Despite the 2018 NFL season not technically starting until Wednesday at 4:00, calls were being made, hands were being shook, and tweets were being tweeted all day Tuesday about new landing spots for this upcoming season’s free agents. Mike Glennon is somehow now on the Arizona Cardinals despite still being on the Chicago Bears. Wade Phillips described it best:
Amidst the chaos, the New York Football Jets had a quietly productive day that got more impressive as it went on. The worst kept secret around the NFL was that Kirk Cousins had an agreement with the Minnesota Vikings for weeks leading up to Tuesday. The Jets were vocal in their interest, but when Cousins said that he wasn’t making any visits to East Rutherford to meet with the front office, the writing was on the wall.
Only a few hours after Kirk Cousins’ agreement with the Vikings became “official,” the Jets made their first splash of the day.
QB Josh McCown – 1 year, $10 million
Listen, Josh McCown is far from a consolation prize. I think that even he knows it. However, of all QBs in the league, McCown currently has the best grasp on the Jets’ offense and all of the moving parts within it. Rumors have been swirling around the league for nearly 2 years now about McCown becoming a coach, and I can honestly see him in an unofficial coaching position by the end of the year.
McCown has never played more than 14 games in a season, but was able to string together 13 mostly productive starts last year. The Jets went 5-8 during those games, and McCown set a career high in yards (2926) and TDs (18). The 38-year old also led the team in rushing TDs with 5. He kept them competitive for the most part, but all in all the season was unsuccessful and McCown’s hand injury may have been a blessing in disguise as he may have accidentally led the Jets to another victory or two down the final stretch, messing up their order in the draft.
With durability and overall talent as two huge question marks for Josh McCown, it was definitely strange to see the Jets signing him for $10 million during the early hours of free agency. With such a deep draft class at QB as well, having an almost 40-year old in the way seems counterproductive. Except.
Except. Except when you consider who the Jets are most likely to get if they do draft a QB in this draft. It’s 95% either going to be Baker Mayfield or Josh Rosen, two super-talented QBs who have had their own share of an and off the field issues (Mayfield especially). In almost every single draft scenario, I see the Jets selecting Baker Mayfield. Mayfield has drawn comparisons to Johnny Manziel ever since he was arrested and tackled on video for public intoxication. Both Mayfield and Manziel have distanced the comparisons from one another, both saying that Baker is much more focused on the game than Johnny was at his age.
Why does this matter? Manziel has been working out and talking to reporters about his rocky past couple of years and what things both helped and hindered him. One of the few positives that he always mentions is his relationship with Josh McCown when they were both on the Browns. Manziel said that he would have been absolutely lost if it weren’t for him up there. McCown was about 14 years Manziel’s elder up there, had his own kids and family to care for, but still set out to try to make a difference for Johnny. That type of leadership is invaluable and could easily become the Jets’ most important asset if there’s a rookie QB walking through their facility in just a few weeks.
But then, the Jets made another splash in the QB market.
QB Teddy Bridgewater – 1 year, $5 million
Signing a 25-year old former 1st round QB for only $5 million seems like a no-brainer in my book. Before the gruesome knee injury, Bridgewater was immediately thrust into the starting role in Minnesota and had a 65% completion percentage with a 28:21 TD:INT ratio over two seasons. Teddy fought back to potentially play last season, but the Vikings caught fire with Case Keenum and he found himself buried in the depth chart with Keenum and Sam Bradford ahead of him. This is a low risk, high reward signing for the Jets. Who better to mentor a young QB with a shaky injury history than the old man QB who is on his 7th NFL team despite his own shaky injury history?
I do know that the Jets currently have 5 QBs on their roster with a 6th more than likely on the way. Best case scenario here is that Teddy has a healthy and productive preseason and first few weeks of the season and eventually takes over the reigns. If there is a rookie QB in the mix, he’ll learn under Bridgewater and McCown and then be ready to compete for the starting job in 2019. No need to throw a 21-year old into the fire prematurely like so many teams have done in the recent past. After the season is done, Josh McCown hangs up his cleats and rejoins the team as a QB coach and begins a long and successful career there. Worst case scenario is that the Jets finally have some legitimate depth at the QB position instead of guys like Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg who always have and will be considered “projects”. Just ask the Philadelphia Eagles how beneficial is was to have a more than suitable backup QB on their team.
