QB Teddy Bridgewater, RB Isaiah Crowell, RB Thomas Rawls, WR Charles Johnson, OT Antonio Garcia, C Travis Swanson, C Spencer Long, DE/DT Henry Anderson, DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw, ILB Avery Williamson, ILB Kevin Minter, ILB Kevin Pierre-Louis, CB Trumaine Johnson, K Cairo Santos.
QB Sam Darnold, NT Nathan Shepard, TE Chris Herndon. Jets Rookie Forecast Offseason Losses:
RB Matt Forte, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, C Wesley Johnson, DE/DT Muhammad Wilkerson, DE/OLB Kony Ealy, ILB Demario Davis, K Chandler Catanzaro.
2018 New York Jets Offense:
Even though the Jets re-signed Josh McCown and brought in Teddy Bridgewater in free agency, they were still expected to select a quarterback with their first-round pick. That became even more apparent when they traded up from No. 6 to 3, ultimately taking USC's Sam Darnold.
Darnold was the consensus favorite to be chosen first overall prior to the midway point of the 2017 collegiate season. However, Darnold's stock dipped a bit because he was responsible for too many turnovers. Darnold's supporting cast was worse in 2017 than it was in 2016, so that would explain his struggles. Darnold is supremely talented, but the careless give-aways have to be considered an issue, especially when factoring in the dearth of play-making talent on the Jets' roster.
Robby Anderson was the Jets' top receiver last year, but that may not be the case in 2018 because of his legal issues. Anderson was arrested and could be suspended. It's a shame that he's not taking his career more seriously, as he caught 63 passes for 941 yards and seven touchdowns last year. If Anderson is unavailable, Darnold's top receivers will be Quincy Enunwa, Jermaine Kearse and Terrelle Pryor. The latter is a big name who had a strong 2016 campaign for the Browns, but he did nothing this past season and has been nursing an injury this offseason. Enunwa missed all of 2017 with a neck injury. It's unclear if he'll be 100 percent this upcoming season. Kearse, meanwhile, is a pedestrian player despite his 2017 stat line (65 catches, 810 yards).
Another of the Jets' premier play-makers from last year, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, signed with the Jaguars. He wasn't replaced in free agency, which forced the front office into selecting Miami's Chris Herndon in the fourth round. Herndon tore his MCL late last season, however, so his inability to practice in OTAs could adversely affect his rookie campaign.
The Jets have some question marks at running back as well. They lost Matt Forte, opting to replace him with Isaiah Crowell and Thomas Rawls. Both are well-known commodities, as they've impressed in previous seasons, but both have disappointed more often than not. In fact, both have reported issues with lethargy, which would explain why they've both failed to meet expectations. The Jets would be wise to give more touches to Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire, who have given greater effort throughout their careers. Powell has been the best back on the Jets' roster for quite some time, but the current coaching staff hasn't trusted him to give him more than 201 touches in a year.
If the Jets plan to give Darnold starts right away despite the pedestrian supporting cast, they'll need to protect him as well as possible. By that measure, it might be wise to use McCown for the time being, as the interior is a mess. The best blocker in that group is center Travis Swanson, who has an extensive concussion history. One more head injury could cost him his career, but if he can stay healthy, he'll be a nice pivot. If not, the anemic Spencer Long will start instead. Swanson or Long will be surrounded by guards James Carpenter and Brian Winters, both of whom were horrible last year. There was never any hope for Winters, but it's unclear what happened to Carpenter, who used to be a sound lineman.
Things are better at tackle, though that could've been said by default. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum was decent this past season, but as with Swanson, he has a dubious injury history. Right tackle Brandon Shell is a mediocre talent.
2018 New York Jets Defense:
The Jets had plenty of holes on their defense last year, yet improved statistically from 2016. The primary reason for this was the front office's ability to upgrade the back end of the defense with a pair of safeties taken in the first two rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye performed well as rookies, especially the former. Adams was tremendous, while Maye had some positive moments. Both are expected to be better in their second seasons, though there is an injury concern with Maye, who has an ankle problem that has hindered him in OTAs. Still, Maye should be fine at some point, ensuring that the Jets will have a solid secondary overall.
The cornerbacks struggled last year, but that shouldn't be the case in 2018. The Jets signed Trumaine Johnson, an inconsistent, albeit talented player. Johnson had a bit of a down 2017 campaign, but has been better in previous seasons. He'll be an upgrade across from the oft-injured Morris Claiborne, who has the potential to perform on a high level. Buster Skrine is a sub-par nickel.
