Over the next month, we're 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 the safety position:
The safety position is probably the most stable position on the entire team right now, with Marcus Maye and Jamal Adams firmly entrenched as long-term starters.
However, depth behind those two is another matter as they're the only two safeties currently under contract for 2018. Although Adams and Maye started every game, the Jets operated sub-packages with three and four safeties, so they do have a need for more than just the two starters even if they stay healthy. On that note, Maye is apparently still in a boot after suffering a high ankle sprain in the season finale.
Doug Middleton is an exclusive rights free agent so he should be back after spending 2017 on injured reserve. Rontez Miles is a restricted free agent and Terrance Brooks is an unrestricted free agent. Even if all three return, there's still probably room for more players to compete for a back-up role.
There are several potential starters available in free agency, but the Jets aren't really in the market for one. It seems unlikely any of this year's free agent class would be keen to sign here because they probably wouldn't get an opportunity to start.
The top free agents include LaMarcus Joyner, Eric Reid and Tre Boston. Even a player like Marcus Gilchrist, who started off last year as the third safety in Houston would expect a shot at a starting role. Would an older safety like Reggie Nelson, TJ Ward or Jairus Byrd accept less money to play a rotational mentor role? It seems unlikely - and unnecessary.
If the Jets do look at any free agent safeties it will probably be low-cost options that can contribute on special teams and fill in in three or four safety sets. Don Carey from the Lions, Nat Berhe from the Giants or even ex-Jet Shamarko Thomas, who went to Buffalo after the Jets cut him, might fit the bill. However, they probably don't offer anything more than Miles and/or Brooks.
The draft seems a more realistic option to take a safety with potential, although it would have to be in the late rounds. A rookie safety would get opportunities to play on special teams and rotational reps while also bringing the possibility of being a more valuable contributor down the road.
This is unlikely to happen in the first round, although drafting Minkah Fitzpatrick and employing him primarily at the cornerback position might be a consideration. FSU's Derwin James could potentially be seen as a best available player candidate at six, but wouldn't address a need.
With the combine coming up at the end of the month there are currently several candidates to be drafted on day two. Ronnie Harrison from Alabama, Justin Reid from Stanford and Armani Watts from Texas A&M would fall into this category but it's unlikely the Jets would have any interest unless they dropped into the later rounds.
If a player like Kyzir White from West Virginia, a good special teamer that can match up as a cornerback, was available in the later rounds, then that might be the kind of player that would interest the Jets. Jeremy Reaves from South Alabama might be another late-round option as he also brings versatility in coverage situations.
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: Safety prospects breakdown