RB Isaiah Crowell – 3 years, terms TBD
This was another somewhat puzzling signing by the Jets, given the depth of this year’s rookie RB class from top to bottom. However, Crowell is still just 25 years old, and has never had more than 206 carries in a season. So there absolutely should still be plenty of tread on his tires. He is tough to tackle and excels at yards after contact, something that they’ve been missing ever since Chris Ivory left. He’s faster than Ivory, which is good, and he is even a decent threat in the passing game. He has a comparable skillset to Bilal Powell, and with Powell coming up on 30 years of age, this signing could be a clue that the Boom Boom Powell days are coming to an end in New York.
What I’m most concerned about with Crowell is his attitude. He ran into some trouble in college with a gun charge and also posted a graphic instagram that depicted violence on police in 2016. He donated a paycheck to the Dallas Police Department and that was the last we heard of that. There were also always reports of Crowell and his coach, Hue Jackson, getting into arguments about playing time. Luckily, Crowell is another player with ties to Josh McCown, as they were teammates for 2 years in Cleveland. Perhaps Uncle Josh will keep Isaiah Crowell in check, too.
CB Trumaine Johnson – Multiyear, $15 million
The Jets paid big money for the best CB available in free agency. At 6’2″ 208 lbs, Johnson is a tall and strong corner that can battle with the new age big bodied receivers. He immediately becomes the best CB that the Jets have had since Revis’ first go-around. With Johnson joining Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye in the secondary, the Jets are now a force to be reckoned with. This signing should pique Morris Claiborne’s interest into re-signing and if not, EJ Gaines should be on speed dial. Think of Trumaine Johnson as Antonio Cromartie with more consistent tackling and better press coverage. He should thrive in Todd Bowles’ defense. I’m still all about the Jets drafting another DB in the early to mid rounds this year. Get some depth, draft some athletic guys and let them fly. Also, goodbye Buster Skrine? He’s had his fair share of injuries and the Jets could save something around $8 million if they let him walk.
ILB Avery Williamson – Terms TBD
PFF ranked the 26 year old linebacker as the 10th best overall from the 2017 season. Demario Davis, who had a career year last year for the Jets in his age 29 season, was ranked 8th. So the Jets made a lateral move in production but got 3 years younger in doing so. I’m not trying to undersell Williamson’s value. Last year was the first time in his career that the Titans didn’t utilize him as an every-down LB. Most 3rd downs, he was off the field. It appears to have been more of a scheme thing than a skills thing, as evidenced by PFF. The Jets employ a different defense, and Demario Davis didn’t miss a single defensive snap last season. Williamson has only missed one game over his 4 year career, so his track record made the Jets comfortable in pulling the trigger on a guy that they believe was underutilized last year. NFL experts much smarter than me have pegged this as a fantastic signing for a defense that needs a lot of help straight up the middle.
Also, it’s going to be nice to see these two former foes dressed up in green together soon:
The bottom line here for the Jets is that they’re making moves and grabbing some impact players on both sides of the ball early in free agency. While these moves may be creating more questions than answers, they’re at least not being stagnant. They signed a 25, 25, 26, 28….and 38 year old on the fake first day of free agency and I don’t think they’re going to slow down. EJ Gaines is still out there. Ryan Jensen is still out there. Tyler Eifert is still out there. Morris Claiborne may be open to coming back. Kony Ealy may be open to coming back. ASJ may even be open to coming back. There are still a lot of dominos yet to fall, and the Jets have one of the deepest purses in the league. It’s been a crazy fake first day of free agency and you have to at least be a little optimistic if you’re a Jets fan. They’re getting better, they’re getting younger, and they aren’t finished yet.
As another half day of fake free agency is upon us, Wade Phillips has one more thing to say: