Despite missing out on the playoffs because of a week 17 loss in Buffalo, making them the only 10 win team in the league to miss out on the post-season, the Jets actually finished last season with the best rate of moving the chains differential in an AFC that was incredibly wide open and lacked an elite team in the regular season. The Jets finished 4th in the league in rate of moving the chains differential at 7.08%, behind Arizona, Carolina, and Seattle and just ahead of fellow AFC teams Cincinnati and New England. Just one of their losses came by more than a touchdown, while 6 of their wins came by 13 or more, so they were definitely better than their record and could have easily won 11 or 12 games and been a tough opponent in the playoffs had they made it.
That was a huge improvement over 2014, when they finished 4-12 and finished 28th in rate of moving the chains differential. Despite the strong season overall, their offense was merely okay, finishing 15th in rate of moving the chains, as they were carried by the league’s #1 ranked defense in rate of moving the chains allowed. Still, their offense was a major improvement from 2014, when they finished 26th in rate of moving the chains. Along with a huge improvement on defense (from 15th and 1st in rate of moving the chains allowed), that’s why they were so much better as a team in 2015.
The addition of veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick made a big difference. Fitzpatrick was far from good, completing 59.6% of his passes for 6.95 YPA, 31 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions and finishing 30th out of 38 eligible quarterbacks on Pro Football Focus, but he was a drastic improvement over Geno Smith, who completed 57.5% of his passes for an average of 6.88 YPA, 25 touchdowns, and 34 interceptions in the first 2 seasons of his career in 2013 and 2014. The 2013 2nd round pick made 29 starts in those 2 seasons and was a big part of the reason why this offense struggled mightily in both seasons, but he was limited to 42 pass attempts and didn’t make a start as Fitzpatrick’s backup in 2015.
The Jets were almost in danger of having to start Geno Smith once again in 2016, with Fitzpatrick hitting free agency this off-season. Fitzpatrick was unhappy with the Jets’ contract offers all off-season and held out long beyond the point where any other team had a starting job open for him. The Jets wanted to re-sign him for 24 million over 3 years, essentially high end backup money, with 12 million over that coming in the first year. Fitzpatrick wanted more money on the back end and ultimately the two sides agreed on the first day of training camp to a 1-year, 12 million dollar deal that allows Fitzpatrick to hit free agency again next off-season and possibly get more than the 12 million the Jets were offering him for 2017 and 2018 combined.
It’s a move that makes a ton of sense for both sides. The Jets had the cap space and the obvious need at quarterback, while Fitzpatrick didn’t have another real option other than retiring, ahead of his age 34 season. It might hurt the team that they didn’t have their starting quarterback for a lot of the off-season, but he’ll be present for all of training camp and it could easily prove to be a non-factor. He’s getting up there in age and has graded out above average just twice in eight seasons as a starter (102 starts), but he’s an obvious upgrade over Smith and gives them a good chance to be a capable offense again in 2016.
With Fitzpatrick returning, Smith goes from the likely starting quarterback to possibly off the roster. The Jets just used a 2nd round pick on Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg and likely see him as the heir apparent to Fitzpatrick. Hackenberg could prove to be a huge reach in the 2nd round, as the one-time top recruit and promising true freshman starter struggled mightily with his footwork and accuracy in both his sophomore and junior year in 2014 and 2015 respectively and earned an undrafted grade from Pro Football Focus. The upside is there and his roster spot is certainly safe given the high pick they used on him, but he’s a long way away from being ready to play and off-season reports and pre-season play have not been promising.
With Fitzpatrick and Hackenberg locked in, that leaves Geno Smith to compete with 2015 4th round pick Bryce Petty for the final quarterback spot, unless the Jets decide to keep 4 quarterbacks. WIth Hackenburg being a year away at least from even being a capable backup and Smith being the only other quarterback on the roster with NFL experience, Smith seems like the favorite, especially with a reasonable 1.1 million dollar salary in the final year of his rookie contract. However, his NFL experience has been far from good and they might still like Petty’s upside. He didn’t throw a pass as a rookie, but they did use a 4th round pick on him just a year ago knowing he was a project and may not want to give up on him just yet. With Smith going into the final year of his deal, Petty could be the long-term backup behind Hackenberg. At the very least, Smith is likely available via trade if quarterback needy teams are interested.
