With free agency about to begin, here are some last-minute notes and thoughts on the Jets and this important free-agency period gleaned from conversations with sources inside and outside of the Jets:
1. It is not a secret the Jets are high on Patriots guard Joe Thuney. They would have been a suitor last year if the Patriots did not use the franchise tag on him. This year, he will be one of the Jets’ top targets. However, the Jets are worried about a bidding war for Thuney. They view him as the top guard on the market with a huge drop after him. They fear that will lead to some team overpaying him. The Jets do not want to get dragged into a bidding war and are adamant they will stick to the value they have assigned to players.
Another interior lineman that will generate some buzz is Packers center Corey Linsley. The sense I get on Linsley is the Jets are not as interested in him as they are in Thuney. If Linsley’s market does not develop and Joe Douglas sees value, he may pounce, but I do not expect the Jets to be one of Linsley’s top suitors. One interesting dynamic with Linsley is new Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. His brother Matt is the head coach of the Packers and knows Linsley well. You have to wonder how much information Mike has gotten from Matt on Linsley.
The Jets do not feel a need to replace center Connor McGovern. They felt he played better later in the year last season. If they signed Linsley, they could kick McGovern out to guard, but their preference for beefing up the offensive line is adding Thuney.
2. The Jets will be big players in the edge-rusher market. One interesting name to watch is Steelers pass rusher Bud Dupree. Dupree tore his ACL in December and it will be fascinating to see how his free agency plays out. If not for the injury, Dupree would get top-market money. Now, teams will be more reluctant to pay him big bucks. Dupree and his agent may seek a one-year deal so that he can get healthy and then hit the market again next year. I can’t see the Jets doing that, though. You’re essentially paying a player to rehab. Who knows when Dupree will actually be able to play and players typically take two years to fully come back from an ACL tear.
3. The Jets will hit areas of need in free agency but one huge need they may not be able to address is cornerback. This is a weak free-agent class at the position and Douglas may opt to sign some depth players rather than pay any of the top players available and then draft a cornerback. The Jets also feel good about young corners Bless Austin and Bryce Hall. The new coaching staff believes they could develop into good players. Austin and Hall have had some good moments and some bad ones early in their careers. They probably are better suited to be the third and fourth corners rather than the first and second at this point. But Douglas may have to roll with the young guys and hope an elevated pass rush helps the secondary.
One wild card at cornerback is Richard Sherman. It is well known how he feels about new Jets coach Robert Saleh. He would not make sense for the Jets if not for the Saleh connection. Sherman surely would rather join a team that has a chance at the Super Bowl this year. The Jets should not be signing 33-year-old cornerbacks. But it does make sense for Saleh to want a respected player who knows his system to come in and help him teach it and help him in the locker room as he tries to build his program.