It was a busy unofficial opening day of free agency for the New York Jets. Tuesday began quietly and with plenty of anxiety and disdain among the fan base waiting for the team to crack open its checkbook and use its surplus of cap space.
Then, the moves came in a flurry. The Jets missed out on the marquee quarterback or top wide receivers of the 2018 free agency class, but they landed the premier cornerback and a couple of intriguing quarterbacks.
Here’s a recap of everything the Jets did and didn’t do Tuesday, as free agency officially gets underway Wednesday:
The Jets didn’t sign QB Kirk Cousins
Instead, it was the Minnesota Vikings who agreed with Cousins on a fully guaranteed three-year deal reportedly worth $84 million. Cousins was always a better fit with the Vikings than the Jets, and the Jets probably won’t have regret missing out. While Cousins is good, I’ve always felt his upside was capped. He’ll put up his typical 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns with a Vikings team that boasts plenty of talent. Will that be enough to get Minnesota to the promised land? The jury’s out on whether Cousins can actually win meaningful games consistently.
The Jets wisely found not one, but two contingency options after Cousins signed early Tuesday.
The Jets re-signed QB Josh McCown
For the third consecutive year, the Jets are signing a veteran quarterback to a somewhat lucrative deal. McCown is back with the Jets on a one-year deal worth $10 million. This deal made plenty of sense for continuity purposes. McCown played well in his debut season with New York before suffering a season-ending injury. He’s not a long-term solution and he’s probably not going to be starting come midseason. But he’s experienced and likely took the deal knowing he will serve as a mentor this season.
Forget what McCown offers on the field. The impression he makes on the quarterback of the future will be his greatest contribution in 2018.
The Jets signed RB Isaiah Crowell
This was the strangest move of the day for Gang Green, inking Crowell to a three-year deal. The financial details weren’t made available, but this suggests the Jets are making a sizable investment in the 25-year-old tailback.
Crowell has been a solid, but unspectacular runner through his first four years in Cleveland. Primarily a north-south runner, Crowell resembles Chris Ivory. He’s rushed for 3,118 yards and 21 touchdowns during his career. However, Crowell scored only twice last season and hasn’t posted a 1,000-yard season yet.
Crowell joins Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire in a pedestrian backfield. With plenty of talented tailbacks available in the draft, it would be disappointing if this was what New York’s tailback depth chart looked like come August.
The Jets signed CB Trumaine Johnson
This was the deal that won the day for New York. Aside from quarterback, cornerback might have been the team’s most glaring need. Credit Mike Maccagnan for landing the best player at the position on the open market, inking Johnson to a deal that will reportedly pay him $15 million annually. If that salary is correct, Johnson will become the fourth-highest paid corner in the league in terms of average annual value.
Johnson comes to New York with 10 interceptions over the past three seasons, including two in 2017. Pro Football Focus rated him as the 68th-best cornerback in the league last season, but Johnson’s talent is evident.
Even if Johnson performs only as a top-15 cover corner, he’ll shore up a secondary that was forced to start the likes of Juston Burris, Darryl Roberts and Buster Skrine on the outside.
The Jets signed QB Teddy Bridgewater
If Johnson is the splash of the day, Bridgewater is the signing that offers the most intrigue. The Jets reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with Bridgewater, who made his first appearance at the end of the 2017 season after suffering a gruesome knee injury during 2016 training camp.
Bridgewater is a high percentage passer. He doesn’t have a great arm and won’t take a ton of chances downfield. However, he could fit into New York’s short passing offense and rarely turns the ball over. Bridgewater has thrown only 22 career interceptions on 851 pass attempts. The Jets haven’t seen that kind of prudence since Chad Pennington was under center.
The Jets still need to address the interior of the offensive line after missing out on Weston Richburg Tuesday. Ryan Jensen is still on the market, offering an opportunity for another upgrade.
I’m also curious to see how the Jets treat the quarterback position going forward. Will they stand pat with McCown, Bridgewater and Christian Hackenberg or Bryce Petty? Or will they cut both Hackenberg and Petty and set their sights on the 2018 NFL Draft.
If you ask me, the Jets should put all of their eggs into this draft basket and do whatever it takes to get a franchise passer. Even if he doesn’t start until the end of the 2018 season, the Jets need to find their future. They also should give Bridgewater a chance to start, as he’s shown he can win at the professional level.