Linebacker Avery Williamson is another key defender the Jets obtained in free agency. Williamson is an excellent run defender who doesn't get abused in coverage. He's a nice replacement for the New Orleans-bound Demario Davis, who had an excellent 2017 season. Williamson should start next to Darron Lee, who really must improve his play. Lee, chosen in the opening round of the 2016 NFL Draft, has really struggled thus far, but is only 23, so he isn't a lost cause just yet.
The rest of the linebacking corps is rather underwhelming. Jordan Jenkins is the Jets' top edge rusher, and yet he recorded just three sacks in 2017. He had a couple of tremendous games last year, but was inconsistent otherwise. Jenkins, like Lee, isn't 25 yet, so he has some potential. The problem is that New York doesn't have any other promising edge players. This is a position that will have to be addressed next offseason.
The Jets will at least be able to pressure quarterbacks in the interior. Leonard Williams is one of the better 3-4 ends in the NFL, while the newly acquired Henry Anderson is a well-rounded player at the position. Mike Pennel will add a run-stuffing presence, as will nose tackle Steve McLendon, who is coming off a strong season. Third-round rookie Nathan Shepherd will challenge for a job up front.
2018 New York Jets Schedule and Intangibles:
The Jets will have a new kicker this season, Cairo Santos, who only lost his job with the Chiefs because of an injury. Santos was 31-of-35 in 2016, hitting both of his 50-yard tries.
Punter Lachlan Edwards was dead last in net yardage in 2016. He improved to 19th last year.
New York was even on kick returns this past season, but was outgained by a wide margin on punt returns.
The Jets are favored in four of the games this season, per the early Westgate lines. Those games are against the Dolphins, Colts, Bills and Texans.
2018 New York Jets Rookies:
Go here for the Jets Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.
2018 New York Jets Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
2018 New York Jets Analysis: The Jets had one of the worst rosters in the NFL last year, yet were able to win five games, thanks to some great coaching from Todd Bowles. They have some better talent now, so five or more wins are expected again. New York seems like the second-best team in the AFC East, but that's not saying very much.
Projection: 5-11 (2nd in AFC East)
2017 Projection: 2-14. 2017 Actual Result: 5-11. 2016 Projection: 6-10. 2016 Actual Result: 5-11.
Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: The Jets moved up to No. 3 to secure their franchise quarterback. Once they obtain that signal-caller, they'll have to surround him with enough talent so he'll succeed. Upgrades are needed on the offensive line, as well as in the receiving corps and backfield.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Jets wanted either Sam Darnold or Baker Mayfield, so thanks to the Giants passing on a quarterback, they were able to get their man. Darnold will be able to learn behind Josh McCown, and I suspect he'll make some starts by sometime in October.
The problem is that by trading up for Darnold, the Jets couldn't obtain much talent around him. They spent a fourth-round selection on tight end Chris Herndon, who could become a nice intermediate weapon for Darnold. However, another offensive player wasn't obtained until the 200s.
Meanwhile, the Jets couldn't address their many defensive needs. They spent a third-round pick on a defensive tackle in Nathan Shepherd, which was a solid choice, but no edge rusher was acquired. The Jets also failed to find a cornerback until the sixth round.
Overall, the Jets had a somewhat underwhelming draft, but only because they gave up so many resources for Darnold. Still, the good news is that they were able to acquire their quarterback of the future.
NFL Draft Individual Grades:
3. Sam Darnold, QB, USC A Grade
Wow, the Jets had Sam Darnold fall into their laps. They traded up to No. 3, but they could've panicked. When the Broncos were rumored to move up to No. 2, they could have pulled the trigger, but they did not. They were patient, and they selected someone whom many believe is the best quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft.
This has to be an "A" grade. The Jets finally found their quarterback of the future, but hopefully Darnold is much better than the previous USC signal-caller New York selected.
72. Nathan Shepherd, DT, Fort Hays State B Grade
Nathan Shepherd was dominant in his Division II school, routinely taking on multiple blockers and generating interior pressure. We'll see if that translates to the NFL, but he has the athletic ability to succeed. This is a high-upside pick, though I wish the Jets used this selection to help new quarterback Sam Darnold.
107. Chris Herndon, TE, Miami B+ Grade
This is a pretty logical selection. Chris Herndon is a solid athlete coming off a knee issue, so the range makes sense for him. The Jets had to give Sam Darnold more weapons, and they just lost Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
179. Parry Nickerson, CB, Tulane A- Grade
Parry Nickerson has size limitations, but he was extremely productive at Tulane. He has excellent ball skills and could develop into a decent slot cornerback. Nickerson could've been taken a round earlier than this, so I like this pick.
180. Foley Fatukasi, DT, Connecticut A- Grade
Foey Fatukasi tested very well and has some upside. He has a quick interior pass rush, so he could have been chosen a bit earlier than this. Once again, the Jets made a quality selection in the sixth round.
