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Aside from Bryce Huff, What Is the Jets' Most Interesting In-House Free Agency Decision?

Free Agency Begins on March 13


Throughout the offseason, reporters Eric Allen, Ethan Greenberg, Randy Lange, Caroline Hendershot and John Pullano will give their responses to a series of questions regarding this year's Jets.

Today's question: Aside from Bryce Huff, What Is the Jets' Most Interesting In-House Free Agency Decision?

EA: I have my eyes on two positions — safety and defensive tackle. At safety, Jordan Whitehead, whose 4 INTs and 97 tackles last season were career highs, Ashtyn Davis, who recorded 5 defensive takeaways in 213 snaps, and Chuck Clark, who sustained a torn ACL last spring after lining up in 1,248 consecutive snaps for Baltimore, have expiring contracts. According to Tru Media, second-year defender Tony Adams quietly was one of 6 safeties with 80+tackles (82), 3+INTs (3) and 5+QB pressures (5). His 6 TFL against the run were tied for most among defensive backs. It will be interesting to see who will be back to patrol the backfield with the developing Adams in 2024. On a defense that has stars at each level, everything starts with DT Quinnen Williams. There are decisions to be made next to Q as Quinton Jefferson, who racked up a career-high 6 sacks in 14 contests, Al Woods, a mammoth run stuffer limited to 6 games due to a torn Achilles, and Solomon Thomas, who tallied 5 sacks in 211 snaps, all are up. The Jets upward mobility will be based on offensive improvement, but an elite defense will likely have some spring tinkering. 

EG: Which safeties, if any, will be retained? Jordan Whitehead, Chuck Clark and Ashtyn Davis all have expiring contracts. Whitehead has been a starter since he signed with the Jets in 2022 and hasn't missed a game. He's been reliable; he led the team with 4 interceptions last season and his 97 tackles ranked third on the team behind LBs C.J. Mosley and Quincy Williams. Clark was one of the NFL's ironmen before tearing his ACL last June. He played more than 1,200 consecutive snaps before the injury and played in 96 of his 97 career games. We don't know what Clark's role would have been in Jeff Ulbrich's defense, but he is a versatile player with a high football IQ. Davis has the least playing experience of the three with 54 games (Whitehead has 93 and Clark 96), but he's a ball magnet. He led the Jets in turnovers this season with 3 interceptions and 3 fumble recoveries (1 on special teams) in addition to a forced fumble on ST. Davis had 10 takeaways in three seasons while Whitehead had 13 and Clark recorded 9 over six seasons. Davis, a third-round pick out of Cal in 2020, is also a special teams stalwart and could be blooming into an every-down player.

RL: I know this isn't always doable with all the big-ticket free agency names available and all of a team's needs. But personally, whatever else the Jets do this offseason, I would love to see them Keep The Kickers. Greg Zuerlein puts points on the board, from short range but also from 50-plus yards away. Most impressive: Legatron converted 92.4% of the points that were available on his 38 field goal attempts and 17 extra point tries (121 points out of 131 possible). That's the best figure by a Jets kicker since Nick Folk cashed in 93.3% of his possible points in 2013. Thomas Morstead, meanwhile, was one of the NFL's most surgical punters with league-leading numbers in 50-yards-plus punts (54) and inside-the-5's (six), not to mention franchise season records in gross and net averages. Placement points and field position will be important for what the Jets want to do in '24. I'm hoping they get a leg up on signing for the campaign ahead.

CH: Obviously after Bryce Huff's career year, everyone is waiting to see what happens with him in free agency. But besides him, I'm really interested in the rest of the defensive line, specifically Solomon Thomas and Quinton Jefferson. Both players signed one-year deals with the Jets last offseason and had a major impact for the Green and White. Thomas had one of his best seasons with a career-high 5 sacks, 7 tackles for loss , 6 QB hits and 1 PD. In a defensive line unit that favors rotation, Thomas consistently applied pressure to the quarterback. According to PFF, Thomas had 17 total pressures and 18 stops for the defense. While Jefferson's season was cut short after sustaining a hip injury against the Dolphins in Week 11, he was also having one of his best seasons. He had 6 sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR, 13 QB hits and 4 tackles for loss. PFF also had Jefferson with 29 total pressures and 22 stops for defense. 

JP: I will be keyed in on the status of free agent T Mekhi Becton. It is no secret that addressing the O-Line during free agency and the draft will be a point of emphasis for GM Joe Douglas and the Jets. "I feel like we do have a few cornerstone players on that offensive line moving forward and [will be] building around those guys," Douglas said following Week 18. The Green & White started 13 different O-Line combinations last season and 6 of those 14 offensive linemen who took snaps have expiring contracts, including Becton (24). Becton, whom the Jets selected No. 11 overall in the 2020 Draft, became a fixture in the lineup while starting 16 games and playing the third-most snaps on the team. However, his strong year of availability comes after he played just 1 game in 2021-22. Veterans T Duane Brown (38) and C Connor McGovern (30) could also be unrestricted free agents, so it will be fascinating to see whom Douglas and the Jets elect to make their "cornerstones" going forward.

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