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Notebook | GM Joe Douglas and Jets Quick Off the Mark in Strengthening Roster

Green & White Reportedly Reach Agreement for Backup QB, Kicker, on O- and D-Lines and in D-Backfield  

New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas speaks during a press conference at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine on Wednesday, Feb. 28 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Kevin Sabitus/NFL)

As Day 1 of the NFL's legal tampering period of free agency on Monday melted into Day 2 on Tuesday the Jets, GM Joe Douglas and his staff wasted little -- make that no time -- addressing several of the team's needs. 

Douglas has made eight moves since Sunday -- reaching agreement with two of the team's unrestricted free agents -- safety Chuck Clark and kicker Greg Zuerlein -- and a restricted free agent -- TE Kenny Yeboah -- signing free-agent CB Isaiah Oliver -- and reportedly coming to terms with four unrestricted free agents -- QB Tyrod Taylor, LG John Simpson and DTs Javon Kinlaw and Leki Fotu.

Seven moves in barely two days, with more expected so stay tuned to the Jets' free agent tracker.

Backup QB & Help on O-Line
As Tyrod Taylor said in an interview with late last season, a backup quarterback is "literally one play away" from being pressed into action. For the Jets that "one play" happened merely four plays into their regular-season opener last September when four-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers crumpled to the MetLife Stadium turf, out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon.

The Green & White's season went sideways from there as three players -- Zach Wilson, Tim Boyle and Trevor Siemian -- did their utmost to salvage the season.

Taylor, 34, won't have far to travel -- about 30 miles from East Rutherford to Florham Park, NJ -- after spending the past two seasons with the Giants. He is headed for his 14th season in the NFL playing with his sixth team and agreeing to terms with the Jets, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Networks. In his career, Taylor has played in 92 regular-season games with 58 starts, completed 61.7% of his passes for 12,135 yards, 65 TDs and 29 INTs. He adds a mobile aspect at QB having rushed for 2,268 career yards at 5.6 yards/attempt.

John Simpson, 26, who agreed to terms according to Pelissero, after a season in Baltimore, could step in at left guard after the Jets released Laken Tomlinson. Simpson (6-4, 330) was a constant presence on the Ravens' O-line last season, starting 17 games protecting NFL MVP Lamar Jackson's blindside; he allowed a single sack. He was with Las Vegas for three seasons before spending a season in Baltimore. Overall Simpson has started 38 games (appearing in 52).

Set to Return: Clark, Zuerlein and Yeboah
The Jets moved quickly to reach agreement with three of their own in S Chuck Clark, kicker Greg Zuerlein and TE Kenny Yeboah.

Clark, 28, was a highly regarded acquisition last season when the Jets obtained him in a trade with the Ravens. But he tore his ACL last June, missed all of last season and was on the cusp of becoming an unrestricted free agent before agreeing to terms with the Green & White, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. Clark (6-0, 205) had been riding a streak of 1,248 consecutive snaps dating back to Week 16 of the 2021 season. In the 2022 season, Clark played in all 17 games for the Ravens and had 101 tackles, 4 pass defenses, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Zuerlein, 36, agreed to terms with the Jets (according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network) after a stellar season for the Jets -- one of the best of his long NFL career -- when he converted on 35-of-38 field-goal attempts (92.1%) and made 5 of 6 from 50 yards and beyond. His 26 consecutive FGs converted is a team record and he made four kicks to either tie or win games in the 2023 season. Over his career, which started with the Rams (2012-19) then with the Cowboys (2020-21) and now with the Jets, Zuerlein has hit on 83.1% of his FG attempts. He has proved to be the Jets' most consistent placekicker in the past 10 years.

Yeboah, 25, was signed by the Jets as an undrafted free agent in 2021 and agreed to terms, according to Peter Schrager of NFL Network and Fox Sports, to return as a standout on special teams and currently the team's third tight end behind Tyler Conklin and Jeremy Ruckert. Yeboah (6-4, 240) took a career high 123 snaps last season and had 2 receptions for 28 yards.

Three for the Defense: Kinlaw, Oliver and Fotu
Isaiah Oliver, 27, joined a strong cornerback corps, which includes starters All-Pro Sauce Gardner and standouts D.J. Reed and Michael Carter II, when he signed with the Jets after spending five seasons with the Falcons. Oliver (6-0, 202) was selected in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft (No. 58). In his time with Atlanta, which included a spell with the Jets' current defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich in 2020, he appeared in 62 games (38 starts) with 2 INTs, 34 pass defenses, 153 tackles and 2 sacks.

DT Javon Kinlaw, 26, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, agreed to terms with the Jets according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. Originally drafted by San Francisco in the first round (No. 14 overall), Kinlaw's rookie season (2020) in the Bay Area coincided with head coach Robert Saleh's tenure as the 49ers' defensive coordinator. At 6-5, 319, Kinlaw adds another big body to the Jets' interior defensive line -- with Quinton Jefferson and Al Woods scheduled to soon be unrestricted free agents -- and could be a pass-rushing complement to Quinnen Williams and John Franklin-Myers on the inside. Kinlaw had a career high 3.5 sacks in the last of his four seasons with the Niners.

As a backup to Javon Hargrave and Arik Armstead last season, Kinlaw appeared in all 17 regular-season games and had 25 tackles and 12 pressures to go with his sacks. He also was credited with 4 tackles in the Niners' loss to Kansas City in the Super Bowl.

The Jets also agreed to terms, according to CBS NFL Insider Jonathan Jones, with DL George "Leki" Fotu, 25, who spent the first four years of his NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals. He was taken by the Cardinals in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft (No. 114 overall) and has appeared in 56 games (21 starts), having compiled 89 tackles and 3.5 sacks. He played in all 17 games in each of his two middle seasons in Arizona, 2021 and 2022. Fotu (6-5, 334), a star rugby player growing up who trained with the London Wasps rugby team in 2013, established career highs last season with 2.5 sacks and 15 solo stops.

Offensive line remains a paramount position to address, even after the signing of LG John Simpson. Players still available in free agency include guards Kevin Zeitler, Andrus Peat and Dalton Risner; and tackles Tyron Smith, Jonah Williams, David Bakhtiari and Trent Brown.

With the loss of Bryce Huff, who signed with Philadelphia, the Jets could make additional moves at edge. The Green & White are likely to also plumb the market for another safety to join Chuck Clark and Tony Adams with Jordan Whitehead and Ashtyn Davis about to hit free agency.

And after re-signing veteran place kicker Greg Zuerlein, the next move on special teams could be locking down the productive veteran punter Thomas Morstead while the veteran gunner Justin Hardee considers his free-agent options.

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