204. Trenton Cannon, RB, Virginia State B Grade
Trenton Cannon was seen as a late-round sleeper. He's an elusive running back, but a small one, as he weighs 190 pounds. The Jets will be hoping to use him as some sort of gadget weapon, and that could have its benefits.
Many publications, including this one, billed the Jets to be the worst team in the NFL heading into 2017. They certainly had the least talent, but Todd Bowles did an amazing coaching job to get them to five wins. Now, the Jets must finally obtain NFL-caliber talent to compete for a playoff spot.
Jets sign DE Courtney Upshaw
Jets sign WR Charles Johnson
Jets sign ILB Kevin Minter
Jets sign C Travis Swanson
Jets sign RB Thomas Rawls
Jets sign WR Terrelle Pryor
Jets sign OLB Brandon Copeland
Jets sign ILB Kevin Pierre-Louis
Jets sign K Cairo Santos
Jets sign C Spencer Long
Jets sign ILB Avery Williamson
Jets sign QB Teddy Bridgewater
Jets sign CB Truamine Johnson
Jets sign RB Isaiah Crowell
Jets cut DE/DT Muhammad Wilkerson
Jets announce retirement of RB Matt Forte
Quarterback: Josh McCown did a good job as New York's quarterback this past season, but it's time that the front office finds a quarterback of the future, perhaps with a trade in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. McCown is an impending free agent anyhow. Re-signed Josh McCown; signed Teddy Bridgewater
Center: Protecting this new quarterback is the next priority. The Jets have some of the worst centers in the NFL, as no one on the team is a viable starter at the position. Signed Travis Swanson and Spencer Long
Two Inside Linebackers: This is a major problem area for the Jets, especially if free agent-to-be Demario Davis leaves. Darron Lee has been a major bust, while everyone else at the position happens to be hitting free agency in March. Signed Avery Williamson, Kevin Minter and Kevin Pierre-Louis
Cornerback: As with the linebackers, the one solid player the Jets have at the position (Morris Claiborne) happens to be an impending free agent. This position is in need of a major overhaul. Signed Truamine Johnson; re-signed Morris Claiborne
Wide Receiver: Robby Anderson proved to be a dynamic talent last year, but he's all the Jets have at receiver. Signed Terrelle Pryor and Charles Johnson
Edge Rusher: Kony Ealy played well early in the season, but regressed a bit toward the end. It was apparent late in the year that the Jets really need to get better players to rush the passer, and Ealy is headed for free agency anyway.
Right Tackle: Kelvin Beachum is an acceptable left tackle, but the Jets need to find someone better at right tackle.
Defensive End: The Jets should have a great five-technique tandem in Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson. Williams is an amazing player, and Wilkerson once was, too. However, Wilkerson has slacked off lately, so he's as good as gone.
Running Back: Bilal Powell is a solid talent, but the Jets clearly don't believe that he can handle a full workload. Fortunately for them, there will be plenty of skilled backs available in the second round this April. Signed Isaiah Crowell and Thomas Rawls
Guard: Here's another offensive line spot that must be upgraded. James Carpenter should be a fine starter going forward, though he struggled with a calf injury in 2017. The other guard slot is in need of improvement, however.
Tight End: Austin Seferian-Jenkins turned his career around in New York. He happens to be a free agent, however. He'll need to be retained or replaced.
Kickers: Chandler Catanzaro is one of many upcoming free agents the Jets have. Signed Cairo Santos
Trumaine Johnson, CB, Rams. Age: 28. Signed with Jets
Trumaine Johnson suffered some sort of leg injury in Week 2 this season, and he was never really the same afterward. This past season was Johnson's worst in a while, but he's very talented and can rebound in 2018.
Avery Williamson, ILB, Titans. Age: 26. Signed with Jets
Avery Williamson was a fifth-round pick in 2014, but he has evolved into a capable inside linebacker. He can stand to improve in coverage, but he's a dominant run-stuffer.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Vikings. Age: 25. Signed with Jets
It was nice to see Teddy Bridgewater take the field late in the year. Bridgewater suffered a devastating knee injury two years ago, but it seems like he'll be ready to start in 2018. It's unclear if he'll ever be the same quarterback he once was, a signal-caller with a career completion percentage of 65 and a total touchdown-to-interception ratio of 32:21. He'd be rated much higher if it weren't for his injury history.
Isaiah Crowell, RB, Browns. Age: 25. Signed with Jets (3 years)
Isaiah Crowell has a lot of natural talent, and he flashed it early in 2016 before the Browns had offensive line issues. However, he was a big disappointment this past season, failing to do anything behind an excellent front (when Joe Thomas was healthy.)
