The NFL's two-day negotiating period began Monday at noon and the league's new year will officially begin on March 16. While no prospective unrestricted free agent is permitted to sign a contract with a new club until Wednesday at 4 p.m., there were reports of a key Jets' re-signing and huge additions along the offensive line and at tight end.
Braxton Berrios went to social media and enthusiastically declared he would return for a third season with the Green & White. Named first-team All-Pro by The Associated Press and a Pro Bowl alternate for his special teams prowess last season, Berrios was the NFL's leading kickoff returner (30.4 yards/return) and No. 3 punt return (13.4 yards/return, at least 15 returns). Berrios also had his best offensive campaign, hauling in 46 receptions for 431 yards with 2 TDs. Against the Buccaneers in Week 17, Berrios had a 102-yard kick return go for a score against Jacksonville and became the first receiver in franchise history to score a rushing TD and a receiving TD in the same game.
"Obviously, Braxton has been awesome since we brought him in and he's an asset to this team and for us," GM Joe Douglas said at the NFL Combine on March 2. "It's important to keep the guys that do things the right way and carry themselves the right way."
The Berrios news came shortly after ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Douglas had agreed to a three-year deal with 49ers Pro Bowl G Laken Tomlinson. The Jets know Tomlinson well -- OL coach/run game coordinator John Benton and OC Mike LaFleur and HC Robert Saleh were in San Francisco for the first three seasons (2017-20) of Tomlinson's tenure in NorCal. A first-round pick of the Lions in 2015, Tomlinson, a Duke product, was traded to San Francisco on Aug. 31, 2017. Having appeared in 112 regular-season games, Tomlinson has made 104 starts. He also has valuable postseason experience, having played in seven playoff contests.
"If you ask me, I'm always going to say we can be better on the offensive line," Douglas said in Indy. "I thought we had a group of guys that battled their butts off this year. I think we have a lot of versatility in that group, a lot of good people, a lot of great, great guys, great pros. And, again, guys that have been forced to move different positions, in season, in game. So, their flexibility, their versatility, it's really been a great tool for us moving forward. Like Coach and I have always said, offense and defensive line, it's always going to be a priority here."
Take a look at the Jets players slated to become unrestricted or restricted free agents when the NFL's free agency period begins on March 16.
"It's the same thing we're going to continue to talk about with regard to the culture that we're building, the atmosphere that we're trying to create in terms of everything that we do is for the players," Saleh said prior to the start of the free agency period. "It's all player-centric. We have a young group, we're moving in the right direction and we have an exciting young quarterback that I think people will recognize is going to be a heck of a football player. From a free-agent standpoint, that's the selling point. You have an opportunity to come out here, make a difference and you're in the greatest city in America."
Before the sun went down, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero said the Jets had re-signed veteran RB Tevin Coleman while Schefter broke news that the Green & White had found another target for Zach Wilson in veteran TE C.J. Uzomah. The 6-6, 260-pound Uzomah was a reliable target for Joe Burrow last season in Cincinnati, setting career highs with 49 receptions, 493 receiving yards and 5 TDs. For his career, Uzomah, a fifth-round pick out of Auburn in 2015, has appeared in 79 games and has 163 receptions and 13 TDs.
"We always want the opportunity to strike if the right opportunity presents itself," Douglas said. "I think that is something that we're going to be looking to do moving forward."
This past weekend, the Jets re-signed S Will Parks and Schefter reported that the Jets agreed to terms on a one-year deal with Lamarcus Joyner. Joyner (31), who sustained a torn triceps vs. the Panthers in Week 1 last season at Carolina, has 421 tackles, 33 PDs and 5 sacks in his career.
"I think he can do anything well, he's so versatile," defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said of Joyner last summer. "But I think we've found a home for him that's really going to take advantage of his skillset. He'll not only play the safety position but will play a version of that nickel as well and come down and cover receivers."
In other team news, NFL Network's Peter Schrager said that veteran DT Folorunso Fatukasi intends to sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Stay tuned to the Jets Free Agency Tracker for the latest updates.