The Jets went big-name and big-game hunting, but they didn’t land the edge rusher that their defense sorely needs.
Khalil Mack is headed to the Bears after Chicago sent two first-round draft picks, a second-round selection and a sixth-round pick to the Raiders on Saturday for the 2016 Defensive Player of the Year.
The Bears also signed Mack to the megadeal that the Raiders wouldn’t. He got six years and $141 million, including $90 million guaranteed, exceeding the contract Aaron Donald signed with the Rams on Friday — six years for $135 million, with $87 million guaranteed.
All of this leaves the Jets right where they were a few days ago: with beaucoup bucks and early-round draft picks that at least keep them in trade conversations for difference-makers.
Jacksonville defensive end Dante Fowler Jr.’s name has come up. He’s in the last year of his contract after the team decided not to pick up his fifth-year option. The Jaguars are in win-now mode, so they could decide to hold on to Fowler. On the other hand, they could opt to move him before letting him walk next year.
He’s someone the Jets could look into further, especially now. And the 24-year-old Fowler won’t cost them as much as Mack would have in picks or salary.
If the Jets don’t make any deals, general manager Mike Maccagnan will have to find an impactful pass rusher and offensive line help in next year’s draft with those picks or in free agency.
Keeping franchise quarterback Sam Darnold safe and upright and putting pressure on the opposing team’s quarterback have to be the priorities of this front office going forward.
The Jets have a first-round pick and two third-rounders — one they acquired from the Saints for Teddy Bridgewater — to use in a draft that’s expected to be stocked with pass rushers. The Jets also are projected to have the most salary-cap space in the league for the 2019 free-agent class.
After Thursday’s preseason finale in Philadelphia, Todd Bowles was asked if the Jets have enough pass rushers on the team to be successful.
“I don’t think we have enough of anything because we’re always looking to get better,” Bowles said. “If somebody becomes available over the waiver wire that’s better than what we have on the back end, we always take a look at those things.”
It’s probably not realistic for the Jets to get a strong pass rusher off waivers. Strong pass rushers don’t usually get cut. If that’s the case, do the Jets have enough?
Said Bowles, “I can tell you at the end of the season.”
Maccagnan and Bowles spent a good part of Saturday paring the roster down to 53 players by the 4 p.m. deadline. The most surprising cuts were outside linebacker Frankie Luvu and wide receiver Tre McBride.
Luvu, an undrafted rookie, got some first-team snaps and seemed to at least be in the rotation at outside linebacker. McBride also got first-team reps and made some nice catches. If neither is claimed off waivers, the Jets could sign them to their practice squad.
The other players waived Saturday were linebackers Lorenzo Mauldin (a Jets third-round pick in 2015), Dylan Donahue and Anthony Wint; nose tackle Deon Simon, cornerback Jeremy Clark, safety Brandon Bryant, running backs Thomas Rawls and Charcandrick West, center Travis Swanson, tight end Clive Walford, wide receiver Chad Hansen and kicker Taylor Bertolet.
The Jets also moved cornerback Rashard Robinson, linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis and receiver ArDarius Stewart to the suspended list and placed safety Rontez Miles on the physically unable to perform list.
Now the Jets will scour the waiver wire and see if they can add talent and depth Sunday at several spots, including offensive line, outside linebacker and maybe kicker. They’re sixth in the claim order.
Bertolet, an undrafted rookie, impressed the Jets early in camp, but the more proven Jason Myers beat him out and will be the Jets’ kicker, barring a waiver pickup. The Cowboys surprisingly cut Dan Bailey.
The Jets signed Cairo Santos in the offseason to handle the kicking duties, but an injury forced him to miss camp and the preseason. They waived Santos 10 days ago and brought in Myers, who kicked field goals of 58 and 43 yards Thursday against the Eagles.
With Saturday’s cuts complete, only defensive end Leonard Williams remains from Maccagnan’s first draft class in 2015. Mauldin and Simon, a seventh-round pick in 2015, were the other Jets left from that draft. The Jets already had cut Devin Smith, Bryce Petty and Jarvis Harrison.
The Jets also cut three players from the 2017 draft class: Hansen, Donahue and Clark. Donahue faces league suspension for off-the-field incidents.