By: Robbie Stratakos
Did the New York Jets pull off a historic, franchise-changing free agent haul? They did not. At the same time, they’ve invested in players who are either budding forces or players in their prime with something to prove.
New York’s most expensive free agent signings were Carl Lawson, Corey Davis, Jarrad Davis, Keelan Cole and Sheldon Rankins.
Lawson is a powerful defensive end who gives the Jets a potential impact player off the edge. The Auburn product moves offensive linemen at 6-foot-2, 265 pounds and is a player against the run. In fact, Lawson compiled 32 quarterback hits in the 2020 NFL season. Albeit one could argue that he’s not finishing in the backfield, he wasn’t utilized as an every-down player with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Lawson should start in new head coach Robert Saleh’s front seven. Being relied on to apply pressure, Lawson could break through with the Jets.
Corey Davis is coming off the best season of his NFL career, as he compiled 984 receiving yards and five touchdowns while averaging 15.1 yards per reception for the Tennessee Titans. He gives the Jets a large receiving target at 6-foot-3. Davis is also a respectable downfield blocker.
Davis gives Zach Wilson, the Jets’ presumed quarterback for the 2021 NFL season, a player to lean on in the passing game, as he’ll likely start opposite of second-year wideout Denzel Mims.
Both Lawson and Davis have four years of experience in the NFL under their belt. The Jets are getting these two at opportune times in their respective careers.
Jarrad Davis is a former first-rounder who brings a well-rounded skill set to the table. He rushes the passer, is respectable against the run and capable of covering well. Davis could start next to Neville Hewitt next season, beefing up the Jets’ linebacking core.
Cole is a plausible outside option. Last season he totaled 642 receiving yards and a career-high five touchdowns with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He also appeared in 16 regular season games in each of his four NFL seasons. The undrafted wide receiver carved out a niche for himself in Jacksonville and could do the same as a secondary receiver for the Jets.
Rankins is a smooth defensive tackle who applies pressure and is a proven starter. In 2018 he totaled eight sacks with the New Orleans Saints.
Three of the aforementioned players either signed up for a one-year deal, were phased out of their rotation or had injuries play a setback role with their previous team (Jarrad Davis, Cole and Rankins). Meanwhile defensive back Lamarcus Joyner and running back Tevin Coleman, who each inked one-year deals with the Jets, are starting-caliber players.
The New York Jets have filled voids with impactful youngsters and proven commodities no older than 30. The 2021 NFL Draft can now be used as a means for them to take the best player on the board and further aid their roster’s weaknesses (cornerback, tight end, running back and edge).