Fitzpatrick was an important addition last off-season, but another veteran might have been even more important, ex-Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Marshall was available for just a 5th round pick and a 3-year, 26 million dollar extension last off-season because he was coming off of a down year in 2014, finishing 46th among wide receivers on Pro Football Focus in pure pass catching grade and catching just 61 passes for 721 yards and 8 touchdowns in 13 games, the first season since his rookie year in 2006 that he didn’t have 1000 yards.
It was a risky deal because they guaranteed him 9 million for 2015 as part of the trade and he was on the wrong side of 30, but he had a huge bounce back year last season. Marshall finished 4th in the league in receiving yards, catching 109 passes for 1502 yards and 14 touchdowns, and was Pro Football Focus’ 16th ranked wide receiver. His age is still a concern, as he goes into his age 32 season, but he’s graded out above average in 8 of the past 9 seasons and he’s finished in the top-16 in 3 of his last 4 seasons, so he’s still playing at a high level.
Marshall’s 11,273 receiving yards are already 31st all-time, even though he’s only been in the league for 10 years thus far. The average top-20 receiver (in terms of yardage all-time) has his last 1000 yard season at age 34-35, averages 48 catches for 594 yards and 3 touchdowns for 2 more seasons after age 34-35, and is done playing by age 36-37. That suggests he’s got a couple good years left in the tank, but we’re at the point in his career where his age can’t be ignored, as he goes into his age 32 season.
Not only did Marshall put up big numbers, but his presence, along with an upgrade at quarterback, made life much easier for fellow starting receiver Eric Decker. A 1000 yard receiver in both 2012 and 2013 with Peyton Manning and the Broncos, Decker had just 74 catches for 962 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2014, but that’s actually pretty impressive considering who was throwing him the ball. In 2015, those numbers jumped to 80 catches for 1027 yards and 12 touchdowns, giving the Jets a pair of pass catchers with 1000+ yards. They were one of just 4 sets of teammates to both go over 1000 yards in 2015 (Demaryius Thomas/Emmanuel Sanders, Allen Robinson/Allen Hurns, Larry Fitzgerald/John Brown).
That being said, Decker and Marshall weren’t quite as good as their numbers suggested as both received a ton of targets, finishing 17th and 5th respectively in the NFL in targets. Their 305 combined targets were 50.5% of the Jets’ pass attempts, the highest percentage of targets going to two players of any team in the league. Still, Decker’s 22nd place finish among wide receivers on Pro Football Focus is impressive and he’s now finished above average in 4 straight seasons, maxing out at 12th in 2013.
He and Marshall should remain one of the league’s best pass catching duos in the NFL in 2015. They make life much easier for a mediocre veteran starting quarterback like Fitzpatrick and allow this to be a capable offense. Much of Fitzpatrick’s production in 2015 was the result of having these two big outside receivers to throw to (6-3 214 and 6-4 230 respectively). Fitzpatrick’s 88.0 QB rating was the 2nd best of his career, even though he didn’t play all that well.
Marshall wasn’t the only wide receiver the Jets added last off-season, taking Ohio State’s Devin Smith in the 2nd round in 2015 to be the 3rd receiver and eventual long-term replacement for Marshall. His rookie year went about as bad it could have though. He missed the start of the season and much of the off-season with broken ribs, which put him behind the 8 ball from the word go as a rookie, and he finished the season as Pro Football Focus’ 7th worst ranked wide receiver on 312 snaps in 10 games. Making matters worse, he tore his ACL late in December and is highly questionable for the start of the season. He’ll likely begin the year on the Physically Unable to Perform list, which would cost him the first 6 weeks of the season, and could play sparingly again when he returns. The Jets will probably have to wait for his 3rd year in the league in 2017 for him to become a contributor.
Smith’s injury and the departure of veteran Jeremy Kerley locks Quincy Enunwa into the #3 receiver job. He finished 3rd on the team in snaps by a wide receiver last season, but was a huge dropoff from Marshall and Decker and largely played out of necessity, finishing 5th worst among wide receivers on Pro Football Focus’ on 522 snaps in the first significant action of his career, after getting drafted in the 6th round in 2014. The fact that his 315 receiving yards on 22 catches were the most 3rd on the team by a wide receiver shows their lack of depth at the position. With Smith hurt and Kerley gone, the Jets will be even thinner at the position to start the year and 7th round rookie Charone Peake could open the year as the 4th receiver.
