Over the last month, we've been taking a brief and early look at some of the potential solutions that could provide offseason upgrades for the Jets in each position. Today, we continue with a look at edge defenders:
For several years now, the Jets have been relying on their dominant interior line and hoping someone would step up on the edge. That hasn't happened, even though they've tried getting guys to change position, bringing in older veterans and developing low-cost youngsters.
What they haven't really done is spend a high pick on an edge rusher in recent times. After Vernon Gholston - the sixth overall pick in 2008 - ended up as a rotational run stuffer who was out of the league within four years, the Jets have only spent defensive line picks in the first few rounds on players better suited to the interior.
With the departures from that group, the Jets can no longer lean on their interior line and so bringing in a difference maker off the edge makes sense. It should give better balance to the defense as well, rather than having one particular strength that offenses can focus on scheming around.
The Jets did get good value for a third round pick when they added Jordan Jenkins a couple of years ago and he's a steady, if unspectacular player who will probably remain as the strong side outside linebacker. In terms of weakside rushers they've tried multiple players but none have stood out.
In 2017, Kony Ealy and David Bass showed flashes but ultimately underwhelmed and are both now out of contract. Josh Martin was the starter basically for the second half of the year, while Freddie Bishop was in and out of the lineup and Lorenzo Mauldin spent the year on injured reserve. Rookie Dylan Donahue also ended up on the injured list after not showing much in limited action.
There have already been rumors that the Jets want to try and sign free agent Demarcus Lawrence from the Cowboys, but all indications are that he'll remain in Dallas, possibly on the franchise tag. The Jets already tried and failed to get one of the top edge rushers on the market back in 2016, when they targeted Olivier Vernon before he signed for the Giants.
Detroit's Ezekiel Ansah is probably the next highest profile option but he's being franchised too. He's had double-digit sacks in two of the last three years, although there are some durability concerns.
If Lawrence and Ansah aren't available, there perhaps isn't any elite talent out there, but there are still some players who have been much more productive than any of the Jets' edge rushers in recent seasons.
Adrian Clayborn from Atlanta is one option. While most of his sacks came in a six-sack performance against an injury-riddled Dallas offensive line, he generated constant pressure throughout the season.
The next tier down includes some talented players with red flags. Trent Murphy's breakout 2016 season went to waste when he tore his ACL and served a suspension in 2017. Junior Gallette has serious off-field concerns that probably make him a non-option. Another alternative, Julius Peppers, still has some juice, but he's old and will most likely want to play for a contender.
Alex Okafor, who has played for Todd Bowles in the past is a good option about to enter his prime. Kareem Martin has also played for Bowles, although he's less of an impact performer than Okafor.
William Hayes is more of a run stopper, but a good one. Other less-attractive veteran options include Eric Walden and Connor Barwin.
One name to watch could be Barkevious Mingo. He fits the pattern of being a disappointment on his rookie deal, but trending up in his contract year. In 2016, Mike Maccagnan targeted exactly that kind of player in Buster Skrine and James Carpenter.
Finally, Denver's Shaq Barrett is a player the Jets have been interested in for some time. However, he's a restricted free agent, so the chances are he'll remain with the Broncos.
Even if the Jets sign a free agent to start on the edge, they could still use a high pick on one to groom as a future star. In fact, it would argubaly be senseless to spend a high pick on one without an established veteran to mentor them.
With the combine underway, this may change, but currently it looks like Bradley Chubb from NC State and Marcus Davenport from UTEP are the only viable options at six.
LSU's Arden Key, Boston College's Harold Landry and Oklahoma's Ogbonnia Okoronkwo have all been identified as potential first rounders at one point or another, so any of them could be good value if they fall to day two.
Later on, productive pass rushers such as Justin Lawler from SMU, Jeff Holland from Auburn or Joe Ostman from Central Michigan could be options. Ostman will have a chip on his shoulder after having been a combine snub.
For a more versatile edge defender that can also set the edge and drop into coverage, Lorenzo Carter from Georgia and USC's Uche Nwosu represent possibilities, although the Jets might be satisfied with Jenkins in that role. Some feel Tremaine Edmunds from Virginia Tech could also play such a role, although he'd also be an option at inside linebacker.
How would you approach this position? Is there anyone out there you'd target who we didn't mention? Let's have your thoughts in the comments.
BONUS LINK: Edge defender prospects breakdown