Harris
First of all, the Jets should really re-sign Brian Poole, who was their best corner in 2019 and a terrific slot corner overall. They also need to draft some young cornerbacks. And when they do, they sure could use a good veteran to help guide them. Harris is still one of the league's better corners and probably one of the two or three best on the market. He'll be 31 in June, but maybe that'll be enough to keep his price reasonable. Then again, he supposedly turned down a three-year, $36 million deal before the trading deadline, so maybe not.