That wouldn’t be as much of a problem if the Jets had good tight ends, but they’re even thinner at that position. The Jets had just 9 catches by a tight end all season and frequently used 3 and 4 wide receiver sets even though their wide receiver depth wasn’t good. The Jets used a 2nd round pick in 2014 on tight end Jace Amaro, but he played 385 nondescript snaps as a rookie, missed the entire 2015 season with injury, and then got cut this off-season, so they don’t have a single pass catching tight end on the roster. Kellen Davis is penciled in as the starter, but the 6-6 265 pounder is nothing more than a blocker. He has just 53 career catches in 8 years in the league and is going into his age 31 season. It’s a talented receiving corps at the top, but a very top heavy one without anything resembling a consistent 3rd pass catcher.
Amaro has a good chance to finish 3rd on the team in catches and receiving yards among wide receivers and tight ends, but it was a running back who finished 3rd on the team in both of those statistics in 2015 and it likely will be a running back who finishes 3rd on the team in both of those statistics again in 2016. Passing down back Bilal Powell was re-signed to a 3-year, 11.25 million dollar deal, suggesting he’ll have a big role again, after catching 47 passes for 388 yards and 2 touchdowns in 2015 and adding another 70 carries for 313 yards and a touchdown on the ground (4.47 YPC). He’s no one-year wonder as a pass catcher either, playing well on passing downs throughout his career.
They also added veteran running back Matt Forte on a 3-year 12 million dollar deal and his 487 catches in the last 6 seasons are the most by any running back over that time period. That suggests they’re planning on using their running backs in the passing game a lot to compensate for their lack of depth in the receiving corps. Both Forte and Powell could see time at wide receiver as a way to get both of them on the field and both figure to catch a significant amount of passes out of the backfield as well.
Powell isn’t much of a runner, with a 4.00 career YPC average on 402 carries in 5 years in the league since the Jets drafted him in the 4th round in 2011, so Forte figures to get the majority of the carries left behind by departed free agent Chris Ivory, who rushed for 1070 yards and 7 touchdowns on 247 carries (4.33 YPC) and finished 11th among running backs on Pro Football Focus in 2015. Forte finished 10th at the position last season, but his age is a concern as he heads into his age 31 season, which is why he didn’t get a big contract this off-season.
A 2008 2nd round pick, Forte’s 8-year tenure in Chicago was a very productive one. I already mentioned what he did as a pass catcher, leading all running backs in catches over that time period, but he also rushed for 8620 yards and 45 touchdowns on 2035 carries (4.24 YPC), and graded out above average in 6 of 8 seasons. His rushing yards are 38th all-time, but, among the top-25 all-time leading rushers who have played in the last decade and a half, the average one has his last 1000 yard season in his age 30 season at 2602 carrier carries. The end is likely near for Forte, though another solid season from him is certainly not out of the question.
With Powell primarily playing on passing downs, fellow free agent acquisition Khiry Robinson could be Forte’s primary backup and figures to be the Jets’ short yardage back regardless at 6-0 220. Robinson is inexperienced with 186 career carries and not much of a pass catcher with 25 career catches, since going undrafted in 2013, and has missed 20 games with injury 3 seasons in the league, including 8 with a broken leg in 2015. However, he’s averaged 4.12 yards per carry in his career, which isn’t bad, and has scored 8 times. He could vulture a handful of touchdowns away from Forte, but won’t be a huge factor as Forte and Powell will both have significantly more total touches. It’s a solid stable of running backs that will help mask their lack of depth in the receiving corps.
The Jets lost veteran left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson this off-season when he retired ahead of his age 33 season. Remarkably durable, Ferguson never missed a start and missed one total offensive snap in 10 years in the league, but he was a declining veteran before retiring. Ferguson graded out above average on Pro Football Focus in every season from 2008-2012 in the prime of his career, but finished below average in each of the last 3 seasons, including a horrible 2015 season in which he finished 60th out of 77 eligible offensive tackles. Owed a non-guaranteed 10.375 million in 2016, Ferguson could have been a cap casualty anyway if he had not retired.
The Jets used the cap space freed up by his retirement to add another veteran left tackle to replace him in Ryan Clady, who was acquired from the Broncos for a 5th round pick. Clady is not nearly as durable as Ferguson, missing 30 games over the past 3 seasons, including all of 2015 with a torn ACL. In 8 years in the league, Clady has finished above average 5 times, but his only healthy season in the last 3 seasons was 2014 and he graded out below average that season. Going into his age 30 season, he’s probably past his prime, but was not a bad value on a renegotiated 1-year, 6 million dollar deal.