Travis Swanson, C, Lions. Age: 27. Signed with Jets
Travis Swanson is a skilled center, and if it weren't for major health concerns, he'd be rated higher. However, he has missed a lot of time with concussions, and it's fair to wonder how much longer he'll be able to play.
Terrelle Pryor, WR, Redskins. Age: 29. Signed with Jets
What happened to Terrelle Pryor? He eclipsed the 1,000-yard barrier in Cleveland despite playing with poor quarterbacks. Charles Woodson predicted Pryor would reach 1,800 yards, but Pryor couldn't even get to 300 in Washington, failing to establish any sort of chemistry with Terrelle Pryor. Perhaps he can rebound elsewhere next year.
Cairo Santos, K, Bears. Age: 26. Signed with Jets
It wasn't Cairo Santos' fault that he lost his job in Kansas City. Harrison Butker was just better. Santos has been an accurate kicker within 50 yards, but he's been inconsistent from long range.
Thomas Rawls (RFA), RB, Seahawks. Age: 25. Signed with Jets
Thomas Rawls showed tremendous potential as a rookie, rushing for 830 yards on a 5.6 YPC carry. Injuries and lethargy have hurt him in the past two seasons, but he has potential to bounce back to 2015 form.
Kevin Minter, ILB, Bengals. Age: 27. Signed with Jets
Kevin Minter had been a disappointment as a former second-round pick, until 2016 when he played well. Minter signed with the Bengals, but struggled mightily. Perhaps he can rebound, but his outlook is dubious.
Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Falcons. Age: 28. -- Signed with Jets
Spencer Long, C, Redskins. Age: 27. -- Signed with Jets
Charles Johnson, WR, Panthers. Age: 29. -- Signed with Jets
Kevin Pierre-Louis, ILB, Chiefs. Age: 26. -- Signed with Jets (2 years)
Andre Roberts, WR/KR, Falcons. Age: 30. -- Signed with Jets
Brandon Copeland (RFA), OLB, Lions. Age: 27. -- Signed with Jets
New York Jets Free Agents:
Salary Cap: TBA.
Muhammad Wilkerson, DE/DT, Jets. Age: 28. Signed with Packers
From 2012 to 2015, Muhammad Wilkerson was considered a top-five 3-4 defensive end. It could've even been argued that he was the second-best player at his position in the entire league, behind only J.J. Watt. Wilkerson was rewarded with a 5-year, $87 million deal in the summer of 2016. Ever since, however, Wilkerson has mailed it in. He disappointed on the field and had a habit of skipping team meetings. That said, Wilkerson is still just 28, and if he signs with a team that has a strong locker room, he could revert back to his pre-2016 playing days. He carries lots of risk though.
Demario Davis, ILB, Jets. Age: 29. Signed with Saints (3 years, $24 million)
Demario Davis had struggled for most of his career heading into 2017, so it was considered laughable when the Jets opted to start him at one of the linebacker spots. Davis had the last laugh, however, playing extremely well last year. Was this a fluke, or a sign of things to come? Perhaps Davis will have to sign a 1-year "prove it" deal so his next team can find out.
Chandler Catanzaro, K, Jets. Age: 27. Signed with Buccaneers
Chandler Catanzaro struggled in his final season with the Cardinals, but rebounded this past year. He drilled about 85 percent of his field goals and hit every extra point. He's 5-of-8 from 50-plus the past two years.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Jets. Age: 25. Signed with Jaguars (2 years)
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, a second-round pick in 2014, had been a disappointment prior to this season, but he finally came alive and was dominant in some games. He'll only be 26 in late September, so he has plenty of upside. However, he comes with some character and effort concerns.
Morris Claiborne signed a 1-year "prove it" deal with the Jets last spring. He played well until he hurt his foot, and he struggled as a result toward the end of the season. Claiborne has a lengthy injury history, so he's a major risk.
Kony Ealy, DE/OLB, Jets. Age: 26. Signed with Cowboys
The Patriots thoughtlessly discarded Kony Ealy last offseason, but one man's trash proved to be another man's treasure, as Ealy performed very well for the Jets, at least in the first half of the season. He slowed down toward the end, but it was a reminder that Ealy once dominated in the Super Bowl.
Despite playing behind a putrid offensive line and with only one viable receiver, Josh McCown was brilliant in 2017, completing 67.3 percent of his passes on an acceptable 7.4 YPA. His touchdown-to-interception ratio was 18:9, and he also rushed in five more scores. Imagine what he would've done with better talent around him! McCown deserves to compete for a starting job in 2018.
Terrence Brooks didn't play much in 2017 because he was stuck behind Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye. However, he's a skilled safety who shined when he won AFC Defensive Player of the Week against the Dolphins in Week 3. He should get a shot at a starting gig in 2018.