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Joe Douglas rebuilt the offensive line but still has his work cut out for him

Jets GM Joe Douglas speaks to reporters during

Jets GM Joe Douglas speaks to reporters during a press conference on Tuesday Dec. 31, 2019. Credit: George A. Faella

Jets general manager Joe Douglas was busy early in free agency, but he did most of his work in the second wave of it. It’s now slowed to a crawl, and his work is not nearly done.

One thing is certain: Douglas rebuilt the offensive line.

Of the 14 players with whom Douglas has reached agreement or has signed to this point, five of them were offensive linemen: George Fant, Alex Lewis, Connor McGovern, Long Island’s Greg Van Roten and Josh Andrews. Jonotthan Harrison, Chuma Edoga, Brian Winters and Ben Braden also are under contract. Whether they all make it to training camp is another story, but Douglas followed through on his promise to strengthen the offensive line.

He also kept much of the linebacking core together and added some depth to it. Outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins and inside linebackers Neville Hewitt and James Burgess will be back on one-year deals. Former Ravens inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor will try to redeem himself after struggling to fill C.J. Mosley’s shoes in Baltimore last year. Now the two are teammates again with the Jets.

But to make it back to the playoffs for the first time since the 2010 season, the Jets still have work to do. Wide receiver, edge rusher, cornerback, running back depth and a veteran backup for Sam Darnold remain team needs. Douglas will try to address these holes through more free-agent deals, trades and in the draft.

The Jets have eight picks, including two third-round selections. They could package one or both of those with other assets and trade for a veteran lineman, receiver or even edge rusher. The Jets haven’t had a disruptive pass rusher since Jonathan Abraham averaged 10 sacks per season from 2001-06.

They likely won’t use the No. 11 pick in the draft on an edge rusher. Douglas must weigh whether to grab one of the highly touted tackles, if  available, or the potential game-breaking wide receivers.

If Iowa's Tristan Wirfs, Alabama’s Jedrick Wills, Louisville’s Mekhi Becton or Georgia’s Andrew Thomas is there at 11, Douglas has to strongly consider taking a tackle. But if they’re gone, his decision will become much easier, and he should have a couple of wide receivers to choose from in Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III and Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb.

Adam Gase is an offensive coach, so he might be leaning toward the playmaking receiver. The Jets’ offense never lived up to the hype that came with Gase, who in 2013 was the offensive coordinator when the Broncos scored 606 points, the most in a season in NFL history. 

The Jets lost Darnold’s top deep threat, Robby Anderson, to the Panthers. Douglas acted quickly and picked up Breshad Perriman, a former first-round pick who has never reached his potential. He joins a receiving corps that includes Jamison Crowder, Quincy Enunwa (not yet cleared to play after a serious neck injury ended his 2019 season), Josh Bellamy, Josh Doctson, Vyncint Smith, Braxton Berrios and Josh Malone. 

The draft is deep in wide receivers, so Douglas could get one on Day 2 with the 48th pick. If LSU’s Justin Jefferson is there, which is unlikely, he would be an excellent choice. Clemson’s Tee Higgins or Baylor’s Denzel Mims could be options.

Day 2 and 3 also would be a prime time for the Jets to pick up a cornerback. The draft has some long, athletic corners.

The Jets cut starting cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson and Darryl Roberts, both of whom underperformed. Both moves were expected and cleared about $17 million in cap savings. The Jets added former Colts cornerback Pierre Desir and re-signed Arthur Maulet and nickel back Brian Poole. But much like the receiver position, they need more.

As of now, Darnold’s backup is Mike White, who has never taken an NFL snap. Behind Le’Veon Bell at running back, the Jets have Josh Adams, Trenton Cannon and Kenneth Dixon.

Douglas’ work certainly isn’t done.

Hello, goodbye, Hello again

Recapping the Jets in free agency:

THEY’RE HERE

Player Pos. Age Old team

George Fant OT 27 Seahawks

Connor McGovern C/G 26 Broncos

Greg Van Roten G 30 Panthers

Josh Andrews G/C 28 Colts

Pierre Desir CB 29 Colts

Breshad Perriman WR 26 Buccaneers

Patrick Onwuasor ILB 27 Ravens

THEY’RE GONE

Player Pos. Age New team

*-Trumaine Johnson CB 30 Unsigned

*-Darryl Roberts CB 29 Unsigned

*-Blake Countess CB 26 Unsigned

Robby Anderson WR 26 Panthers

Brandon Copeland LB 28 Patriots

Brandon Shell OT 28 Seahawks

Tom Compton OT 30 49ers

Brent Qvale OT 29 Texans

Maurice Canady CB 25 Cowboys

*-Released

THEY’RE BACK

Player Pos. Age

Brian Poole CB 27

Jordan Jenkins OLB 25

Alex Lewis G 27

Neville Hewitt ILB 26

James Burgess ILB 26

Arthur Maulet CB 26

Bennett Jackson CB 28

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