Ferguson isn’t the only veteran offensive lineman the Jets lost this off-season, as right guard Willie Colon was not brought back as a free agent ahead of his age 33 season and may ultimately end up retiring as well, as he remains unsigned as a free agent as of this writing. Colon isn’t a big loss as he struggled mightily in each of his last 2 seasons, including an injury plagued 2015 season in which he finished 68th out of 81 eligible guards in just 6 starts, but the Jets don’t have a clear option to replace him.
Fourth year player Brian Winters is expected to get the first shot at the starting spot because he has experience, making 28 starts in 3 seasons in the league, but the 2013 3rd round pick has been disastrous whenever he’s been counted on to play in his career. His 2015 season, in which he finished 58th out of 81 eligible on 765 snaps, was actually the best of his career so far. He’ll be pushed for the starting job by 2014 undrafted free agent Brent Qvale. The Jets reportedly like Qvale, but starting him is far from a reliable option, as he’s played just 33 nondescript snaps in his career. Either player could be even worse than Colon was last season.
Qvale, a collegiate offensive tackle at the University of Nebraska, is also an option to start at right tackle. The Jets also added right tackle Brandon Shell in the 5th round of the draft, but they needed to do more to add youth to an offensive line that had the league’s highest average age of any starting offensive line in the NFL in 2015 and didn’t play that well. Most likely, veteran Breno Giacomini will be the starting right tackle for another season, purely out of lack of a better option. Giacomini has plenty of starting experience, with 65 career starts in 8 years in the league, but has never once graded out above average on Pro Football Focus and finished last season 64th out of 77 eligible offensive tackles in 16 starts. He’s not a good starting option. He also could miss the start of the season with injury, which would likely push Qvale into the starting lineup.
Veterans James Carpenter and Nick Mangold round out this still veteran offensive line at left guard and center respectively. Only going into his age 27 season, Carpenter is practically a rookie compared to the rest of this offensive line, but he’s made 39 starts in 5 years in the league. In the first year of a 4-year, 19.1 million dollar deal, Carpenter was a big addition for the Jets last off-season, finishing as Pro Football Focus’ 17th ranked guard in 16 starts, a big part of the reason for the Jets’ offensive improvement from 2014 to 2015. He’s a one-year wonder though, as he graded out below average in each of the first 4 seasons of his career. He could easily regress in 2016.
Center Nick Mangold, meanwhile, is coming off of a down year, a major concern as the 2006 1st round pick heads into his age 32 season. A top-2 center on Pro Football Focus in 6 of 10 seasons in the league, Mangold is likely Canton bound someday, but finished just 17th among centers in 2015. He’s a bounce back candidate, but last season could also be the beginning of the end for him. He can’t play at a high level forever. Despite no longer having declining veterans D’Brickahsaw Ferguson and WIllie Colon, this is still one of the oldest offensive lines in the NFL. It’s not a particularly talented one either and could be a huge problem for the Jets. Upgrading the offensive line and adding youth should be a priority for the Jets next off-season.
On what was an outstanding defense in 2015, the Jets’ defensive line led the way and was arguably the best 3-4 defensive line in football. The Jets surprisingly used the 6th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft on USC’s Leonard Williams. It was a surprise for two reasons. For one, Williams was seen as a lock to go in the top-5 on draft day, so the fact that he was even still there was a shock to most. Two, defensive end, the position Williams plays in the Jets’ 3-4 defense, was not a need for the Jets going into the draft. Ultimately, they decided the value was too good to pass on, which made some sense. Muhammad Wilkerson was heading into the final year of his contract and, as good as he is, the Jets saw Williams as a younger replacement with a more team friendly contract.
Sheldon Richardson, the other starting defensive end, was suspended for the first 4 games of the season last season, after failing a drug test, which opened up a chance for Williams to start early in his rookie year. Williams started and played well and remained part of the rotation with Wilkerson and Richardson, even upon Richardson’s return. Arguably the best defensive rookie in the league, Williams finished the season as Pro Football Focus’ 6th ranked 3-4 defensive end on 809 snaps, just one spot behind Wilkerson and 8 spots ahead of Richardson, who finished 13th.
Wilkerson, a first round pick in 2011, has been a top-15 3-4 defensive end in each of the last 4 seasons, while Richardson, a first round pick in 2011, was Pro Football Focus’ 5th ranked 3-4 defensive end as a rookie in 2013 and their 2nd ranked 3-4 defensive end in 2014, before slipping a bit last year. Despite Williams’ emergence, the Jets not only surprisingly franchise tagged Wilkerson ahead of free agency this off-season, but ended up reaching an agreement on a 5-year long-term deal worth 86 million at the eleventh hour before the franchise tag deadline.
