INDIANAPOLIS — It’s no secret that the Jets want to bring in a franchise quarterback, whether it’s in free agency or with the No. 6 pick in the NFL Draft.
The first opportunity to acquire one is free agency, which starts March 16, and multiple sources continue to say the Jets will be strong suitors to acquire Kirk Cousins.
Paying Cousins wouldn’t be a problem, as the Jets have a projected $90 million in cap space. However, sources at the NFL Combine said the biggest obstacles the Jets face in signing Cousins is the caliber of players surrounding him.
This, however, hasn’t prevented Cousins from ruling out the Jets. ESPN reported Saturday that the Jets, Broncos, Cardinals and Vikings are the finalists in the competition.
“We have a Plan A, B, and C,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said. “Obviously, we have some things with free agency and the draft coming up that we’d like to have, that we’re going to look for, without divulging any plans. But we’ll see how they play out. But we have plans for each situation.”
One thing the Jets don’t have that other reported finalists possess is a No. 1 receiver or strong running back. That could be a problem.
At wide receiver, along with Robby Anderson — who is facing nine charges, including two felonies, stemming from an alleged police chase in January — the Jets have five-year veteran Jermaine Kearse and Quincy Enunwa, who missed the 2017 season because of neck surgery. Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who had a career-high 50 catches for 357 yards last season, will be a free agent. There is no guarantee that he’ll return, though the Jets want him back.
A receiving corps of Anderson, Kearse, Seferian-Jenkins and Enunwa doesn’t compare favorably to, say, the Vikings, who have wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen and tight end Kyle Rudolph. Thielen and Rudolph were Pro Bowlers in 2017.
Bilal Powell led the Jets with career highs in rushing yards (772) and touchdowns (five) last season. Powell will turns 30 on Oct. 27, and there is always concern in NFL circles about the productivity of running backs after they turn 30. The Jets were thinking of cutting 32-year-old Matt Forte before he announced his retirement during the Combine.
Free agency might help improve the position. The Jets are interested in Damien Williams, who played with the Dolphins last season.
The Jets’ offensive line was average last season. They are in the market for a center.
“I didn’t think we played as well last year as we played the previous two years,” Bowles said of the offensive line. “Obviously, some people were injured [guard Brian Winters] and playing hurt . . . But I look forward to them making a jump this year and keeping everybody healthy. I think they can make a jump.”
There are so many factors at play for the Jets as they prepare for free agency, and the quarterback position will play a vital role in their improvement.
Signing Cousins isn’t a certainty, but the Jets can help their cause by putting a better team around him. If they fail to sign Cousins or another free-agent quarterback, there’s always the draft.
“There’s a lot of situations that work out where your Plan A is never the plan that works out and Plan B or C works out even better,” Bowles said. “They’re right next to each other, so we feel good about it.”