Coming off a huge win against the stadium rival G-men; the NY Jets are in prime position to snag the wildcard and make the playoffs for the first time since 2010. As we await this weekend’s matchup against the Titans, I decided to write Santa Claus (or in this case Woody Johnson) a list of the upgrades that will help take this team to the next level in 2016-17. Keep in mind; I am not asking for all of these to be fixed by the start of next season, but one or two and we would definitely see marked improvement.
Edge/Speed Rusher at OLB
The defensive line for the Jets could have a much different look next season. Mo Wilkerson will still be on the team via the franchise tag or a long-term extension. Damon Harrison should see an offer after his play this season, but it would not surprise me if a desperate team overpaid for his services and the Jets let him walk. Sheldon Richardson is the most interesting case in my opinion, because he is replaceable now with Leonard in the mix, and a trade that nets the NY Jets a few draft picks could really help with the depth issues on special teams and the o-line.
All that being said one area they need to improve on is replacing the free agent to be Calvin Pace with a speed/edge pass rusher. Lorenzo Mauldin has really come along in his first season and if he continues to improve, he could offer that speed element on the edge the Jets are in desperate need of. At this point though, the d-line needs as much speed on the outside as it can possibly get. Having that pass rush threat would make the jobs of the interior d-line, defensive backs and coaching staff much easier.
Obviously, the best bet at getting a player like this would be through the draft, since the top free agents (if they make it that far) demand top dollar. This is the least likely wish on this list to come true, but it would also have the biggest impact.
Receiving Tight End
This might be the easiest wish to fulfill for the Jets, because the answer is potentially already on the roster. Jace Amaro had a decent rookie season (38 catches, 345 yards and 2 td’s) even outplaying the tenth overall pick, Eric Ebron (25 catches, 245 yards and 1 td). There were some rumors before the season that Mikey Mac did not particularly care for, but considering the non-production they are getting from the current bunch of TE’s, anything would help.
The Jets have a very solid core of returning skill players on offense. However, there are going to be games where Ivory is not getting yards and the Marshall/Decker duo cannot get any separation on the outside (like Houston in week 10). A tight end that can go across the middle, make catches, and move the chains would open everything else up for the rest of the offense. One potential free agent, depending on the price tag, plays for our stadium brethren in Larry Donnell.
Another addition that could help take the offense to the next level would be getting absolutely anything from our punt returner. Of all the seasons where Jeremy Kerley finally had his opportunity to shine in the return game, this was it. Instead, we got the same old fair catch machine who had one nice return of 54 yards against Miami. Special teams on the whole has been terrible all season, but the return game (outside of Cromartie) has been lackluster at best. The addition of a dynamic returner who could change the field position would be a very nice off-season present.
Young Offensive Lineman
Finally, this is less of a wish, and more of a prediction that the front office will address this spring. While they should be fine with Giacomini and Carpenter for the next few years, the front office has to have a replacement plan for Mangold, D-Brick and Willie Colon. The first two have arguably been the most important players to the franchise over the last ten years, and will not be easy shoes to fill. Do not be surprised if the front office ends up taking a few offensive linemen in this upcoming draft, purely to add depth to a very shallow roster.
These young players will serve two purposes. One, to be groomed as eventual replacements for the aforementioned stalwarts at center, left tackle and right guard; but also to provide depth in case of injury. Adding some youth along the offensive line could be the biggest keys in helping this offense maintain their quality of play next season.
There you have it. Four positions that could be addressed in the off-season that would help the Jets get to the next level. If the Jets are able to address two or three of these wishes, the Jets should be a good team not only next year, but also for the foreseeable future.