Things slowed down a little for the Jets on Tuesday after they made a couple of splash moves on the first day that teams could start negotiating with free agents.
But general manager Joe Douglas isn’t done wheeling and dealing. Not even close.
Douglas addressed some areas of need on Monday, reaching three-year agreements with defensive end Carl Lawson and wide receiver Corey Davis. The Jets also came to terms with linebacker Jarrad Davis on a one-year deal.
As of Tuesday evening, the only new addition the Jets made was former Saints defensive back and special teams ace Justin Hardee. The Jets struck a three-year deal with Hardee, who was a wide receiver in college. He transitioned to the secondary with the Saints, but Hardee played just 115 defensive snaps in four years with New Orleans. His forte is as a gunner on special teams.
This wasn’t the big name Jets fans were hoping for, not after Douglas’ two big moves Monday night. The Jets went 2-14 last year; holes remain on both sides of the football and big decisions need to be made. The biggest one involves quarterback Sam Darnold and his future with the Jets.
The NFL’s new league year opens on Wednesday and it’s still unclear who the Jets’ quarterback will be in 2021. Last year at this time, Douglas was focused on revamping the offensive line in free agency to help protect Darnold. At the time, Darnold was an untouchable. Not anymore.
Douglas said last month that he would take trade calls for Darnold. That was an indication that Douglas isn’t sold on Darnold being the franchise quarterback the Jets once believed he was. It also means new coach Robert Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur aren’t convinced, either.
Darnold has not been given the weapons or protection a young quarterback needs to be successful. Former coach Adam Gase was hired to further develop Darnold, and that didn’t happen. But Darnold, the No. 3 pick in 2018, also has made bad decisions that have cost him and the Jets. He threw nine touchdown passes and 11 interceptions in 12 games.
Douglas is deciding whether to deal Darnold and use the No. 2 pick on a quarterback. BYU’s Zach Wilson is a strong possibility. Another option is to keep Darnold and trade the No. 2 pick for more capital and fill more needs. How the rest of free agency plays out for the Jets could make that decision obvious.
The Jets still have nearly $40 million to spend in free agency. They grabbed an edge rusher, a potential go-to receiver and someone they hope will be a three-down linebacker on Day 1. Their list of needs includes interior offensive lineman, another edge rusher, cornerback, running back, linebacker and receiver.
The offensive line class is not that impressive. Guard Joe Thuney was on Douglas’ wish list, but he went to Kansas City. Douglas could fill that need through the draft or in trades. The market for cornerbacks, running backs and receivers have been slow in developing.