The New York Jets have once again ended the regular season on the outside looking in of the playoffs. The 2021 campaign came to a close on Sunday with a 27-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills that moved them to 4-13 on the year, which was good for last place in the AFC East and has them picking inside the top-5 of the draft later this spring.
While this was not a successful year for New York, there were flashes of promise under first-year head coach Robert Saleh and rookie quarterback Zach Wilson. They'll now head into an offseason where they will look to continue forming the foundation of what they hope will ultimately bring them out of the basement in the division and closer towards contention.
How can they do that over the next few months? Here are five suggestions for the Jets as they continue their rebuild (in no particular order):
1. Improve the secondary
New York's secondary needs work. Their pass defense ranked dead last in the NFL in DVOA and gave up roughly 260 passing yards per game this season, which was the third-most by any team in the league. The Jets 7.5 yards per pass attempt was also tied for the second-most in the NFL this season. That simply has to improve if they want to be taken seriously in the seasons to come and it'd behoove the team to bring in some quality talent at the cornerback and safety spots over the next few months in free agency and via the draft.
One target that would be an ideal fit for New York -- and be quite the headline -- would be current Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson. Not only would the Jets be stealing someone away from their division rival, but Jackson would be a perfect addition to a secondary that desperately needs someone with the ability to create turnovers. Of course, that fantasy signing would only become reality if New England allows Jackson to hit the open market, which seems unlikely. If he does slip through the cracks, however, this is the type of player the Jets need in their secondary.
2. Find a No. 1 receiver
Elijah Moore had himself an impressive rookie season and does look like he's on a path where he could one day be considered one of the better receivers in the league. That said, he's not there right now and the Jets offense does need an elite figure in the passing game for Zach Wilson to lean on. While Moore and Core Davis are in the fold for next season at the receiver position, Jamison Crowder, Braxton Berrios, and Keelan Cole are all set to hit unrestricted free agency. Some of those players could re-sign, but that would merely give them depth at the position. New York should also be looking for someone that opposing defenses need to scheme against on a weekly basis.
Of course, the cap will always come into consideration but there are a number of intriguing options available on the free-agent market that would fit that bill, including Allen Robinson, Chris Godwin, and Davante Adams. Those would be home run swings for the Jets and maybe a little too out of reach, but the point remains that they would be better served if Wilson had someone that can not only break a game open with his elite talent but open things up for other pass-catchers.
3. Get Zach Wilson a tight end
A developing quarterback's best friend is oftentimes the tight end, but Wilson didn't have that luxury in 2021. Ryan Griffin was New York's starting tight end for the bulk of the year and finished 35th among his peers in receiving yards and had just two receiving touchdowns. While this isn't meant to dump on Griffin and what he brings to the table, it's merely to point out that the Jets could use someone with a little more playmaking ability at this position and can get open for Wilson over the middle of the field. You could always look to find a talent like that in the draft or you dip your toe in free agency where the likes of Mike Gesicki, Robert Tonyan, O.J. Howard and C.J. Uzomah are set to be unrestricted free agents.
4. Solidify the O-line
Protecting Zach Wilson is another key priority for the Jets this offseason. New York was tied with the fourth-highest adjusted sack rate in the league this season. So, while we suggest that the team goes out and adds some playmakers at the skill positions, it won't mean a thing if Wilson doesn't have time to deliver the football. Left tackle Mekhi Becton, left guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, and right tackle George Fant seem to have their jobs secure for 2022, but addressing the center and right guard positions will be critical for not only New York's chances next season, but the continued development of Wilson.
It may not be the sexiest of selections, but addressing these needs could be done with New York's first-round picks. They are currently slated to have two picks inside the top-10, and CBS Sports NFL Draft expert Ryan Wilson has the Jets taking Alabama offensive lineman Evan Neal with the No. 4 overall pick in his latest mock.
5. Stay the course
Unlike previous iterations of the Jets, there does seem to be the bones of a solid foundation. Sure, the 2021 season was not a successful one, but not many right-minded people thought that New York would actually make serious waves anyways. This season was about setting the initial pillars in the ground and it would seem like they are moving in a solid direction. The 2021 draft class a shown a lot of promise and continuing with that positive momentum shouldn't be swayed for any "get-rich-quick" type of drastic moves that have plagued rebuilding franchises in the past. The Jets have a young quarterback that looks like he can be someone the team can build around, and that's half the battle. Now, it's about putting the proper pieces around Wilson and continuing to find gems at the draft to eventually claw back into the AFC East conversation.