Now the Jets have Williams, Richardson, and Wilkerson all under contract for at least the next two seasons. Keeping Wilkerson calls into question what the Jets plan to do long-term with Richardson, who will miss the first game of the season after an arrest last off-season. Richardson still has 2 more years left on his rookie deal and the 2013 1st round pick is a great player who isn’t going anywhere soon, but his off-the-field act may be wearing thin with the Jets. They may attempt to trade him next off-season ahead of the final year of his rookie deal in 2017.
For now, the Jets will continue to figure out creative ways to get all 3 players on the field at the same time. Last season, they had Sheldon Richardson play outside linebacker in base packages often, but, with nose tackle Damon Harrison leaving as a free agent this off-season, there’s room on the defensive line for all 3 to play in base packages. None of the three are obvious candidates to play nose tackle though, as the 6-4 315 Wilkerson is the biggest of the trio and has very little experience lined up on the nose.
Harrison will be a big loss, as he finished 5th among defensive tackles in 2015, including #1 in pure run grade at 6-4 350. The Giants paid a lot for him considering he’s only a two-down player, signing him for 46 million over 5 years, but if the Jets had matched that instead of re-signing Wilkerson and used the remaining 40 million to sign an above average starter at another position, they would have been a better team that fit better together for it. Steve McLendon will directly replace Harrison, but even he admits he is only nominally Harrison’s replacement.
A 2009 undrafted free agent going into his age 30 season, McLendon is a capable run stuffer at 6-4 320 and has graded out above average in that aspect in 5 straight seasons, but he doesn’t get any pass rush and has never graded out above average overall in a season in which he’s played more than 355 snaps. He won’t see nearly the 577 snaps Harrison played last season as Williams, Richardson, and Wilkerson will all dominate snaps on the Jets’ defensive line. Losing Harrison hurts, but it’s still a loaded unit, even if the parts don’t clearly fit together.
The position where they needed to add talent the most this off-season was outside linebacker. Rather than re-signing Wilkerson for 86 million over 5 years, it would have made more sense to re-sign Harrison for 46 million over 5 years and then add a talented edge rusher with the money that was saved from letting Wilkerson walk. As it currently stands, the Jets might have the least edge rush talent of any 3-4 team in the league, a big problem if they want to continue to be a dominant defense, and a major difference from their defensive line.
With veterans Calvin Pace and Quinton Coples gone, Lorenzo Mauldin is locked into a starting job because he has the most experience of anyone at the Jets have at the position. That really tells you a lot about the state of the Jets’ outside linebackers, as he played just 261 nondescript snaps as a 3rd round rookie in 2015. He’ll probably play every down this year, which will be a major stretch for him. They’ll need a 2nd year breakout year from him, but that may be wishful thinking.
This year’s 3rd round pick, Georgia’s Jordan Jenkins, could start opposite him as a rookie, despite getting just a 4th round grade from Pro Football Focus. Jenkins could be a good player in time, but figures to struggle as a rookie. Deion Barnes and Trevor Reilly would be the backups behind Mauldin and Jenkins and both could see significant action out of necessity. Barnes is a 2015 undrafted free agent who has never played a snap in his career, while Reilly, a 2014 7th round pick, hasn’t played much outside of special teams in 2 years in the league, grading out below average on 79 snaps in 2015. Sheldon Richardson could also see snaps at the position again, but he’s out of position at outside linebacker at 6-3 294 and figures to see the majority of his snaps on the defensive line this season.
Many thought the Jets would use their first round pick on an outside linebacker, given the dire state of the position, but instead they drafted inside linebacker Darron Lee 20th overall. Lee will split snaps as a rookie with run stuffer Erin Henderson as the Jets replace departed free agent Demario Davis, who struggled as a starter last season. Lee was a reach in the first round and earned a 3rd round grade from Pro Football Focus, but has great upside in coverage. He’ll play primarily in sub packages as a rookie, with Henderson playing in base packages.
Out of the league entirely in 2014 due to off-the-field issues, the Jets took a flier on Henderson before last season and were rewarded, as he excelled against the run in limited action. He’s not good in coverage, but he has finished above average against the run in each of the last 4 seasons in which he’s played and is well-suited for a two-down role and a platoon with the much more athletic Lee. The two concerns here are that he’s going into his age 30 season and that he’s only played 242 snaps over the past 2 seasons and is tough to rely on as a result.
