Here are some thoughts on the Jets’ start to free agency, as Mike Maccagnan has struck quickly and thrown some money around.
1. The Jets agreed to a whopping five-year, $85 million deal with linebacker C.J. Mosley, formerly of the Ravens, in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
There is no doubt that Mosley is a good player (four Pro Bowls) and instantly makes the Jets better. However, that is a lot of money to give to an inside linebacker. I’d like to see the full details of the contract, but any way you slice it, that is a huge deal. The previous high for an inside linebacker was a $12.3 million average per year that Luke Kuechly got from the Panthers. Mosley’s $17 million per year blows that out of the water.
Free agents get overpaid. That’s how this works. But the Jets may have really overpaid here. The inside-linebacker position is not seen as a top-money position around the current NFL. You pay pass rushers and top cornerbacks that type of money.
The other concern I have is the Ravens are a very good organization. They wanted Mosley back, but were not going to pay him anywhere close to what the Jets offered him. That has to give the Jets pause. The Ravens know him better than anyone, and they let him walk. You can say the same thing about Minnesota, another well-run organization, and Anthony Barr. The Vikings do have a lot of talented players to pay, but they felt Barr was not one of them. That would worry me.
That being said, both players will help the Jets defense. We won’t know for a few years if they were good deals, though.
2. The immediate question after Mosley’s deal was reported was: What does this mean for the Jets’ pursuit of star running back Le’Veon Bell? My understanding is the Jets have interest, but I’m not sure how far that interest will go. What is unclear still is what Bell’s market is. A few people I have spoken to believe he does not have as many offers as was expected, and he might have to take less money than he thought. If that happens, I would expect the Jets to be contenders. If he does have a lot of suitors and a bidding war breaks out, I think the Jets would back off.
But the Jets have enough salary-cap space to sign Bell and others. They still have plenty of holes to fill.
3. Once it became clear the Jets were in the market for an inside linebacker on Monday, Darron Lee’s days with the Jets became likely numbered. With Barr and Mosley in the fold, there simply is nowhere to put Lee. One source cautioned me Monday, though, not to assume he is gone. They pointed out the new coaches have not even gotten to spend time with Lee. The Jets’ offseason program begins April 8. I’m not buying it. I would think the Jets would try to trade Lee up to and through the draft and if they don’t get a taker, move on after that.
4. There has been some speculation on Twitter about how these moves affect the Jets’ draft strategy, particularly Barr seemingly filling the pass-rushing hole. Does that mean defensive lineman Quinnen Williams is now more likely with the third pick?
Mike Maccagnan’s philosophy is to fill holes through free agency so that you don’t have to draft for need and can take the best player available. I still think if he has Josh Allen rated higher than Williams, he will take Allen and let the coaches figure out how to make it work.
5. I really like the Jamison Crowder signing. The Jets knew they had to find a shifty slot receiver for Adam Gase’s offense. Crowder played really well for the Redskins when Kirk Cousins was his quarterback in 2016 and 2017. An ankle injury hurt him last year, but the Jets expect him to return to form.
The Jets love his matchup ability against nickel corners and linebackers. He is a sudden player who should get lots of targets from quarterback Sam Darnold. When we look back at this free-agency class in four years, Crowder may be the one who looks like the signing where the Jets got the most value.