Veteran David Harris remains as the other starter and will once again play every down, going into his age 32 season. The 2007 1st round pick has made 132 starts in 9 seasons in the league and has graded out above average in 5 of those 9 seasons, so he’s been a solid player, but his age is becoming a concern, even if he’s coming off of a solid year. He could take a step back this season, though he probably has another couple solid seasons in the tank. The Jets likely view Lee as his long-term heir apparent. They’re not nearly as strong at linebacker as they are on the defensive line.
Thin at the cornerback position in 2014, the Jets added 3 cornerbacks in free agency last off-season, signing Darrelle Revis for 70 million over 5 years, Antonio Cromartie for 32 million over 4 years, and Buster Skrine for 25 million over 4 years. Despite the Jets’ overall improvement, none of the three lived up to their contract. Revis was the best of the bunch, but was a far cry from his former self. A top-4 cornerback on Pro Football Focus in 5 of his previous 7 seasons, including 2014 with the Patriots, Revis fell all the way to 30th among cornerbacks in 2015.
There’s bounce back potential here, but a down year has to be very concerning, considering he’s now on the wrong side of 30. Going into his age 31 season, he likely has a few good seasons left in the tank, but it’s possible that his best years are behind him. For the Jets, It’s nice to have the likely future Hall of Famer back with the team that drafted him after he spent 2013 with the Buccaneers and 2014 with the Patriots, but they may, in hindsight, end up regretting making him the 2nd highest paid cornerback in the NFL in average annual salary and guaranteeing him 39 million. With 6 million of his 15 million dollar salary for 2017 guaranteed, the Jets are likely going to end up paying him 50 million over the first 3 years of his deal.
At least Revis played somewhat well last season, as Cromartie and Skrine were both major liabilities in coverage. Cromartie was so bad that he got cut 1 year and 7 million into his 4-year deal and remains unsigned as a free agent ahead of his age 32 season, following 3 straight down seasons for the once talented cornerback. Skrine will move into the starting spot with Cromartie gone. He has experience as a starter, starting 44 of 80 career games in 5 years in the league since being drafted in the 5th round by the Browns in 2011, with 38 of those starts coming in the last 3 seasons, but he’s not any better than Cromartie, finishing last season 94th out of 111 eligible cornerbacks. At least Cromartie used to be good. Skrine has graded out below average in all 5 seasons he’s been in the league and was a ridiculous overpay on a 4-year, 26 million dollar deal last off-season.
With Skrine moving from the 3rd cornerback spot to the starting role, it opens up consistent playing time in sub packages for Marcus Williams, who was solid on 292 snaps last season and actually led the team in interceptions with 6, despite the limited playing time. He’s a promising young cornerback with great ball skills, but expectations should be tempered considering he’s a 2014 undrafted free agent with limited experience who was far from perfect in coverage in his first season of significant action in 2015, despite the impressive interception numbers. He should still be an upgrade over Skrine though and Skrine probably won’t be worse than Cromartie. Add in a possible bounce back year from Revis and the Jets’ cornerbacks could easily be better than they were last season.
The free agent acquisition that paid off the most in the Jets’ secondary was actually the addition of ex-Charger safety Marcus Gilchrist, who finished 18th at his position in the first year of a 4-year, 22 million dollar deal in 2015. His signing wasn’t as big news as the other three, but the Jets had a hole at safety previously and Gilchrist seems to have filled it. Gilchrist struggled in the first 2 years of his career at cornerback and struggled in the final year of his rookie deal in 2014, but he’s graded out above average in 2 of 3 seasons in the league at safety and the 2011 2nd round pick is in the prime of his career, heading into his age 28 season. He should have another solid season again in 2016.
2014 1st round pick Calvin Pryor is locked in as the other starting safety. He’s been a solid player through 2 years in the league and could take another step forward in his 3rd year in the league in 2016. He and Gilchrist give the Jets a pair of solid safeties to help mask their lack of good depth at cornerback. With issues at linebacker and the loss of Damon Harrison in free agency, the Jets’ secondary is going to have to play better this season if they’re going to be as dominant of a defense. A tougher schedule should also hurt.
The Jets were the best team to miss the playoffs last year, but they might have missed their chance at a deep playoff run. This is one of the oldest rosters in the league and figures to take a step backwards this season as a result. They also figure to have a tougher schedule this season, after finishing 29th in strength of schedule in terms of DVOA last season. They could still make the playoffs in a wide open AFC that looks like the significantly weaker of the two conferences going into 2016, but they’re unlikely to make much noise once they get there.
Prediction: 7-9 3rd in AFC East